Before 2020, there used to be two spikes in the year when clients in unhappy marriages started to consider divorce proceedings. These times were usually January and September or, to be blunt, after periods of unavoidable family time. In this new world in which we find ourselves, those spikes are not so obvious, but for some, the brink of a new year still looms as large as ever.
When considering a divorce, what should you do before you start proceedings and what crucial questions should you ask throughout the process? In this article, divorce and family lawyer Claire O’Flinn provides an overview for any individuals who not sure where to start.
When is the right time to file for divorce?
Clients often delay divorce proceedings until certain events have occurred. For instance, it is common for discussions around divorce to be delayed until after Christmas to avoid upsetting the wider family or until exams have been completed or until a booked holiday has occurred. Whatever the road that leads to thoughts of separation, there will be a period of managing the relationship until it is time to end it.
An experienced family lawyer will never advocate staying in an unhappy relationship. To do so is not healthy for either the spouses themselves or their children. There is a view that children are better with two happy parents who love them but who live apart, rather than two desperately unhappy parents who love them but stay in an unhappy marriage purely for their sake.
Rather, your family lawyer can discuss the whole range of options with you. A few hours with a solicitor early on, educating you on your options, the costs, the time frame and a possible outcome, can take away a huge mental strain.
Domestic violence and/or abuse
If there is domestic violence, abuse (emotional, physical or sexual) or harassment in the relationship, then you should never wait to separate. If you are a victim to any of the above, you should take immediate advice as you may need to ask the court for an injunction to protect you. You should also ask your family lawyer for their advice as they are very well placed to offer guidance on how to protect you and represent your interests.
Looking after your children’s interests
Firstly, if you have children, it is worth reading up on how to break the news with them. Children of different ages will absorb information differently and within your family you may need to consider alternative ways to portray the same information. If the divorce has a negative impact, it is helpful if you know the signs to watch for. Most children cope just fine but that is because of how their parents manage the transition from one big family unit to two separate ones.
If you have not yet separated and you are looking into properties in the area in which you might like to move, it is important that you are careful of your search history so that your partner does not know that you are looking.
It is also important to make sure you know all the passwords to your accounts. Warning: beware not to look into your spouse’s financial papers or online accounts as self-help disclosure is a major issue to be avoided.
Contact your independent financial adviser and see what your assets are worth. Understand your financial position before you begin to think about a division of assets. If you and your ex-partner are able to amicably divide your assets, then make sure any agreement is looked over by a lawyer. If you are unable to have this conversation between yourselves, lawyers can help negotiate the situation.
Take advice early
Taking advice of a specialist family solicitor at an early stage can put you in the best position when considering a separation. Your lawyer can sit down with you to talk through marriage counselling, mediation, separation and ultimately divorce. They will also educate you on your options, the costs, the time frame and a possible outcome.
Building a rapport with your divorce solicitor is also vital; you will have to have frank and honest conversations with your lawyer and having a good relationship with them will make sure any difficult or unpalatable advice is taken in the best possible way.
Fear of starting anything new comes from a lack of understanding, but with knowledge and support, you can make the right decisions.
If you are considering or ready to start divorce proceedings, contact family law partner Claire O’Flinn to discuss your options.
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.