Ten Top Tips for Divorce: What Should You Do First?

Ten Top Tips for Divorce

The holidays can sound the death knell for a relationship. But what should you do first? Here are Ten Top Tips for Divorce.

1. Consult

Arrange an initial consultation with an experienced family law solicitor. This can be low cost or even no cost, and can set you off in the right direction.

2. Talk

Try to talk to each other about arrangements for the children and finances. Talking, however painful it might be, could help you reach a less stressful, quicker, less expensive solution.

3. Avoid Court

Try to avoid Court proceedings about the children and finances. See my blog How to avoid Court – Family Mediation, Collaborative Law and Arbitration.

4. Ground rules

If you’re still under the same roof and able to communicate, try to agree some ground rules:

  • sleeping and eating arrangements
  • payment of bills, the mortgage
  • care of children
  • how soon can one of you move out? This will lessen the strain for each of you and for the children

5. Can’t talk?

Under the same roof but you can’t communicate? Probably a good time to consult a family solicitor.

6. Domestic abuse

Has there been violence or any other form of domestic abuse? Take legal advice ASAP.

7. What comes first, divorce or finances

I’ve written a blog answering this question: What Comes First, Divorce or Settlement.

8. Start divorce proceedings

This makes a mark in the sand for those who are finding it difficult to accept the relationship is over. It can also kick off discussions about finances. But in order to keep matters as amicable as possible try to agree who is going to start the divorce. Even better, agree what the reasons for divorce are. See my blog Grounds for Divorce – 5 things you need to know. 

9. Financial disclosure

Disclose your financial information, there’s really no way around this. See my blog, Financial Disclosure on Divorce – 10 Things you need to know.

10. Alternatives

Can’t agree about the children or the finances? Sometimes Court Proceedings are the only answer. But please make sure you’ve tried one of these alternative approaches first:

Ten Top Tips for Divorce

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial consultation on Ten Top Tips for Divorce. In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family lawyers. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs.

The topics covered in this blog post Ten Top Tips for Divorce are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

image for Ten Top Tips for Divorce Unhappy Couple by Skedonk on Wikimedia

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Make A Fresh Start In 2018?

The New Year is the opportunity to sweep your life clean, throw out bad habits and make a fresh start with the promise of a more fulfilling future. But if your marriage is in trouble, the Christmas holidays might have been the final straw. Is there anything to be done? There can be tremendous benefits from coaching and counselling if the festive season has put your relationship under pressure.

But if you’ve decided to draw a line under your marriage and to start your divorce, we can help.

Have you decided what you want for yourself, and your children?

We Can Help With Your Divorce …

… and guide you through the procedures and advise you how to stay out of Court.

We can advise you what is likely to happen.

You may be worrying about the family home and savings. And how pensions, or debts, or inheritances are dealt with. Perhaps you are keen to ring fence assets. Or maybe there’s a family business. So make sure you pick the right solicitor, a properly qualified professional who specialises in family law. A good indication is if they are a Resolution member.

What You Can Expect From Your Solicitor

In the long run a good family solicitor will save you time and money, and will obtain a better settlement for you than you can get on your own.

Contact Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice on divorce. In this 20 minute session we will:

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JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions. We offer collaborative law which is especially relevant in providing solutions tailored to your family’s needs. This includes same sex couples and their families.

Visit our website just-family-law.com

The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. Therefore if any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog have application to you, seek expert legal advice.

image: Jumping Woman by Exey Panteleev on Wikimedia Commons

 

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Collaborative Law – How Can It Help With Family Breakdown?

collaborative law family breakdownHow can couples move on from relationship breakdown with positive feelings? How can conflict – about money, about children – be minimised?

If I could say one thing, and one thing only, to help people mend the pain of relationship breakdown, and to translate the inevitable hurt feelings into something a lot more positive, I would say “try collaborative law“.

