Although divorce is rarely easy, Sue Andrews, family partner at B P Collins provides five key tips to enable you and your former partner to separate amicably and reach a resolution with the minimum of animosity, cost and delay.
- Respect each other and communicate – good communication and effective listening is key to a good outcome. If you are able to recall what you each once admired and loved about each other, then that might encourage good communication. This is especially important if there are children involved, because as parents, you will have an ongoing relationship for the rest of your lives.
- Consider counselling – not just on an individual basis, but as a couple. Not only is counselling likely to be beneficial to relations going forward, but it can be immensely helpful to the formal process. This is because counselling enables you to talk in a neutral environment about how you each feel and why. A better understanding of why someone feels the way they do can aid communication. If you had been with your former spouse for a long time, there is a possibility that you may have a close bond with each other’s relatives or have mutual friends who you will each want to keep in touch with, and a better understanding of each other should enable that. Counselling can also help to avoid negative behaviour, which can often occur when someone adopts a position through fear, mistrust, or anger.
- Understand the other person’s perspective and take and give time – try to put yourself in the shoes of your spouse (admittedly not always easy to do, especially if the love and respect has gone). It is very rare that you will both be in the same emotional place at the beginning. One of you may have thought about ending the marriage for some time, whereas the idea of separation may be a complete shock to the other. If the marriage breaks down because one person has had an affair, the other is likely to feel incredibly upset, hurt and betrayed, and these feelings are likely to pervade the resolution of matters unless dealt with and addressed.
Where time is not given and formal steps are pursued with haste, a spouse’s feelings, alternating between great sadness and anger, will usually result in matters being protracted and delay a resolution. This is often because that person feels scared about their uncertain future, rather than a wish to be difficult for its own sake. That person is likely to need time to grieve the loss of the future they thought they would have. How much time is needed will depend upon the individual, and also probably the circumstances of the breakdown.However, B P Collins’ family team rarely meet a client who doesn’t feel more positive and able to deal with matters after an appropriate period of time.They will be less entrenched than they were in the early stages of separation, which can so often be dark and grief-stricken. So, taking a step back is likely to be beneficial.
- Seek legal advice and choose your lawyer carefully – look for a specialist, experienced family lawyer with whom you have rapport and empathy and one you do not feel intimidated by. It is usually a good idea to get advice early on even if you do not immediately take formal steps. Information about what to expect will remove some of the uncertainty that is often felt, and discussions on a more informed basis are usually more constructive and productive. But do not take formal steps until you are ready to do so, unless circumstances dictate a different timescale. Lawyers give advice, but remember it is your divorce and it is you who gives the instructions. Be wary of a lawyer who promises you the earth or who always agrees with what you say. While you may need firm guidance, you need to remain true to your own values and principles.
- Establish the facts and be honest – one of the first tasks in the resolution of matters is “fact finding” to ascertain the resources and assets of the relationship and to understand all the issues that might impact upon the resolution of matters. So a step, which can be taken early on, is to collate the information and documents which will be needed. That will save delay when you are both ready to proceed, and having a practical step to focus on can be helpful emotionally too.
Honesty is the best policy, so don’t set out to play games, unless of course it really is your intention to pay significant amounts in legal fees and delay resolution. A lawyer will provide guidance and advice about an appropriate outcome having regard to circumstances and resources.