The Christmas and New Year period can be a difficult time for many people; it is an opportunity for family and friends to get together, but it can add to the pressures when a marriage is in trouble.
For most family lawyers, January is one of the busiest times of the year for divorce. Couples who feel their marriage is nearing an end may find themselves putting matters off until the New Year for the benefit of their children or their parents. Alternatively, they may think it is best to get Christmas over with first.
Once the New Year approaches, there can be a feeling of a new start on the horizon and the opportunity to contemplate the future.
So, what do you need to think about if you are considering divorce or formal separation in the New Year? Nigel Godsiffe family law expert at Forrester Sylvester Mackett explains the key things you need to bear in mind.
First, and most importantly, it is always best if an amicable approach can be taken. Keeping the lines of communication open with your spouse is key to ensuring that this happens.
It is inevitable that you and your spouse will be feeling hurt, but if you can keep talking to each other you stand a better chance of being able to resolve matters between you, without involving the courts, and this can make the process of divorce or separation much less distressing.
When contemplating getting divorced, you need to have in mind what you are seeking to achieve. Many questions will occur, such as:
- Where will I live?
- What will happen to the house?
- Will I be able to manage financially?
- Who will pay the bills?
- What will happen with the children?
When meeting your solicitor for the first time, it is important that you provide them with as much information as possible so they can advise you about your rights and explain the likely outcome.
It will be useful if you take with you the following information:
- Details of income and earnings for you and your spouse;
- A full list of your outgoings and any expected changes to these;
- Details of savings and debts;
- Details of any assets, such as vehicles, valuable jewellery etc;
- Any likely change in circumstances for you or your spouse; and
- Any information as to pension entitlements.
Your solicitor will then be able to build a picture of your circumstances and advise you on your options.
An experienced family solicitor will also be able to advise you on the alternative methods available to help you resolve matters without the need to go to court, including mediation or collaborative law.
Mediation will be necessary before any court proceedings can commence. A mediator may be able to assist you and your spouse in negotiating a settlement to separate your finances and make arrangements for your children. If you are able to reach an agreement, your solicitor can convert this into a legally binding court order.
An alternative approach which is becoming increasingly popular is collaborative law. With this approach, you and your spouse will participate in a series of meetings with your solicitors and attempt to broker an agreement. As with mediation, any agreement you reach can be formalised into a court order.
The advantage of both these options is that you retain some control over the outcome because you have more flexibility, allowing you to discuss and resolve matters in a way that suits you rather than in a way that a court might order.
Sometimes it may not be possible to agree matters, and if it is necessary for the court to make decisions with regards to your finances or children your solicitor will be able to guide you through the process and advise you about possible outcomes. Even if the court is involved it is always possible to negotiate a settlement, so keeping the channels of communication open with your spouse remains important. The more you can resolve between yourselves, the less the court will need decide for you.
For more information about divorce or separation, please contact our family law team