Top Tips For Divorce
By Stuart Ruff
Divorce is an emotional and difficult time, as no doubt Tiger Woods and his now ex-wife Elen Nordegren will attest. But there are a few simple steps that can be taken to make the process less stressful without paying a fortune in legal costs.
1. Choose the right solicitor for you
You must feel comfortable with and confident in the person you choose to represent you. Your involvement with your solicitor could last anywhere between 6-18 months during one of the most stressful periods of your life. You do not want to add to this stress by having concerns about your solicitor. Choose a solicitor who is a member of Resolution. Resolution members abide by a code of practice that is committed to resolving family disputes in a constructive and non confrontational way designed to preserve peoples’ dignity and to encourage agreement.
2. Pick your battles
When a marriage breaks down, emotions run very high. Anger and the need to apportion blame are common stages to go through. Realise at an early stage that the law is not interested in why the marriage has broken down but is concerned with sorting out the arrangements for the children and resolving the financial issues. Only in exceptional cases will the reason for the marriage breakdown have a bearing on how the assets are split. Therefore instructing your solicitor to write numerous letters apportioning blame is not only pointless but also increases costs. Any solicitor worth their salt should actively discourage you from doing this. Focus on minimising the impact of the divorce on any children and sorting the finances out.
3. Be prepared to compromise
During the divorce process there will be negotiations about the children and money. You will have an idea of what you want to get at the end of the day and so will your spouse. It is impossible for you to both get exactly what you want and any agreement will require both of you to be flexible, adjust your sights and compromise. Unwillingness to compromise can quickly lead to conflict which damages relationships even more, prolongs the legal process and increases costs.
4. Be open and honest
Negotiations will involve both spouses having to disclose their financial circumstances to enable the matrimonial “pot” to be established.Thoughts can then turn to how the “pot” should be divided. Be honest in your disclosure and answer all reasonable questions asked of you about your financial position. Doing this will help to create trust and show that you have nothing to hide. This in turn will make the prospect of an agreement much more likely. Remember that a failure to fully and frankly disclose your financial position throughout the process can give rise to the possibility of any agreement reached being set aside and reconsidered.
5. Be aware of alternatives to court
Court proceedings are not the only way to resolve the issues arising from a marriage breakdown. Mediation involves you and your spouse meeting with an independent mediator who is not there to advise either of you but to see if they can steer you both towards an agreement. This does involve you and your spouse being together in the same room with only the mediator present so this option may not be for everyone.
Collaborative law is another option whereby spouses and their lawyers have round table meetings after financial disclosure has taken place to see if an agreement can be reached.
Family courts are now open to journalists following a recent change in the law. If you are in the public eye, or if there are other reasons why privacy is desirable, then mediation and collaborative law are especially good routes to consider.
If successful, these two processes are cheaper than going to court but if the mediation/collaborative process does not result in an agreement then court proceedings are almost inevitable as the only way to resolve the dispute.
Stuart Ruff is a solicitor at Thomas Eggar LLP