Families experiencing a change in circumstances can look to suggestions from family law experts whilst going through the difficult process of divorce and separation.
Any change in family circumstances needs to be addressed as sensitively and seamlessly as possible to minimise emotional damage for a separating couple and any children if involved.
There are lots of things to consider when separating – regarding the former marital home, pensions, and any other assets accumulated during the course of the relationship, as well as contact arrangements for children.
Neil Remnant, head of family law at JMP Solicitors, said: “To ensure a seamless divorce or separation, and to ease conflict in a turbulent situation, it’s important to act sensitively and sensibly, seeking legal advice when it comes to making challenging decisions.
“From negotiation advice in order to come to mutually beneficial arrangements, to the division of matrimonial assets, managing outgoings and finalising shared contact arrangements – as family law experts, we have navigated many families through the uncomfortable journey of a change in circumstances and have compiled a list of suggestions to help minimise conflict in separation at the start of the journey and ongoing.”
Here is the list of suggestions for making a separation as sensitive and seamless as possible:
- The court will always consider the children first
When determining the fairest way to split assets, the courts will consider various factors including the age of the parties, the duration of the marriage, the standard of living enjoyed by the parties during the marriage and the contributions made by each of you but their first consideration is always the welfare of any minor child of the family and ensuring their needs are met.
- Remain calm in front of the children
Following the separation of parents, children will already feel unsettled, so it’s important that differences are put aside in front of the children in order to protect them and keep them feeling happy and secure. It’s important to keep calm and stay as positive as possible, saving any disagreements for a different time.
- Make a list of your outgoings
It is recommended that you write down a list of outgoings. It is often extremely difficult when the income that used to fund one household has to be stretched to two. You need to be clear about how much you will realistically need to be able to pay for essentials and what you may need to cut back on, even if only in the short term. Once you have a clear grasp on your needs moving forward, you can negotiate more effectively.
- Provide full and frank financial disclosure
Always provide full and frank financial disclosure – the courts expect parties to exchange financial information voluntarily so that each party is fully aware of their spouse’s financial position. Before any offers of settlement can be made, it is important to identify the assets available for division, any liabilities and above all – the future needs of each party and the children of the family if applicable.
- Check whether you are eligible to claim benefits
The courts expect each party to maximise their income wherever possible, so it is important to check that you are receiving any benefits you may be entitled to. The courts have to consider whether a clean break is achievable and want to see parties become financially independent as soon as practicable.
- Don’t try to hurt your spouse
It is advisable to try and remain amicable wherever possible. However much you may feel justified at the time, it is never a good idea to hide or dispose of assets, run up debts on joint accounts or freeze joint bank accounts. This sort of behaviour will always backfire on you.
- Try to reach agreement with your ex wherever possible
It is important to try and reach an agreement with your ex in the first instance. Mediation can help you stay focused on the issues to be determined and reduce the chances of the discussion getting heated. If you can reach an agreement between yourselves, with the help of a qualified mediator the process will be much less costly, less stressful and quicker. If it is not possible to reach agreement with your spouse and you end up in court, you should consider the possibility that a judge may impose a decision on you that neither of you would have wished for.
- Stick to court orders
If the post-divorce or separation situation means it’s not possible for contact arrangements to be made by yourself, then the court can get involved to ensure that parents get equal time with children. The court will seek to deal with matters in a constructive way and in the interests of the children. With a court order, all arrangements made will be legally enforceable.
- It’s always advisable to seek legal advice
Financial matters can be complicated, so it’s recommended that you seek legal advice to help reach an agreement with your ex and ensure you have a solicitor convert your agreement into a consent order to be approved by the courts. While many divorce proceedings are dealt with out of court, it is important to seek legal advice to ensure you are receiving a fair deal regarding the separation of assets. A clean break consent order will dismiss any claims your ex may have against you in the future.