Separation is a process; it may begin months or even years before you speak to a solicitor or sign a single piece of paperwork. Separation is a lot more than just working out who’s right, who’s wrong, and who gets the toaster – it’s a journey comprising a string of decisions, compromises and negotiations. And the time it takes to complete depends on you, your ex, and your ability to cooperate – it’s all about how you approach it.
Every couple’s situation is different, but there are certain fundamental ground-rules that should help you to manoeuvre through the challenges of separation with the minimum of stress, conflict and delays. Here are six of them:
- Find the right lawyer
Your solicitor is in it for the long-haul, so it’s important to find someone you trust, someone you can talk openly about your situation to, and someone whose suggestions you are prepared to listen to. A good solicitor will listen, tailor their advice to your circumstances, and help you to find the right route to separation. It’s important to remember, however, that your lawyer is not your therapist, your new best friend, or somehow able to rewrite the law to get you exactly what you want. You’re in a professional partnership. So make sure you find the right person for the job.
- Find the right approach
Court divorce is not the only way to separate. There are several out-of-court methods of separation which allow you to resolve your differences in private, at your own pace, and with greater control over the outcome. Mediation and collaborative family law are co-operative methods of separation which are particularly effective for couples with children, while arbitration is a good alternative for financial issues if you want to stay out of court. Each technique provides you with a legally binding solution to separation, and settling your differences out of court is generally cheaper and quicker – and often less stressful. Going to court should always be a last resort.
- Put the children first
If you have children, the logistics of your separation should centre around what’s best for them. Make sure you don’t involve them in any conflict between you and your ex, and try to keep your mind on the long term outcome – you still have to maintain a relationship as co-parents, no matter what happens. If possible, choose an out-of-court method of separation such as mediation or collaborative family law, which lets you sit down with your ex and your solicitors to work out a practical plan for the future. Remember: if you take your case to court, decisions about your children will be out of your hands.
- Fix your legal costs
Usually one of the first questions people ask their solicitor is: “How much is this going to cost?” The answer, unfortunately, tends to be: “How long is a piece of string?” It all depends on how easy it is for you and your ex to find a solution to your situation. The more complex your circumstances, or the more you bicker and dispute individual issues, the longer it will take, and the higher the cost will rise. Going to court is almost always more expensive than settling things through alternative methods. The best way to keep your costs down is to agree on fixed legal fees for each stage of the process and make a realistic budget for life after divorce based on your financial situation.
- Don’t go it alone
Even the most straightforward divorce requires professional legal help. It may be tempting to go for a cheap DIY option or represent yourself in court, but your first step should be to get the advice of a solicitor before you make any decisions. You don’t have to go to court, but it’s essential that you use a trained lawyer to ensure every aspect of your separation arrangements is legally sound and fair. Too often, people who take the DIY option end up paying out at a later date to correct a mistake or resolve problems that could easily have been avoided if they’d only sought professional help in the first place.
- Make it easy on yourself
Divorce is not a failure. Every relationship struggles. It’s just that sometimes they don’t recover. Deciding that separation is the best choice for your situation is a positive step forward, even if it might feel like you’re taking two steps back. Make sure you have the support you need throughout the process. Use your solicitor for practical advice and guidance; seek out personal counselling or couples therapy if you and your ex are able to talk things out together; and lean on friends and family to help you through the tough times.
For impartial and friendly advice on divorce, mediation, arbitration and collaborative family law, visit www.franceslindsay.co.uk. Our family law team are here to take the weight off your shoulders – with offices in Maidenhead, Beaconsfield and meeting rooms in London, we can help you find the right solution for your separation.
Tags: collaborative family law, divorce, divorce solicitor Maidenhead, mediation