Many people consider the idea of a “good divorce” to be oxymoronic. To coincide with Resolution’s Good Divorce Week, Keystone family lawyer Claire O’ Flinn questions whether that must always be the case.

This year has seen the collapse of a number of high-profile celebrity relationships, including Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber, Tobey Maguire and Jennifer Meyer and, closer to home, James McAvoy and Anne-Marie Duff. Aside from the Jolie–Pitt divorce, which looks set to be quite acrimonious, most of these couples have committed to separating amicably and in a child-focused way. Maguire and Meyer stated:

“After much soul searching and consideration we have made the decision to separate as a couple. As devoted parents, our first priority remains raising our children together with enduring love, respect and friendship.”

Even in the most difficult of cases, seeking the right support and guidance early on makes it possible to bring the two words "good" and "divorce" into a strong and lasting conjunction. With that in mind, the above attitude towards a split and emphasis on the needs of children truly are to be celebrated.

It is sometimes argued that it is easier to reach an amicable split where both parties are independently wealthy. This is a myth that must be dispelled. Even in the most modest financial circumstances, a good divorce, dissolution or separation is possible. This is often achieved when both parties obtain independent legal advice and support promptly. This allows a family lawyer to guide them through the varied routes to settlement including mediation, counselling, therapists, round-tables, and only occasionally the court. It means that a bespoke roadmap can be devised that exactly meets the needs of a particular family.

Coverage of celebrity divorces can often give a false picture of the way that divorce works. It is very rarely the harrowing courtroom drama that is often portrayed on television. The reality is that it is possible to divorce and settle all matters relating to your children and finances without stepping into a court at any stage at all. Good representation can help steer parties away from conflict and the use of inflammatory language; they will guide parties towards placing the best interests of children first; and towards acting with honesty, integrity and objectivity. They will know how to settle matters satisfactorily on paper, but also the point at which it becomes necessary to ask for the assistance of the courts.

Even where a matter does go to court, contrary to popular belief, the law is not biased in favour of women over men. Where it is has been in the best interests of children to be placed with a father, this has often been achieved. Where a husband has been dependent on his high-earning spouse, they have successfully advocated for him to receive maintenance. The experience they have is that the court’s focus is on achieving fairness and does not have a gender-biased approach. Historically, more men have been ordered to pay maintenance than women because men typically earned more than women and traditionally did not stay at home to raise children.

Whether you are looking to achieve a good divorce, dissolution of a civil partnership or separation following cohabitation, it is important to remember that there are no set formulas for working out what happens when a relationship ends. It is therefore sensible to see a family lawyer who can set out clearly all of the options available to your family.

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This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.