Did you know that collaborative law involves you and your ex, and both of your solicitors, signing an agreement that no one will issue court proceedings? This means that all of you, solicitors included, are totally committed to finding a solution. Any approach which avoids going to court has got to be good.

So how does collaborative law work? The principle is that the four of you, that’s you, your ex, and both of your solicitors, will have a series of meetings, usually three or four, and these will be organised and will proceed at a pace which is right for you. Your solicitor will be there to advise you and will communicate on your behalf with your ex and their solicitor if you don’t feel up to engaging directly yourself.

The first point to make is of course that if you can reach a final agreement over a series of three or four meetings over a period of months (but sometimes even just a few weeks), you will have saved yourself a great deal of time. Court proceedings can take much longer, a year or more sometimes.

At the first meeting you will all sign the collaborative law participation agreement. No one is going to issue court proceedings, and if they do, both of you will have to find new solicitors as the solicitors appointed to act in the collaborative process can’t continue. You also agree to be respectful to each other and to give “financial disclosure”, which means you will both have to provide details and documents proving all your income and assets. This disclosure is required whenever matrimonial finances are addressed – whether this be in negotiation, mediation, collaborative law, or court.

You agree the agenda for the second meeting. This will be the issues that are important to each of you. Every family is different and this is your opportunity to say what you want to achieve. Typically the agenda will include how the family home will be dealt with. If there are children it might be that they’re finding it difficult to adjust to the breakdown of their parents’ relationship. A priority can be exploring how to ease the transition for them.

It’s possible to involve other experts, such as counsellors to help you cope with the breakdown, or to assist the children in the transition, and financial experts who can advise on the valuation of your assets.

There’s an orderly and honest exchange of financial information at the second meeting, the focus still on what the couple want to achieve.

At the third meeting typically all the cards are put on the table. Individual priorities are known; the facts and figures are at your finger tips; you both have your solicitors there to advise and support you. There’s hard talking and inevitably compromise on both sides.

If not at the third meeting, then typically at the fourth meeting a final solution is agreed. There’s been compromise on both sides, possibly even a few tears, but you’ve achieved what seemed like the impossible by communicating and ultimately agreeing with your ex. You’ve laid the foundation for moving on with your life and putting all the heartbreak behind you. Who knows, you might even be able to be friends. You will certainly be in a stronger position to co-parent successfully, which as I have mentioned in an earlier post requires careful navigation.

You have been an active participant in the decision making process – far more empowering and healing than leaving it to a Judge to decide. And unlike mediation you (and your ex) have received advice throughout the process, and your solicitor has been with you to communicate on your behalf if you haven’t felt you wanted to engage directly with your ex.

In the court process there’s only a limited selection of orders that can be made. But in collaborative law, personal tailoring is possible, unique agreements can be reached. When you and your ex decide what’s best for your particular family, you can make agreements not generally available in court proceedings. You can agree the nuts and bolts of how you’re going to co-parent your children, where they’re going to live on a day to day basis, how you’re going to coordinate your care of them, how their individual needs can be met.

If you’re able to talk all this through – the property, the money, the children, the routine of co-parenting – then it makes it more likely that you will be able to continue being a family, a different family of course, but a family none the less, with two parents who work together in the interests of their children.

As you will have made the transition with little acrimony and are moving on with your lives separately but positively, there will be no need for your extended families and friends to take sides. You won’t dread your child’s wedding day, wondering how you and your ex will be able to sit at the top table together, let alone in the same room. You will still be a functioning family.

Collaborative law is the way to move forward positively from the breakdown of your relationship.

Wouldn’t you agree that any approach which avoids going to court has got to be good? If you have an opinion about collaborative law, please do share your comment with us, we would like to hear from you.

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JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions.

Visit our website just-family-law.com

The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog might have application to you, you should seek expert legal advice.

image by Harland Quarrington on wikimedia

 

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Why can’t divorce be cheap and easy?

cheap and easy divorce

by Robert Occhialini on flickr

That’s what we’d all like, isn’t it?

