The beginning of January is a peak time for new enquiries for divorce. Unhappy spouses may make the first move in January for a number of reasons. January is often viewed as a good time to make a fresh start. Also, in the run up to Christmas many people will put off the decision to separate, feeling Christmas isn’t an appropriate time to bring a marriage to an end or hoping to resolve their differences over the holiday.
Anybody who has been through a divorce will know it is a painful process. It can also be expensive. Here are our seven top tips on how to make your divorce less painful and less expensive.
1. Get a good lawyer
You should, at the outset, engage a good family lawyer. Go to the Law Society of Scotland’s “Find a Solicitor” webpage and search for a solicitor in your area who specialises in family law. Engaging a solicitor accredited by the Law Society of Scotland gives you confidence you will receive good, informed advice about how to proceed.
2. Keep it business-like
Many people who consult us start the conversation by saying “everything is amicable and we want it to stay that way”. Sometimes this can work against clients who put the need for “amicableness” above everything else, possibly to the detriment of their own future financial security. Negotiations about money and property should be business-like and not necessarily amicable. Once you have agreed on the division of assets and liabilities and future ongoing support you can both focus on rebuilding an amicable relationship.
3. Understand your spouse’s position
Often someone will decide to end their marriage after thinking about it for many months or even years. That person has already psychologically left the marriage. The end of the marriage may come as a complete shock for their spouse, who may be still psychologically committed to it. It is important to try to understand where your spouse is in the process. The ending of a marriage is often extremely frightening for one or both of you and this can result in anger and unreasonable behaviour. Sometimes you need to allow your spouse some time to come to terms with the idea of the end of the marriage.
4. Protect your children
Irreparable and significant damage can be done to children if a divorce is bitter. You must both do what you can to protect your children from conflict. If it can be achieved, a joint approach towards your children is desirable. It goes without saying that you should not try to manipulate your children against your spouse nor should you criticise your spouse to your children or within their earshot. The long-term losers will be your children.
5. Be forward looking
Trawling over past behaviours, hurt and pain will not assist in achieving an agreement that you can both live with. In Scotland there is no concept of assigning blame in a divorce action. The courts don’t wish to spend time picking over the details of a marriage. Their function is to ensure that your property and money are divided fairly and your children’s welfare is safeguarded.
6. Don’t go it alone
It’s useful to bring a trusted friend to your first meeting with your solicitor. You’ll gain emotional support at what is likely to be a difficult meeting and a second pair of ears. It’s often difficult to take in all the information that is given to you at a first meeting. A friend can take on board the information more easily and can discuss it with you at length after the meeting.
7. Use your lawyer wisely
Make any time your lawyer spends count – you’re paying for it. Don’t spend time with your solicitor detailing the many ways in which your spouse’s behaviour is unreasonable. Pick your battles carefully. Don’t spend time fighting over trivialities. Your end goal is a financial settlement you can live with. Keep focused and don’t allow yourself to be diverted into expensive blind alleys.
And finally: plan for your future
Be realistic about what you need financially. Don’t be tempted to agree something quickly to get it over with or because you feel guilty. Make sure you understand what resources you will have available to you in the future and what lifestyle this will provide for you. Before agreeing a settlement make sure you are prepared for that lifestyle.
Divorce brings change to both you and your children. It is vital that you think clearly about what is fair and reasonable and about how your future will look. We support many people through this emotional time. Contact us for further advice or help.