Baby I’m Bored – How to have a good divorce
“Baby I’m bored”
“Yeah it is just not working”
“I think we should separate for a while”
When you are on the receiving end of this conversation, your world may feel like it has been turned upside down. You may have seen it coming or it may have hit you like a bolt out of the blue. Whatever happens, you do need to take stock and look after yourself. Here’s how to have a good divorce or separation:
Before getting divorced or separating
Support from friends and family
When going through a separation process, family and friends can be great support for you. They are usually prepared to give the time to listen to your problems and the usual case is a problem shared is a problem halved. Friends can help boost your confidence and if they have been through a similar situation themselves, they can offer help and guidance.
Beware however sometimes family and friends are just not a help. Blindly supporting you and encouraging you to take extreme confrontational positions will not help and is likely to result in an expensive separation in terms of both money and emotion.
Counselling with your partner
It may not be over. Many relationships break down because couples forget to talk and more importantly forget to listen. Proper professional relationship counselling can often help couples give direction and purpose to mending their relationship.
Irrespective of whether you choose couple counselling, it is often a very good idea to seek the professional support and guidance of a divorce or separation coach or individual counsellor.
These people are experienced at understanding and explaining the different moods and emotions that you will be feeling as you go through the separation process.
This advice is confidential and tailored especially for you. It means that you can be honest without fear of your thoughts and history being talked about elsewhere.
This can be a very valuable support. Again, many divorce and relationship coaches can be found on the web. You can find examples of directories on Counselling Directories and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), and there are also helpful resources for finding a family therapist on Resolution’s website.
Whether you are a married couple or cohabiting, there will inevitably be legal implications to your separation, especially if there are children and finances involved.
Obtaining the advice of a resolution-accredited family lawyer is likely to be one of the best things you do. You do not need necessarily to instruct a lawyer to conduct every aspect of your separation.
It is however money well spent to sit down for an hour or so with a family law expert who will listen to all the facts and give you a detailed analysis of the relevant law, procedure and likely outcome.
This will give you confidence in the discussions you have with your ex-partner and will also give you peace of mind that many of your anxieties and concerns can be dealt with.
Resolution is an organisation of family law professionals dedicated to resolving disputes positively and without confrontation. You can use Resolution’s excellent tool to find a member of Resolution near you or contact the family law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors by calling on 020 4950 4060.
Do not tolerate domestic abuse
If any sort of domestic abuse is happening then do not tolerate it. Your children also should not have to tolerate living in a home where there is domestic abuse. You do not have to tolerate it and help is at hand. Domestic abuse includes coercive and controlling behaviour, which is now a criminal offence.
Read more about how we can help you with a domestic abuse case.
Many Resolution family lawyers can give you speedy, confidential advice about how to solve this problem. Read more useful advice related to domestic abuse provided by Resolution.
Focus on your health
It is important to look after your health during separation – not just physical health but mental health too. You can obtain information regarding counselling and emotional support to deal with what you are going through, including anger and stress. Useful resources for mental health support can be found at Mind, Saneline, Supportline and Hub of Hope.
Consider different aspects related to your children
In any separation often the biggest concern is what will happen with the children, particularly how will they cope with the separation and how can each parent will maintain a safe, meaningful and supportive relationship with the children after separation. You can use the very useful Cafcass parenting plan – this prompts you to consider all the different aspects that you are likely to come across in dealing with the children.
Obtaining good advice from the outset can mean that, although separating, both parents will be able to work together collaboratively in what is a lifelong responsibility for bringing up and supporting the children. Research shows overwhelming evidence that where separating couples work together in respect of the children, then the children thrive and benefit.
Practical arrangements can be put in place for the children to spend time both seeing each parent and living with each parent where it is safe to do so, as well as working out arrangements for school holidays, holidays abroad and financial support for the children.
Information about child maintenance can be found by visiting the Child Support Agency (CSA), although now known officially as the Child Maintenance Service. Children are usually far more resilient and better equipped to deal with separation than adults are. However, some children may need support and help from counselling.
Read more about how we can help you with child arrangements.
How to resolve issues between you and your partner
There are various ways in which disputes relating to the children and the finances can be resolved.
The best place to obtain advice is by visiting a lawyer who will set out the different options available, their advantages, their disadvantages and the likely cost. These include:
Do it yourself
There is a lot of information available on the internet and, armed with this, it is possible to sit down with your ex and try and work out constructively what the arrangements for the children and the finances might be. It is important though to get legal advice at the outset here so that you do not make any mistakes or enter into settlements that are unfair, and unworkable and ones that would not be approved by a court.
There are a variety of ways in which separating couples can be assisted in resolving issues and making decisions. Initial advice from family law specialists can really help Much depends on how well each communicates with the other, it can be the case that even couples that are able to communicate in a very civil way about routine day-to-day matters find talking about the wider more important issues of the children and the finances then communication can be difficult or unproductive.