When a relationship breaks down the last thing you need is an expensive and protracted argument. No one wants a fight, well, very few in my experience.

Our legal system tries to get it right but sometimes you could be forgiven for thinking that in fact it gets it very, very wrong.

So can anything be done to make the whole process cheaper and easier?

Divorce? Matrimonial finances? It’s all the same thing isn’t it? 

This may sound like technical nitpicking but the proceedings to end a marriage or a civil partnership are run separately, but often in parallel, to proceedings in respect of financial matters.

So it’s important to bear in mind that while there has to be a court procedure to bring the marriage or civil partnership to an end, how the finances are sorted out is up to the couple. At one extreme, everything is agreed and so it’s relatively cheap and easy, and at the other, nothing is agreed and the only way to reach a resolution is to go to court.

Could “No fault divorce” help?

Yes, I think so.

At the moment the only way to avoid having to blame your spouse for their behaviour or adultery is to live apart for two years and both agree to divorce. 

There’s an organisation for family solicitors and other professionals called Resolution which has more than six thousand members who believe in a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters. Resolution has a new chair, Nigel Shepherd, who has said, “It’s wrong – and actually bordering on cruel – to say to couples: if you want to move on with your lives…. one of you has to blame the other.”

It would definitely be helpful to get rid of the idea of blame. If allegations of adultery and unreasonable behaviour were behind us it would make the whole process a lot less traumatic and would probably make the division of the matrimonial assets easier to agree.

So what’s the answer?

Gary Lineker raised blood pressure in legal circles recently in an interview in the Radio Times when he criticised the role of solicitors in divorces and said there should be an equation for deciding matrimonial finances. He said his online divorce had cost only £400.

I think he must have been referring to the pre 21 March 2016 court fee for a divorce which was £410, and of course this fee does not cover anything to do with the division of matrimonial finances.

If this is all he paid then I can only assume that Gary Lineker and his wife decided not to have a court order confirming their financial situation. Such an order would of course protect them both from future claims.

But he raised two important questions

  • How can we keep the cost of divorce down?
  • Could an “equation” be applied to matrimonial finances?

DIY divorces – do they do save money? Are there pitfalls?

Anyone can do their own divorce and pay only the court fee (now increased from £410 to £550). And, as already mentioned, a divorce, in other words the court proceedings which bring a marriage or civil partnership to an end, can be kept completely separate from the matrimonial finances.

So there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do your own divorce and pay only £550. All you need is form D8 and your marriage certificate (or civil partnership certificate). Here’s a link to help you.

Alternatively ask your solicitor for a fixed fee quote. Although you would be paying more than just the court fee you might find it a lot less stressful to have a sympathetic professional handling all the technicalities for you.

Yes, there are pitfalls in DIY divorces 

There are a number, the chief of which is applying for the decree absolute (the decree which brings your marriage to an end) before you’ve sorted out the finances, or, if you have run the risk of applying for the decree absolute before you’ve sorted out the finances, remarrying.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, your spouse or civil partner could die after the decree absolute and you could lose out under their pension. Or you could decide the time has come to sort out the matrimonial finances and discover you can’t because you have remarried.

To be on the safe side, the matrimonial finances should be sorted out before the decree absolute.

What happens about the matrimonial finances? The assets? Maintenance? Your estate if you die?

Decisions have to be made, agreements have to be reached, and ideally they would be encapsulated in a court order to make sure a line is drawn under the whole question.

A court order means that if one of you changes your mind, or if one of you comes into some money, there’s no going back for a second bite of the cherry.

If you are in agreement about the finances it’s a relatively simple matter for a solicitor to draw up an order and to send it into court. Ask your solicitor for a fixed fee quote to undertake this work for you.

An equation for matrimonial finances – is that possible?

Does Gary Lineker have a point? Should there be an equation?

The current system is certainly complicated and confusing. Even though the aim of the court it to achieve fairness it’s not always clear how this is brought about.

