#1: Someone has to take the blame
There is currently no allowance for ‘no fault’ divorce in the UK, and unlike America we do not have an option for ‘irreconcilable differences’ when choosing grounds for divorce – someone must accept that they are at fault in some way. The most common grounds for divorce are unreasonable behaviour and adultery. Adultery is pretty self-explanatory but unreasonable behaviour can cover a vast range of reasons, such as financial issues, irresponsible behaviour, emotional manipulation, or simply falling out of love. If you’re unsure about which grounds to choose, speak to your solicitor to discuss your situation.
#2: Don’t stay together ‘for the sake of the children’
Couples with children are more likely to stay longer in an unhappy marriage, despite evidence that this is not always the best thing for the wellbeing of the family. Many couples struggle on until the kids are old enough to go to school or leave home, and suddenly the prospect of continuing in a broken marriage without the distraction of the children around really puts things into perspective. But recent research suggests that ‘staying together for the sake of the kids’ is not necessarily the right choice – the majority of children of divorced parents claim that they’d much prefer happy, separated parents than miserable married ones.
#3: Separation is more likely sooner rather than later
Statistically, the decision to divorce is most likely to come within the first four years, particularly if a couple doesn’t have children. Without the added stress and complicated emotions that come with kids (see above!), couples are pretty good at figuring out if a relationship isn’t going to work, and act accordingly within 3-4 years of marriage.
#4: Adultery is often a symptom rather than a cause
While adultery is commonly cited as grounds for divorce, it’s often a sign that the relationship has already broken down rather than the sole reason for separation. People in a contented relationship do not tend to stray, but when communication has already become difficult, individuals may turn to someone else rather than address the issues in their marriage.
#5: Amicable divorce is possible with a little objectivity and cooperation
Divorce is always emotional – there’s no avoiding that – but separating your feelings of anger, resentment and animosity from the process itself can help to get through it without making things overly antagonistic. Take time to come to terms with your decision before attempting to negotiate the specifics of separation. Do your best to keep discussions focused on the practicalities rather than playing the blame game. It takes two to divorce, and if you can find a way to cooperate and remain objective, you’ll minimise the stress, cost, and duration of the process.
#6: There’s no such thing as a ‘quickie’ divorce
The average divorce takes around a year to complete. If your disputes are complex, it may take longer. The idea of ‘quickie’ divorces is something of a myth, and while ‘quick and easy’ DIY divorce packages may seem appealing, they inevitably cause more problems than they’re worth since they often fail to take into account potentially complicated issues or protect individuals from further litigation, costing you more in the long run. There are, however, ways to streamline the process and get through separation as quickly as possible, such as choosing an out-of-court method, communicating effectively with your ex, and making sure you have all the details of your assets and liabilities in order before speaking to a solicitor.
#7: Couples in a ‘common law marriage’ do not have the same legal rights as married couples
Unfortunately, unmarried couples do not have the same legal protection as married couples or those in a civil partnership when it comes to splitting up. Cohabiting couples should make sure they know their legal rights when it comes to separation, living arrangements, children’s issues, assets and liabilities. Setting down a cohabitation agreement and getting a deed of trust for any shared property are useful ways of protecting yourself from potentially complicated issues if you ever decide to separate.
#8: A prenup is a good way to protect your relationship and your assets but is not legally binding
Prenuptial and cohabitation agreements can be extremely helpful during separation since they already set down a couple’s intentions when it comes to dividing up assets and dealing with property and children’s arrangements. However, these documents are only meant to act as a guide rather than being entirely legally enforceable, and a couple’s immediate circumstances will always be taken into account by solicitors and the family court. If you think the information on your prenup is out of date, make sure you keep it current and amended, just like you would your will.
#9: You don’t have to go to court to separate
There are several out-of-court alternatives for separation and dispute resolution which may help to reduce the cost, stress and duration of the process for couples willing to sit down and discuss their issues cooperatively. Mediation is a good first port of call for couples seeking to separate, and involves productive discussion of your separation plans with the help of an impartial mediator. Collaborative family law is especially suited to couples with children, facilitating communication and helping to set down practical plans for the future. Arbitration is another effective, flexible and private option. After considering your case, a final decision is made by an arbitrator, but the particulars of the process are much more within your control.
#10: Choosing the right solicitor can make an enormous difference to your divorce
Your solicitor should be experienced, approachable, and open to questions. Separation can leave you feeling uncertain and overwhelmed, and a good family law solicitor will help you to understand each step of the process, listen to your worries and opinions, and give you practical advice for the best course of action. Divorce is not about getting revenge on your ex; it’s about finding a way to move forward and get on with your life. The down-to-earth family law solicitors at Frances Lindsay & Co are here to take the weight off your shoulders and make sure you feel in control of your decisions. For more information on separation, divorce, mediation, arbitration and collaborative family law, visit www.franceslindsay.co.uk.arbitration, collaborative family law, divorce, family law, mediation, separation