Where separating couples want and are able to communicate in a constructive way
In this situation, there are a number of methods of professional help and resolution methods that can give assistance and structure to that communication. These include:
A Mediator joins a couple in meetings to assist them to communicate better with one another and reach their own agreed and informed decisions typically relating to some, or all, of the issues relating to separation, divorce, children, finance or property by negotiation.
Read more about our Mediation services.
Mediators are trained to help resolve disputes over all issues faced by separating couples, or specific issues such as arrangements for any children. A mediator will meet with the separating couple and will identify those issues that cannot be agreed upon and help the separating couple to try and reach an agreement. All sessions are without prejudice so people can talk freely.
Mediators are neutral and will not take sides, so they cannot give advice to the separating couple. They will usually recommend that the separating couple each obtain separate legal advice alongside the mediation process and will guide the separating couple as to when this should happen.
However, Resolution trained lawyer mediators will provide general and in some cases, extensive legal information to the separating couple within the mediation if this is appropriate. Some are qualified to consult with children in mediation.
Mediators listen to find out what is important to the separating couple and help them make their choices and decisions about the best way forward. They will help the separating couple reach practical solutions that work. There. There will normally be 3 to 5 sessions of about 2 hours. Any agreed proposals in mediation can be turned into a binding agreement or court order with assistance.
Specialist forms of mediation include:
Hybrid mediation is where other professionals and experts are brought into the process to help in complex and difficult mediation cases. More commonly, hybrid involves the mediation participants and their lawyers being involved in the session, which can be a benefit in supporting the clients and enabling cases with complex facts or law to be moved forward. Other experts can include accountants, financial advisers, counsellors and child experts.
Shuttle mediation, a form of hybrid mediation, is where the two parties in dispute sit in different rooms or Zooms, while the mediator moves or ‘shuttles’ between them. The mediator does so while trying to reach an agreement. The shuttle mediation can be undertaken remotely or even on different days.
Shuttle mediation may be used in the case where domestic abuse has occurred or the couple’s relationship has broken down to such an extent they cannot communicate easily and freely when in sight of each other. But caution is still required that this represents a safe process. It can also be used where the mediator is able to make more progress by speaking to the parties individually as they feel more comfortable discussing matters that way. A thorough screening process, mediators specially trained in domestic abuse and an ongoing assessment of any potential risk are essential.
In a collaborative process, each person appoints their own collaboratively trained lawyer and the separating couple, and respective lawyers all meet together to work things out face to face or by Zoom. Each will have their lawyer by your side throughout the process and so the separating couple will have their support and legal advice as they go.
Besides the lawyer, the separating couple will have the opportunity to work with an independent financial adviser, a family consultant, a child specialist or an accountant, who will provide the separating couple with specialist help regarding financial matters and those concerning children, parenting, communication and emotional support if and when needed. All these professionals will collectively make up the collaborative team.
Both mediation and collaborative practice have the advantage that it is the separating couple who are making the decisions about their own finances and children. The issues and the timetable can be set by the individuals rather than a rigid and long-running, expensive court process.
Read more about our Collaborative Practice services.
Counselling and therapy intervention that can run alongside any of the above
Expert help and guidance is available for individuals, couples and families. Therapy sessions and workshops help people who are separating to develop practical functioning relationships and navigate challenging life experiences. People seek help for various reasons. They may need support to address life changes such as divorce. Perhaps some help with mental health conditions, such as depression.
Where issues are unresolved after reasonable attempts to agree or communication is extremely difficult then the following are options:
Early neutral evaluation/private financial dispute/private dispute resolution in children-realted cases
A private financial dispute resolution (PFDR) or early neutral evaluation (ENE) is a simple concept principally, that a family law expert (a barrister, solicitor or retired family judge) is paid to act as an evaluator or private ‘judge’ in a financial dispute resolution or a private dispute resolution in a children case.
A financial dispute resolution is designed to enable the parties, with the assistance of the judge to identify and seek to resolve the real issues in their case, with the aim of limiting the overall financial costs and lessening the emotional and practical strain on the parties.
The PFDR is a meeting held for the purposes of discussion and negotiation where the parties should use their best endeavours to reach an agreement on the main issues between them.
Usually written and oral submissions are made to the PFDR judge, and the judge gives their opinion as to the likely outcome if the parties were foolish enough to go to a final hearing. The views of the ‘judge’ are not binding but are invariably influential and persuasive.
The PFDR process is without prejudice to any final court hearing, enabling the parties to be more open and involved in trying to resolve cases.
The judge is not to determine issues of fact, but the judge can offer their views on the likely outcome of disputed matters where appropriate. The key benefit of the PFDR is when the ‘judge’ gives their opinion as to how the law would apply to the parties’ individual circumstances.
Sometimes, the judge can give a definitive view or certainly a range of outcomes. The parties, with the benefit of their lawyers, are then encouraged to negotiate a settlement with the benefit of the opinion of the ‘judge’.
The ‘judge’s’ opinion can be sought by way of further clarification as the negotiations progress.
