Susan J Williams Partner and Head of Family Department
How to achieve an amicable divorce
The beginning of the year always brings enquiries in relation to relationship breakdowns. The end of the old year is often a period of reflection and the New Year an opportunity for change.
No one wants conflict and acrimony when they are working through all the changes that the end of a marriage can bring, which can cause considerable pain to the couple, their children and extended family members.
The focus for all concerned should be for an amicable divorce. This requires all the professionals involved and the couple approaching the end of their marriage to work in a constructive way to enable the process of ending the marriage to run smoothly, minimising the disruption that inevitably follows.
How can you have an amicable divorce?
- Allow yourself time to come to terms with changes that will be inevitable for you and the family. Recognise that it will be a difficult time for you and your family. Each of you will be at different stages of accepting that the marriage has broken down. Rather than rush the other [spouse] into the process, often waiting for them to catch up with where you are enables them to get used to the pending changes and engage constructively in the process.
- Do your own research on government and charitable organisations’ websites. Ask your team of trusted advisors about your worries or concerns. Always ask many questions. The more knowledge you gather the more confident you will feel in making decisions that are right for you and any children.
- Surround yourself with plenty of support from family and friends. Where appropriate, consider seeking the support of a therapist or counsellor. Do not be afraid to seek the help that you need.
- Take your time to choose the right solicitor to guide you through the various processes. It is vitally important that you find a solicitor who meets your needs. Someone who takes the time to understand your particular circumstances. Have an initial telephone call, video call or face-to-face meeting, so that you can be reassured that the solicitor you choose is right for you. Avoid services that provide a one-size-fits-all approach; instead find a solicitor that you feel confident with, who is professional, communicates with you in a way you understand and who will tailor their services to your individual needs.
- Consider alternative methods of resolving disputes such as, mediation, collaborative processes for divorce, or arbitration.
- Minimise conflict by keeping the lines of communication open with your partner. Where finances and assets need to be divided see if you and your partner can agree on the list of assets and their values.
- Be realistic and reasonable in your negotiations. For example, do not expect to keep all or a disproportionately large amount of the family assets. You will be required to share the matrimonial assets or their equivalent value. Failing to be reasonable in negotiations will lead to disharmony and could damage ongoing negotiations.
- Try to be on the same page as your partner regarding the arrangements for the children. Aim to work together to co-parent the children, and minimise conflict, disruption and upset to the children. Explore courses that may assist with co-parenting, giving you the skills you need to do this successfully and effectively. There is a wealth of information online.
- Steer away from blaming your partner, such tensions can delay decisions being made, which in turn causes more conflict between you. Avoid discussing your divorce on social media. Do not use social media as a platform to vent your frustrations.
- Try to always focus on and plan for your future. Look forward and not backwards.
How can your solicitor encourage an amicable approach?
Your carefully selected solicitor should also take responsibility for providing an atmosphere which encourages an amicable approach. Ask whether your solicitor is a member of Resolution, an organisation whose members strive to provide a service, which reduces conflict and puts children at the heart of any decisions. Also, are they members of the Law Society Family Panel or Children’s panel? Choosing a family solicitor is a serious matter and it takes time. However, the more work you put into getting the right solicitor for you, the more confident you will feel with your solicitor.
Of course, it is a partnership, and your solicitor should be engaging with you in the following ways:
- Working with you as a part of your team to support you and provide advice and guidance.
- Encouraging positive communication to reduce conflict.
- Listening to your concerns and empowering you to make informed decisions.
- Encouraging couples to discuss issues between themselves to establish a positive way of resolving them during the divorce process; but also use this as a template for future discussions when solicitors are no longer involved, and when issues – that will inevitably arise as children grow older – need to be resolved.
- Providing objective, honest and realistic feedback about the strengths and weaknesses of your case, thereby avoiding unrealistic expectations arising.
- Remaining objective, non-judgemental and open minded with the ability to explore all available options. In addition, having the ability to look at issues in a pragmatic and strategic way, helping you to find a resolution in the most cost-effective way.
- Recognising early on what additional support you may need from a counsellor, therapist, financial advisor, accountants or other external professionals, as well as obtaining advice from internal advisors on matters such as wills, lasting powers of attorney, tax and conveyancing. This provides a holistic approach to issues facing you.
- Considering and exploring with you alternative approaches to resolving difficult issues such as mediation, or arbitration to avoid the need to go to court. Court proceedings should always be the place of last resort.
The right choice of solicitor can make a real difference to your experience during the divorce process. The relationship between you and your solicitor is crucial in maintaining a balanced and amicable approach. An amicable divorce means that you are more likely to have a better working relationship with your ex-partner going forward.