The Resolution Manifesto for Family Law calls for reform of the law relating to matrimonial finances. It supports pre-nuptial agreements and calls for guidelines on the division of matrimonial assets. A particular bugbear is the difference between matrimonial and non-matrimonial property.

What is the difference between matrimonial and non-matrimonial property and why is that important?

This issue is often highly fraught. For example, a couple has a range of assets, including the wife’s savings. But she says this is her inheritance from her parents. And what about the money the husband received when sold his business after the couple split up?

Should her inheritance be taken into consideration? Should his post separation profits be in the melting pot?

It gets even more complicated with property owned pre-marriage. What about the wife’s flat? Should this be taken into consideration?

The answer is not straightforward

It would certainly be easy to argue in respect of the examples above that they are non-matrimonial property but sadly it’s not always that simple. Has there been “mingling”, in other words has non-matrimonial property become matrimonial property because, for instance, the couple have lived in it as their matrimonial home?

And what are the couple’s individual needs? Is it only possible to meet them by including non-matrimonial assets?

What does our legal system try to achieve?

Under our current system we are guided by s.25 Matrimonial Cases Act 1973, “Matters to which court is to have regard in deciding how to exercise its powers” together with “case law”, in other words cases the courts have already decided.

And of course the first consideration is the welfare of the children.

At the moment there is no equation for the distribution of assets, no black and white definition of matrimonial and non-matrimonial assets, and pre-nuptial agreements are not automatically enforceable.

Instead our system is based on fairness and the needs of each member of the family.

What an equation could look like

There are many jurisdictions which have hard and fast rules about the division of assets on divorce. For example in Italian family law the matrimonial home always goes to the parent with whom the children live. In Ontario all post marriage property is divided equally on divorce.

These solutions do not have the flexibility of our system where a court can order an unequal division based on differing needs.

How can a flexible approach be better than an equation?

Whilst clarity in these issues is important I don’t think many solicitors would go for a rigid equation. Why not? Because take any couple, take any family, and compare it to any other, and consider how different their circumstances and finances and needs are likely to be.

So I don’t think there can be “one size fits all” in matrimonial finances

Our system actually tries to take into account how different all of us can be. It doesn’t go for the easy route but it tries to achieve fairness. And this is important when you are trying to provide for your children, and for yourself, in the long term.

I believe there has to be a tailored approach in every case but this doesn’t mean that there has to be acrimony and significant expense.

Could mediation or collaborative law be the answer?

If you can’t agree how to divide your matrimonial finances it doesn’t mean you have to opt straightaway for expensive court proceedings.

Perhaps mediation or collaborative law would be the answer? Quicker and cheaper and less stressful than court proceedings, couples can retain control of their decision making and not hand over all the questions to the court.

If you both want to find a way of agreeing the matrimonial finances and you want to avoid going to court then either of these approaches could be the answer for you.

Summary 

  • Cheap and easy divorce? Do your own divorce with guidance from the gov.uk site. Or ask your solicitor for a fixed fee quote
  • Are DIY divorces risky? Yes. Seek legal advice before apply for your decree absolute (which brings your marriage to an end)
  • Cheap and easy settlement of matrimonial finances?
    • A prenuptial or postnuptial agreement can help
    • Ask your solicitor for guidance on what you should expect to achieve in a settlement
    • If you can’t agree a settlement try mediation or collaborative law
    • Whether you are in agreement, or you reach agreement through mediation or collaborative law, ask your solicitor for a fixed fee quote to prepare a court order confirming your agreement because this will give you peace of mind for the future.

Do you think that financial “needs” should be considered on divorce? Or do you think there should be an “equation” for dividing the finances? We would love to hear from you with your opinion so please leave us a comment.

If you have found this post interesting please sign up below for new posts by email.

The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog might have application to you, you should seek expert advice.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions.

Visit our website just-family-law.com

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