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Divorce Day - 6 January 2020

View profile for Karen Johnson
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The 6 January 2020 is Divorce Day; the first working Monday of the year, when family lawyers start to receive new enquiries from people who are faced with the prospect of separation and divorce.

The reason for this is often put down to families having struggled to deal with the stresses of the festive period. However, I find that the circumstances leading to the relationship breakdown have often happened over a significant period of time, and the decision to separate and divorce is not one which has been made lightly or hastily.

I also think that people hold off instructing solicitors in the lead up to Christmas (perhaps not wanting to dampen the festive spirit). The decision to take the step to instruct solicitors reflects the general way in which people approach issues in the New Year. They see it as the start of a new chapter and look to make changes to work towards a different future.

Whilst some people may view divorce and separation as an overall positive step (for example those in abusive relationships), the majority of people facing this situation are scared. They face an uncertain future, which they had never planned or wished for. There are a huge number of different issues that need to be addressed such as arrangements for the children and finances and all at a time when emotions are naturally going to be running high.

With all things considered, it is unlikely that most will believe that a divorce can ever be happy. However, I do think that there are a number of ways to make it better or rather, less horrid.

Consult a solicitor

This is often wrongly portrayed as a bad thing. In actual fact, instructing a solicitor who is a member of Resolution and who abides by their codes of practice can be invaluable and sometimes cheaper than doing it yourself.

Resolution is an organisation which requires its members to resolve disputes in a non-confrontational way and to deal with issues in a constructive way designed to preserve dignity and encourage agreements.

Early legal advice from one of our specialist family lawyers allows you to better understand how the law applies to your situation. It helps you identify the issues that really matter, understand the options that are available to you and also avoid costly pitfalls. We offer an initial 15 minute conversation, completely free of charge, and clear pricing information so that you can retain control of your budget.

Stay civilised

The chances are high that at least one of you is going to be feeling hurt, betrayed and/or threatened by the prospect of divorce proceedings. These feelings are entirely to be expected, but it is really important to resist the urge to lash out.

In the vast majority of cases, when it comes to dealing with the financial and child arrangements, the courts are simply not interested in the reason for the breakdown of the marriage. Nor are they interested in punishing anybody. When dealing with finances, the court is mainly looking to deal with the assets in a way which is fair. It wants to ensure that you are both in a position to meet your needs, to allow you to move on with your lives.

Family lawyers are aware of the emotional aspects of divorce and separation but we are not trained therapists. If you find that you are struggling to come to terms with the breakdown of the marriage, then it can be a really good idea to access some counselling or other professional support.

Communicate 

Keeping an open line of communication is an excellent idea, so long as communications are dealt with constructively and respectfully. Make sure to avoid the use of inflammatory language and, where possible, avoid apportioning blame.

If emotions are high and you don’t feel able to talk face to face, then consider email. This has the additional advantage in that you can draft and re-draft. If necessary, you can re-draft again after sleeping on it, to ensure that the contents are constructive and likely to help resolve matters rather than inflame them.

Don’t forget that effective communication is not only about how you talk. It also requires you to listen to what the other person has to say and seek to understand their point of view.

Put yourself in your ex-partner’s shoes 

There is never only one side to any story and resolving family issues usually requires a balanced view of all the circumstances. Trying to understand the issues from your ex-partners perspective can be extremely helpful. It allows you to better understand what fears or other concerns are motivating them and then consider what you could offer to address those concerns whether by way of compromise or simple reassurance.

Put the best interests of the children first

There is a presumption that it is always in a child’s best interests to have an ongoing relationship with both parents, so long as it is safe. The children need to know that even though their parents will not be living together in the future, the child is still loved by mum and dad and that they are safe.

Do not involve children in adult issues, such as discussing with them the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage or your financial worries. Do not ask the children to choose between you.

In the absence of special circumstances, children will love their parents no matter what. Our views of our parents will often impact upon our views about ourselves, our sense of worth and impact our future relationships. Don’t talk negatively about your ex-partner to the children, or to others where the children may be in ear shot, and don’t go airing your troubles on social media or posting not-so-subtle memes.

Remember, when all is said and done, you are going to need to find a way to communicate for your child’s benefit so that you can co-parent effectively. There are also going to be important occasions in your child’s life such as birthdays, weddings, etc. that they are likely to want to share with both of their parents.

Keep a sense of perspective

Any agreement is likely to require an element of compromise. Whilst it is always going to be possible to put up a fight as a matter of principal, this is usually at huge financial and emotional cost. When considering taking any step, always consider the long term consequences as well as short term implications and be sure to balance the benefits of that step against the likely costs.

For more help and advice, why not call me for that free 15 minute conversation I mentioned earlier, so that we can help you through a better divorce and on your way to a happier ever after.

I am a family law solicitor based in our Colchester office. I can be contacted on 01206 217305 or karen.johnson@birkettlong.co.uk.

You may also find these articles helpful:

10 top tips on getting divorced amicably

What happens at the first meeting with a divorce lawyer?

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