Many separating and divorcing couples are decent, well-meaning and intelligent individuals making a very difficult transition in their lives. They find it hard to manage their emotions, co-parent the children involved and fairly address the financial realities. They are not at their best. Rational thought and common sense are frequent casualties of the emotional rollercoaster that follows a separation or divorce. As a result, mistakes are made that later turn into regrets.
During my years of practice as a family and divorce solicitor in Bath, UK, I have seen the following slip-ups that could have been avoided:
- Rushing ahead or lagging behind
The message behind the Hare and Tortoise fable is that slow and steady wins the race. Whilst neither separation nor divorce is a race, running too fast into a divorce or burying one’s head against it, can exasperate the transition. Much more can be achieved by you working with than apart from your ex.
- Being unprepared before the jump
During this emotionally stressful time there will be a lot of paperwork and negotiations over them. Divorce is a business transaction, so treat it as such. Be prepared to discuss relevant facts about your financial situation before meeting with your solicitor. Make a detailed account of what you own and owe. Obtain the documentation on your income, expenses, credit card, mortgage, house and other investment information. Knowledge will empower you.
- Taking legal advice from family and friends
Well-meaning family and friends are emotional rocks to lean on during the rollercoaster of separation and divorce, but they are no substitute for legal advice from a specialist lawyer. Your situation is unique to you as will be the solutions to your issues. The family solicitor you retain knows you and your legal situation better than anyone. You will maximize your results if you listen to your solicitor’s advice.
- Resorting too soon to litigation
Divorce is not a revenge story and court litigation is rarely a victory. The vast majority of couples can and do settle issues away from the divorce court. More often than not dispute resolution processes such as mediation or collaborative practice fit better the needs and objectives of a couple and can result in the “good divorce”. Do not miss the opportunity to pursue the process that is right for you.
- Expecting too much or giving away too little
The process will be more positive and cost effective and the legal result more satisfactory if throughout you work with your solicitor to identify and prioritise first, your genuine interests and needs, and secondly, your reasonable legal objectives. Make sure that your settlement aspirations are realistic.
- Not actively participating in resolving the issues
The only people who are going to be living with the results of your divorce are you and your family. Not your solicitor. Make sure it is you who makes the choices and decisions and that they work for you all.
- Making agreements without written settlements
The moon can be promised to you by your ex, but without clarification in legal papers, such promises may not hold up in court. Divorce is no time for oral agreements. Talk to your solicitor about how best to make a settlement stick.