Five Things to Consider When Thinking About Separation & Divorce
Coming to terms with the end of a marriage or relationship can be an emotional whirlwind and once that decision is made, the practical issues need to considered. These are often part of a process and whilst there is no overnight fix, there are a number of things to think about before embarking onto the next stage. Here are 5 recommendations:
1. Seek professional advice
Friends and family mean well and have good intentions and social media is also another avenue in which to research various case scenarios. However, every situation is different and in family matters there is no “one size fits all” approach. As much as it is tempting to follow advice from close ones, a Solicitor will provide you with practical advice on how best to divide matrimonial assets or how to manage child arrangements or how to deal with an abusive partner. Solicitors are guided by caselaw and how a Court is likely to approach cases even if the matter does not reach that stage. As Solicitors are not emotionally involved in the case, the advice provided will be objective and pragmatic. Not all cases will necessitate initiating Court proceedings and at Parfitt Cresswell, our approach is to deal with matters as amicably as possible in to avoid the costs, delay and stress of Court hearings.
2. Should I initiate divorce proceedings
Following a long-standing campaign carried out by legal professions, Resolution and other supporting organisations, the “no fault” divorce comes into force in April 2022. Previously, a petitioner would have to cite unreasonable behaviour or adultery or separate for 2 years but the new law no longer requires this. Furthermore, the divorce petitions can either be issued jointly or by one of the parties. It is envisaged that the new procedure will encourage parties to adopt a collaborative approach to divorce by removing unnecessary hostility.
3. Organise your finances
In the vast majority of cases, parties will need to consider how their financial situations will change post-separation especially when they are moving from two households to one. Dealing with finances can sometimes lead to confrontation due to potentially losing financial security or the fear of starting over however, the best and fairest way to deal with this is to be open and honest with your finances. Consideration will need to be given to the following: what happens to the family home; who will continue to live there; will it be sold and if so, how will the net sales proceeds divided; is a pension share appropriate; should spousal maintenance be paid etc.
Concealing financial information or providing piecemeal financial disclosure will not only delay concluding your matter but will increase your costs and place a further emotional strain. In order to achieve a fair settlement, it is advisable that full financial disclosure is exchanged after which a Solicitor advises on settlement options. Once a settlement is agreed, it is incorporated into a Consent Order, which is lodged with the Court. A Consent Order will protect you from your spouse from making any future financial claims against you and it is advisable that irrespective of the size of your assets, it is important to have a Consent Order because you never know when your fortunes could change!
4. Who will the children live with?
This can be the single most emotive issue to deal with and it goes without saying that the children should be removed from any potential conflict between their parents. The Courts paramount consideration is the welfare of the child and the emphasis is for parents to be conciliatory and embrace a child-centric approach. It is recommended that discussions are kept from the Court arena and if parties have difficulties communicating, they could attend mediation. Organisations such as the Children and Family Court Support Service offer toolkits such as the Parenting Plan, which parties can use to set out how much time the child spends with each parent, the child’s routine, after-school clubs, names of the child’s teacher etc.
5. Protect your safety
If a party is in an abusive relationship, it is imperative that they feel safe. Mediation is not appropriate for these types of cases and if ever a party feels threatened or has suffered abuse during the marriage or relationship, report any incident to the police and if necessary, seek legal advice to apply for injunctions. The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 has given a legal definition to domestic abuse to include coercive control, psychological and/or emotional abuse, physical or sexual abuse, financial or economic abuse, harassment and stalking. Organisations such as Women’s Aid or Refuge can provide emergency assistance but for further advice on injunctions, speaking to a legal professional will help steer victims in the right direction
HEAR MORE – Legal Chat interview with Zanariah Webster
To hear Family Law expert Zanariah Website discuss the above points in more detail listen to her latest interview on Connections Radio by clicking here
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