Top 10 divorce tips for 2014

Ginny Colman of Birketts LLP

Most family lawyers report an increase in the  volume of enquiries after the festive period and in the first few weeks of January. Counsellors and GPs will also see an increase number of patients seeking support during the anguish of a relationship break down.
After the Christmas period when most people have spent a longer time than normal with their families, cracks  can begin to show in their relationships. Indeed, some may take the view a new year requires a new start.

Family lawyers frequently report  that though January heralds an increase in enquires,  it is not the only time of year when relationships struggle. Another spike in the number of enquiries is usually in September just after the school holidays when the pressure of entertaining the children and the cost can take its toll.

It is important to bear in mind that divorce and separation can be progressed in a dignified manner without  costing the earth if a sensible approach can be adopted. Here is my top 10 guidance steps that may help if you are faced with this new year dilemma:

  1. Make sure you have tried all options available to you to see whether you can make the relationship work. Have you looked at couples therapy or taken other professional guidance to see whether or not changes can be made to make the relationship work or to help you (both) manage the transition.
  2. If your partner has told you the relationship is over burying your head in the sand and denying it is happening will almost certainly not help you or your partner. A great number of my new clients say they were terrified about the prospect of taking legal advice but the majority all say that after an initial consultation they feel much better, just for being armed with helpful and clear information reducing their fears and concerns of the unknown.
  3. Think carefully about the benefits of having the help of a professional lawyer as compared to  a DIY approach. Many people who attempt to deal with matters themselves  come unstuck later down the line and it can prove more expensive to try to rectify these errors.  Even if you decide to use the DIY approach you can still use a solicitor to provide background information and advice to ensure that the "wheels do not fall off".
  4. Be careful if you think you have agreed something verbally with your ex partner and then seek to rely on it. Agreements do0 need to be a formalised in writing - preferably with a court order.
  5. Don't be fearful of uncontrolled legal fees.  You can seek to  agreed them at the outset..  Make sure you are given a clear breakdown on how fees are charged and calculated so you understand what these are and be comfortable with them before you confirm your  instructions to a lawyer.
  6. Try to be pragmatic and reasonable if you can, and try to settle the matter rather than litigating  which is timely and expensive.  Arguing over matters of principle is rarely productive and will be stressful, time consuming and, probably, expensive.
  7. Don't think withholding details or information is the best way to Almost  invariably a lack of honesty and transparency with your lawyer will lead to an increase in your costs and can detrimentally impact upon your case.
  8. Attempting to hide money is never a good idea and all lawyers will advise against this. Good forensic accountants and clever lawyers will always find hidden money.  If you have done it, it will lead to severe court penalties, and a court order can be  set aside (discharged) if the money is located  after an agreement or court order has been obtained.
  9. Make sure that you only settle the financial aspects of your divorce when you are happy with the quality and extent of the information that has been provided as once an agreement has been made in relation to finances it is difficult to alter and change.
  10. Children- No matter how the divorce or separation has come about always try to keep your mind focussed on your children. It's not their fault, and unless your divorce is managed carefully they are the ones who will probably suffer long into their adult lives. Consider creating a  pack (often known as a parenting plan) with your ex, setting out "rules" and principles as to how you will co-parent.  You should do this even as the  divorce process starts, as it's never too early to start working on this.

In conclusion, go and meet your lawyer and decide whether you are happy with him or her and that you feel comfortable with the advice they give you. Divorce is one of the most personal aspects of law you can ever be involved in and you need to be comfortable with your legal representative.

If you would like more information in respect of the contents of this article please contact Ginny Colman LLP on 01603 756431

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