Article from North East Times

You’ve seen the film and read the book – divorce and relationship breakup have to be a battle, right?  Wrong.

Gone are the days of talk of “taking to the cleaners” and lawyers “adding oil to the fire”.  If you think this approach will get you anywhere but a painful trip to the bank you’re sorely mistaken.  There is no magic promised land of the easy divorce but it need not be a dramatic showpiece of aggressive litigation either.  This approach officially died in 1982 with the birth of the group Resolution.  You use an ipad now and wouldn’t choose an Amstrad, would you?

In divorce, like life, one size does not fit all.  Why should it?  You may not be a 1950’s style Don and Betty Draper of “Mad Men” or even an uber modern power couple like Alicia and Peter Florrick in “The Good Wife”.  And let’s face it, few of us can or want to compare our situations to the other ficitious character of “the celebrity”.  Could there really another Russell Brand and Katy Perry?  No one relationship is the same.  That’s the point.

The 3rd of January is known as “D-Day” ( Divorce Day) to family lawyers.  It is our  busiest day of the year.  Divorce is on the rise.  Fact.  The National Office of Statistics has reported that this has been so since 2003. This year in the first week of January senior family judge Sir Paul Coleridge encouraged couples to ‘mend it not end it’.

There is no point in dramatising what is already one of the most difficult and painful life experiences emotionally, financially and psychologically.

A good specialist family lawyer knows how to deliver robust advice and deal firmly and fairly with you, your partner and their lawyer but most of all deal with potential complications and give you all the options.  You may not be able to mend it ,but you can end it without making it worse.

What’s the Drama?

I’m not saying there can’t be complications.  That is different.

There can be and that is reason, more than ever before in a changing world, to take specialist advice.

Consider this from an average life in the day of a family lawyer:-

  • Where will your children live and how often should they see the other parent?
  • Hidden assets – will your partner/spouse not disclose what income or assets they have?  Beware of ‘self-help’.  This may get you into hot water but again there are ways and means of discovering the true assets.
  • Maintenance – How much needs to be paid and can you afford it?  Perhaps you need to provide for a disabled child or private or university education and the CSA can’t assist.
  • Is there a pre-nuptial agreement?  Since the well publicised decision in Radmacher in 2010, these agreements are on the increase, particularly in second marriages.
  • How will you deal with the family business or other company or inherited or Trust assets?
  • Are you over 60?  There is a rise of separations in this agegroup known as the ‘silver separations’.  This itself brings complexities of need.
  • International aspects – is your partner/spouse a foreign national or have links to a place outside England and Wales?  If so beware of the forum race.  England and Wales start from the point of equal financial division being fair.  Not every jurisdiction does.  Will your partner relocate with the children without agreement?  There are options to prevent this that need not mean you cannot work together.
  • And finally, if you are not married the complex legal web of living together.

How to mend it when you end it

Keep the drama for a night with the box-set or the red-tops.

Complication is not code for expensive high tension litigation.  Back in 1982 some sensible lawyers got together and formed “Resolution”.  By employing a non-confrontational approach lawyers can assist you to narrow issues and agree as much as you can to avoid a Judge imposing an order no one might want. Old style practices are changing and so they should.  Collaborative law, mediation, negotiation and yes even sometimes litigation are tools to be used, but so is good old common sense.

The law is a blunt tool and a lawyer worth instructing is a creative practical lawyer with all the methods at their disposal.

The methods are modern but the advice is classic.

Don’t make a drama out of a crisis.

Written by Jo Hall, Assistant Solicitor