It is not surprising that the end of a marriage can be one of the most difficult and upsetting life-events that you may ever have to experience. This is particularly the case when it is not a joint decision and was unexpected.
We have set out below some tips, from a family law perspective to help you navigate through this challenging and emotional time:
- Take advice
The legal aspects of a marital breakdown can feel especially daunting and it is useful to have an initial consultation with a specialist family solicitor from an early stage to provide some more certainty and reassurance, even if you decide not to proceed with this immediately.
There may be action that is necessary to protect you (for instance in relation to finances and the family home) where this needs to be dealt with quickly.
Further, if either yourself or your spouse hold nationality of, have lived, hold assets in, or married outside of England and Wales, there is the potential that divorce proceedings could be issued there, and again there may be a pressure of time in that instance to ensure that any international family law proceedings take place in the most appropriate/beneficial jurisdiction.
- Keep the channels of communication open with your spouse
This can be an especially difficult thing to do and in some cases it is not possible (for instances in cases where domestic abuse is a factor). However, there are many benefits if you can build up to a level of communication and it can lead to lower costs and acrimony in the longer term. If you do not feel able to communicate constructively directly, then it can help to do so in written form (emails or text messages), although try to keep the tone and content of this neutral and factual (even if your spouse does not do so).
Consider whether you would be happy for your messages to be read in court before you send them and, if not, then change the content or do not send the message at all.
- Take the time that you need
If you feel that you need some time to process the relationship breakdown then ask your partner to give you this. This could be to everyone’s benefit and could lead to less acrimony in the longer term.
- …but don’t ignore correspondence
It is not advisable to ignore legal correspondence or deadlines as this could lead to potentially significant problems in the future. Seek appropriate advice from your family law solicitor as soon as possible so that you know what your options are. Your solicitor can take over receipt of all correspondence and come up with options on how to respond before you even have to look at it. This will help to alleviate the pressure and anxiety caused during the divorce process.
- Work on resolving the immediate issues before thinking about the long term matters.
Often the main issues that need to be resolved immediately following a relationship breakdown are:
- Where you will both live whilst you resolve the financial issues flowing from the breakdown of the relationship
- How will the outgoings be paid and by whom
- What the immediate arrangements will be in relation to any children that you have in order to spend time with both parents
These issues can be highly sensitive but are usually cause the most stress. However, once they are resolved, it can significantly reduce the pressure on one or both parties.
- Make sure that you have all of the information that you need to help you plan the way forward. This can potentially help you to envisage what the future might look like.
Familiarise yourself with details about the mortgage, household bills and any debts that you have. Find out how much your property is worth and obtain values of your pensions. Complete a schedule of your expenses each month.
- Avoid involving the children
The courts hold the position that children should not be overly involved in adult issues between their parents as this can be damaging to them. In most cases, it is felt that it is beneficial for children to have a relationship with both of their parents if it is safe for them to do so.
- Don’t respond in anger
There may be times where it is tempting to respond in a way designed to cause the most hurt to your ex-partner, including in relation to the children or financial matters. This can of course cause tensions and legal costs to rise.
Avoid engaging in heated discussions with your ex partner. Walk away if a conversation is not making progress and getting out of control. Avoid any physical confrontation by taking yourself out of the situation immediately and call the police if you fear for the safety of yourself or the children.
- Seek support
The breakdown of a relationship can make you feel isolated. Friends can of course be helpful during this time, but in some cases they may worry about being seen to “take sides”. Counselling and local support groups can be a useful source of emotional support.
- …but don’t overly involve third parties
Relationship breakdown is something that most people have been through in some form or another. You may feel that everyone is trying to tell you what you should do based on their own experiences. Remember that every case is different and there are a lot of commonly held misconceptions. The best place to seek advice is from a specialist family law solicitor.
The process of relationship breakdown is never easy and we do not underestimate that. However, by seeking advice from an early stage there are steps that you may be able to take to protect yourself legally and avoid additional complications at an already challenging time.