January is typically seen as busy time for those in the world of Family Law with there tending to be a spike in new client enquiries after families have been ‘keeping things together’ over the Christmas period. Perhaps it’s having those extra days at home with a spouse, or just the urge to have a fresh start in the new year. Either way, the aptly named ‘Divorce Day’ (being the first Monday in January) is really just the start of the journey for those wanting to formalise their separation and get divorced.
This article explores a few key tips for those wanting to separate from their spouse which, if considered early, can really help along the way.
- Your ‘team’
For many, a divorce is one of the most stressful periods of their life and even the mere thought of it can be daunting, let alone actually going through with it. One thing that can help tremendously both before, during and after the process, is to put together a trusted team around you. This will vary, depending on your needs, but serious consideration should be given not only to your legal representation, but also to instructing a therapist, divorce coach, financial adviser and accountant, to name but a few.It is important to do your research to ensure you choose your team wisely and preferably, for them to be happy to communicate with one another, to ensure you are getting the right support in the right areas from each of them. For example, it’s important to get legal advice from your lawyer and financial advice from your financial adviser, rather than the other way round! Although open communication between the two of them will likely help your financial adviser plan for your future and your lawyer fight your case more effectively.
- Financial disclosure
When considering how to separate your finances on divorce, one of the first things you are likely going to have to do is put together what is known as financial disclosure. This is details, with evidence in support, of the entirety of your financial circumstances including capital, liabilities, pensions and income. In some cases, with relatively little by way of assets, this will be straightforward. For others, a somewhat mammoth task! You can help yourself with this by getting organised early. If you have a financial adviser or private banker, they can be an excellent source to rely on to put together details of such things as pensions or investments which you might have. Accountants can also be helpful to provide details of your tax, or an initial indication of a business valuation. But even the more straightforward tasks, such as getting 12 months of bank statements together, can be time consuming. So, take a moment to write a list of what you have, speak to your advisers and start collating this information early to save yourself a lot of stress later down the line.
- Living arrangements
Often when couples separate the knee jerk reaction is for one of them to leave the family home and stay with friends, relatives or rent somewhere temporarily. Although this can be a great way to diffuse immediate tensions, it can also cause a number of issues later down the line, particularly if the move was an initial short term measure, but things are taking longer than was initially expected to get resolved. Friends and family members may not have ample space and rent might become unaffordable. Moving out of the family home, particularly when the remaining spouse doesn’t want it to be sold but that is looking likely as part of the overall financial settlement, can result in them dragging their feet in reaching a resolution, as they know that when they do, things are going to change. It is therefore most often not advisable for you to move out of the family home, without in the first instance taking legal advice as to what the risks of doing so could be.There are of course circumstances where it is entirely inappropriate for couples to remain living under the same roof, particularly where there are allegations of domestic abuse. So, this is not a one size fits all tip. But something that should be considered carefully and not decided on a whim without proper consideration and discussion with your lawyer.
- Alternative Dispute Resolution
Often when couple’s think divorce, they think court, which some are enthused by and others would rather avoid like Covid in 2020. There are actually several alternative options to going to court (known as Alternative Dispute Resolution or ADR). This includes such things as mediation, arbitration and collaborative law. Whether any of these options are appropriate to your case will depend on your situation but should be discussed from the outset with your lawyer as if appropriate. It can be a very cost effective and more amicable way of resolving matters. That said, if none of these options are appropriate, court can sometimes be the most effective way in which to resolve a dispute and is not necessarily something to be feared. The positive thing about the court process is that ultimately, if an agreement cannot be reached between a separated couple, there will be a final hearing and a Judge will make a decision. Although a daunting prospect, it does mean that there is a light at the end of the tunnel in a resolution being reached, as opposed to negotiations dragging on into the abyss.
The cost of legal fees can vary dramatically, depending on your case. It is hugely important to have an up front and transparent discussion about costs with your solicitor from the outset. Your solicitor should provide you with a cost estimate when you initially instruct them and update you as matters progress, if the estimate is likely to be exceeded. In having open and transparent discussions about costs, you can plan for the journey ahead. Whether that is putting aside some cash to ensure you can have continuity of legal advice until everything’s resolved, or making an application for litigation funding at the beginning of your case to take some of the immediate financial pressure off to pay legal fees, having a plan as to how to fund your divorce means there is one less thing to worry about and focus can remain on reaching a resolution.
As every case is different and no divorce is the same, it is really important to make sure that if you are thinking of separating, in the new year or at any time, that you take legal advice from the outset. Your solicitor will be able to provide you with more tailored advice relevant to your case and elaborate further on the tips contained in this article depending on your needs.