Separation and Divorce are traumatic life events and an extremely stressful time for those going through a relationship breakdown, especially when children are involved. Although obviously everybody’s circumstances are unique, set out below are some helpful tips for people who are about to go through a separation:
It will be difficult. Don’t underestimate the rollercoaster of emotions you will have to deal with, even if it is your decision to end the marriage. You will be required to make life changing decisions in relation to your future financial security and, possibly, your relationship with your children. Keep in mind also that matters may take longer to resolve than you first think, particularly if you are at loggerheads and communication has broken down.
Be careful about moving out of the family home. Moving out may be the wrong thing to do from a tactical point of view. On the other hand, it might be the right thing to do from the point of view of peace of mind. Take advice before you make this decision.
If you have children, try to resolve arguments over them without involving the lawyers. You and your spouse will have to work together to meet the needs of your children long after you have parted from your Solicitors, so try to keep them out of it.
Try to resolve disputes over the division of contents of the home between yourselves. Don’t let things get out of perspective. It is usually cheaper to replace an item you’re arguing over than to fight about it through your solicitors.
Make sure you get early legal advice, particularly if there is a jurisdictional issue at stake. It may be that more than one country could have jurisdiction. It is therefore essential that you seek advice as soon as possible – timing will be key when it comes to where you issue your proceedings. Different jurisdictions deal with finances in very different ways so it is important to get it right.
If you move abroad, you can’t necessarily take the children with you. Children cannot be taken out of the jurisdiction without the consent of both parents or the permission of the Court. If you pack up and leave with the children to another country, you may be guilty of a criminal offence and could also be in contravention of the Hague Convention.
Every penny you spend on lawyers shrinks the marital pot you’re fighting over. Separation can be expensive, both in terms of time and money. An amicable separation, including the resolution of the financial issues, may still take a number of months to conclude. A fully contested Judicial Separation or Divorce in which all financial matters are disputed may have serious cost implications depending on the complexity of the case and could take 18 months to get to trial. Don’t flitter away the pot. Legal costs can quickly mount up with needless correspondence passing between Solicitors.
Try to keep hostility to a minimum. The law does not apportion blame and it is only in exceptional circumstances that misconduct is taken into account. Therefore don’t write aggressive or insulting letters or text messages; they will only be shown to the Solicitors who will spend more of your money sorting out the repercussions.
Spend time finding the right Solicitor. You will need to get on with your Solicitor. Also, and very importantly, don’t judge your Solicitor on how much he or she charges per hour; an experienced family law Solicitor who works swiftly to cut to the chase will be more cost effective in the long run then a lawyer who charges a lower rate but may not have the same experience.
Your Solicitor may not be the best person to solve some relationship breakdown issues. Your Solicitor should always be supportive, but there are some issues, for example emotional or relationship issues, where it may be more appropriate to consult a different professional, such as a counsellor or family therapist.
Be open with your Solicitor. Your Solicitor will be able to carry out damage limitation if he or she is aware of all the facts. However if skeletons are pulled from the cupboard in front of the Judge when it is too late for your advisors to deal with them it may severely prejudice your case.
Finally, try to maintain a sensible perspective and a sense of humour. Life goes on after separation or divorce and things will get better once the separation process has been finalised.