Ten Practical Tips for getting divorced


1. Do not employ an aggressive advocate


We have all heard the one about “go and see xxx, he will get you everything…”. What is less often mentioned is that employing an aggressive, unrealistic lawyer who promises everything, is likely to be expensive and can be emotionally damaging to the future relationship with your soon to be ex.


At the outset, both parties have to be realistic as to the likely outcome. Divorce lawyers are not magicians. However creative they may be, they cannot create assets that do not exist. On divorce, all resources are finite and the job of trying to divide one household into two, in a way that is fair, and meets the immediate needs of the parties can be a very difficult exercise. Add into that equation the emotional difficulties of separation, and it soon becomes clear that employing an aggressive advocate is unlikely to be in your best interest.


In cases where there are young children, the reality is that the parties will need to retain some form of ongoing relationship. This can be extremely difficult when an already fragile relationship has been damaged beyond repair by aggressive litigation.


2. Be realistic


This advice speaks for itself. Any settlement must be fair and must provide for both parties. Adopting unrealistic aspirations at the outset is only likely to lead to prolonged litigation and unnecessary costs.


3. …Not in front of the children


Issues relating to divorce and separation should be dealt with by the adults not the children. The children need protection from the emotional difficulties you and your spouse may be experiencing. Do not involve the children and do not speak badly about your spouse to the children.


4. Keep the lines of communication open


Advocates charge by the hour. The more you can discuss matters with your spouse and the more work you do, the less work is required of your advocate, and the more money is available for distribution between the two of you.


All of that said, if you are in a violent or abusive relationship do not put yourself in danger by trying to raise difficult issues that are likely to elicit a hostile reaction.


5. How to get the best out of your advocate


Prepare for your first meeting. If possible provide your advocate with a brief summary of who is who and a list of the matrimonial assets and liabilities. If you have an idea of what you want at the outset then tell your advocate.


Establish a clear method of communication between your advocate and raise with him your concerns as and when they arise rather than let them fester.


6. Listen to your advocate


We all have friends who have read the “Readers Digest Guide to Law”. They always know best and are often very quick to tell you that something very different happened in their case.


Beware of the barrack room lawyer. You are paying your advocate a lot of money to receive good advice. There may be very good reasons why your friend’s case is different to yours but if you do not understand why this might be, then ask your advocate to explain. There is usually a good reason for the different strategy or outcome and of course every divorce is unique.


7. Do not issue an unreasonable behaviour petition unless there is no alternative


There are five ways of proving that your marriage has broken down irretrievably namely adultery, unreasonable behaviour, two years separation and consent, two years desertion and five years living apart. Generally the Court does not really care who divorces who or on what basis.


Without wishing to state the obvious, issuing a damning divorce Petition on unreasonable behaviour running to several pages setting out the many failings of your spouse is unlikely to help an already delicate situation.


If possible try to look for alternative grounds such as two years separation and consent.


If alternative grounds are not available and you have to go the unreasonable behaviour route, then follow the Law Society Protocol.  Keep your allegations to a minimum and try to agree with your spouse the particulars to be included in the Petition before the Petition is issued.


8. Do not dispose of assets


A common question that sometimes arises on divorce, usually at the first meeting, is “Shall I gift my valuable boat/car/ring to my brother for £1?”.


This is not a good idea. Disposal of assets with a view to defeating a claim for financial provision on divorce is a very serious matter and the Court is likely to take a dim view of such conduct.


If the transfer is done in an effort to deplete the available assets then injunction proceedings can be brought by the wronged party and appropriate orders made by way of costs.


If you have any doubt about your situation or if you see your spouse taking steps to dispose of assets then you must seek immediate advice from your advocate.


9. Do not argue unless you have to…


This is common sense. Obviously, the longer you argue, the more legal fees you are likely to incur and the smaller the resources left available to divide between you.


Clearly, the best way to resolve issues relating to children or finance is by agreement after you have taken legal advice. The terms of any settlement can then be recorded in a binding Court Order.


10. Do not post anything on social networking sites about your divorce or children


This advice is often given but ignored. Anything you post can be copied, shared and may be used in evidence against you. The ultimate sin is to post anything to do with Court proceedings or information or pictures of children. Understandably, the Courts take a very dim view of such conduct.


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