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31 October 2019

Top tips for avoiding a scary divorce

Divorce can seem like a frightening prospect at first, but with the right support, and by doing your homework, it does not have to be as scary as it first seems.

With statistics telling us that 42% of marriages end in divorce, and with divorces being characterised as the second most stressful life event, it is no wonder that many people are afraid of divorce and what it might entail for the future. However, with the right help and a measured approach, you can take positive steps to keep your divorce on track.

Here are some of our ‘top tips’ for avoiding a scary divorce and how we can help you:

  1. Choose your battles carefully
    The breakdown of a relationship can be a difficult time fraught with emotion. It can be tempting to focus on your feelings and who is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. The Court does not concern itself with which party is ultimately to blame for the relationship coming to an end and the manner of the breakdown rarely impacts on financial matters. As such, it is highly recommended that the contents of the petition are kept as non-contentious as possible. This will help to lessen the acrimony between you and your spouse, as well as helping to minimise legal costs. Wherever possible, it is preferable to agree the draft divorce petition with your spouse to avoid unnecessary acrimony and the shock of a petition arriving on the doorstep without forewarning. We can work with you to time receipt of the petition appropriately based on your individual circumstances. You need to be sure that you do not just concede difficult issues for an easy life as this can lead to regrets. It is essential to have the right team around you to help you identify the difference between something you should let go and one which you should challenge.
  2. Take a family focused approach
    The Court’s aim upon financial settlement is to achieve a fair outcome between you. There is a ‘yardstick of equality’ and the court will only be persuaded to depart from equality if there is good reason for doing so, usually regarding housing of young children but this is not the only example. As such, you should not expect your spouse to walk away with nothing but you also cannot assume that equality is the ‘right’ answer. Each case is considered on its own merits by the Court applying a set of factors set out in law which include your needs and resources together with how these link with the age of each of you and the length of the marriage. The first consideration of the court is always the needs of any children under the age of 18 although older children can also be relevant. Assets which you or your spouse had before the marriage or received during the marriage by gift or inheritance may also be taken into account in a financial settlement. There is not an automatic right to share in these assets but the Court has discretion on how to deal with them, particularly where this is required to meet everyone’s basic needs.
  3. Be honest and open
    There is an ongoing duty to give full, clear and frank financial disclosure. Efforts to hide assets can lead to the Court making adverse inferences against you. Financial misconduct can be taken into account in the financial settlement or by making orders that you have to meet some or all of your spouse’s legal costs.
  4. Consider what would happen in the event of your death
    It may sound rather morbid and also overwhelming to consider your death when you are going through a divorce. It is, however, important to consider what you would want to happen to your assets in the event you die before the conclusion of the divorce proceedings. There are different considerations for assets owned jointly with your spouse and those which are owned in your sole name. You should speak with your solicitor regarding this issue to ensure your wishes would be followed in the event of your death.
  5. Do the follow up work 
    Help your solicitor to help you. Your input is crucial as you will have insight and information into your spouse, your finances and also what is most important to you. You must communicate these things to your solicitor and when your solicitor asks you to review documents, do this thoroughly. Also, do not be tempted to forget about the follow up work on the grant of Decree Absolute. By way of example, pension sharing does not happen automatically. Documents need to be served on the pension trustees and you need to check that the share has taken place. Make sure you diarise any payment deadlines or other important dates to ensure these do not get forgotten.
  6. Joint bank accounts 
    It is advisable to consider whether you have any joint bank accounts and if you remain confident this will not be misused by your spouse. If you hold a joint bank account, either you or your spouse are able to withdraw funds from the account without the authorisation of the other account holder. Consider whether any funds should be transferred out of joint accounts into a sole account.
  7. Financial advice on investing settlement funds 
    A solicitor cannot provide you with financial advice. It is important to seek advice on investing your settlement funds, particularly if the Court has provided you with a lump sum of capital rather than ongoing maintenance. Seeking advice from an investment expert will assist you with how best to invest your capital to earn an income from it.

Avoiding the stress of divorce is all about seeking the right support and advice. Here at BDB Pitmans, we will be with you every step of the way to get the best possible outcome with the minimum of stress.

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