The PFDR takes place at a time convenient to the parties. This can include parties who are based abroad or even the appointment itself taking place abroad on a face-to-face basis. This often can be the solicitors or the barrister’s chambers and a full day is set aside to maximise the prospects of settlement. PFDRs conducted by Zoom or other video platforms have proved successful especially when the parties are in the same room as their own lawyer.
In family arbitration, the separating couple both agree to appoint an arbitrator, who will make a decision that will be final and binding between the parties, on any financial and property disputes or some child-related issues arising from family relationships.
Family arbitration enables couples going through family breakdown to resolve disputes more quickly, confidentially and in a more flexible and less formal setting than a courtroom.
The same arbitrator will deal with all stages of the case from start to finish the separating couple have the major say in how the proceedings are run. This could include, for example, choosing the venue, whether to meet face to face or through writing only, or whether to use the arbitrator for the whole process or just parts of it that you are stuck on.
The separating couple usually each appoint a solicitor and a barrister to help them prepare the case to be put before the arbitrator.
The flexibility and the fact that you will get a final decision much more quickly can make arbitration more cost-effective than court.
You can find out more about the benefits of arbitration on The Institute of Family Law Arbitrators’ website.
There are some situations where arbitration might not be suitable, for example, if you need to get evidence from third parties or there is a risk that your partner might try to hide assets, but arbitration is a genuine alternative to going to court for most family cases.
All of these processes are invariably quicker, more cost-effective, more focused on the separating couple, and do not involve the possibility of access by the public or the press.
Read more about our services related to Family Arbritation.
One Solicitor Solution for One Separating Couple
One Solicitor Solution is a way of working that allows lawyers to work with and advise couples jointly, including providing appropriate legal advice, through an amicable and good divorce or separation.
Resolution and Anthony Gold have developed a new approach to serve separating couples. This reflects the change in legislation and the desire to reduce unnecessary conflict between individuals to benefit all those involved.
It will work by allowing a single legal solicitor to provide advice to a separating couple who want to manage their separation together. It is suitable for those whose joint aim is to reach an outcome that meets their needs and if they are parents, the needs of their children. A key feature is that individuals must give their informed consent to disclosing all the relevant factual and financial information required in order to reach their decisions together, to one another and to the legal professional who will be advising and guiding them towards their final outcome.
Some of the principles relating to One Solicitor Solution are closely aligned with other dispute resolution approaches, such as mediation. However, One Solicitor Solution provides an advice-based service where both clients are able to receive advice, including legal advice on a jointly beneficial basis. Generally, those who choose this option will not be in a dispute or have a ‘conflict’ as known within the law and the professional they are working with must adhere to regulations in respect to conflict of interest/s.
Their appointed legal professional will provide advice and may also suggest that advice and assistance be obtained from others as part of the team assisting the couple. The aim is that they will reach a decision that will be recorded in a draft order and the legal professional will assist them to obtain an approved order.
From time to time, it may well be the case that a ‘conflict’ or issues arise that the couple cannot resolve, perhaps due to strongly held views of one or both of the couple. When that is the case, it will need to be explored and if it cannot be appropriately resolved, then it will be necessary to cease acting as their legal professional and to consider next steps with the clients, which might include referring to mediation, or separate legal advice and representation for both or arbitration.
Read more about our One Solicitor Solutions.
If you cannot resolve matters through collaborative law or mediation, then you may have to go to court. The Family Court has the power to deal with applications relating to children under section 8 of the Children Act 1989 and issues concerning divorce and finance under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.
The advantage to the court is that at the end of the day, a judge is going to make a decision about the issues in dispute and it is one that will be fundamentally fair after listening to all of the evidence.
However, as a result of both budget cuts and Covid-19, the Court Service is seriously under-resourced and cases can take more than 12 to 18 months to reach a final hearing.
Sometimes court applications are necessary where there are safeguarding issues relating to domestic abuse or protecting finances. Many people find the court process stressful – be prepared for it to be slow and expensive.
Summary and Advice – where to get it
So, it is possible to have assistance in resolving and not feel that court proceedings are the only option. There is a way forward that involves help with a constructive dialogue.
Anthony Gold Solicitors LLP offers an introductory fixed fee detailed session with an expert family lawyer who will advise you on the law and procedure, and how this relates to your personal circumstances. We will also give advice as to how issues can be resolved and strategies for achieving success. Contact Anthony Gold Solicitors on 020 7940 4060.
Anthony Gold’s family team are all expert family lawyers who are accredited by Resolution as experts in their field. The team has a number of qualified collaborative lawyers and mediators best equipped to resolve difficult and challenging disputes. They are experienced in dealing with financial and children applications within the Family Courts too.
About the Author:
David Emmerson OBE is a family solicitor, a trained hybrid and accredited mediator, a collaborative practitioner and a part-time judge with a specialist accreditation to deal with complex financial remedy cases and private law children cases.* Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*