The Pre-Divorce Checklist 04-Mar-2019
By Diana Williams, Partner, Family Law
Everybody and every situation is unique, and getting divorced is a big decision which should never be taken lightly.
There can be a long or short road to travel before being sure this is what you want and the decision can be triggered by anything from a single act, which is deemed unacceptable by one party, to a change in circumstances or even just a slow growing apart, or an event like the children growing up and leaving home.
The first time I meet with a new potential client, we usually explore what the likely scenarios might be if they do decide to separate. At this stage my job is support and advise, to explain the options available, the process and to answer all their questions. Very few are really looking for or are ready for divorce at this stage, so for the purposes of this article I will begin a little down the road, when the client has considered all options and has made the decision.
Once a client is ready to progress with their divorce, the question of what preparations should be made before proceeding is often asked, so here are six things to consider when preparing for divorce:
Often, couples contemplating divorce will benefit from counselling and it helps if both parties are willing to give it a genuine chance. If that proves unsuccessful, there is then the option to move from marriage counselling to individual counselling, as this will provide you with emotional support. Any guidance and support a counsellor can offer, which helps you and your spouse to remain civil while you work out a settlement, will save money and aggravation. Counselling can also help you both with working out a parenting plan for your children, which if you can do this without lawyers and court, also saves money and aggravation.
2. Being Forewarned is Being Forearmed
The more you know about the divorce process the better. When contemplating divorce it can be helpful to arrange a couple of preliminary meetings with family lawyers in your area, I offer a free 30-minute consultation, as do some others in Chester, so do ask for this when you make the appointment. During these initial consultations the family lawyers you see should be able to give you some indication of what you can expect, this will also give you the opportunity to choose the right solicitor for you and your situation.
3. Your To-Dos
There are some specific tasks which you will want to complete before you consider filing, as well as information you will want to gather to aid you in your divorce:
- Secure Email: open a secure email address which your spouse cannot access.
- Financials: Gather copies of 12 months bank statements, proof of income (P60/P45/Pay slips), savings, pensions and proof of current assets and debts.
- Personal Information: You will need a passport or driving license and a utility bill from the last 3 months, even for a free half hour! This is to satisfy the anti-money laundering (AML) legislation which affects all solicitors.
- Credit Cards and Bank Account: Open credit cards and a bank account in your own name but ensure you “keep the ship sailing” with regard to any joint accounts you have. It is important to be open and transparent because building a little trust along the way, especially if you have children, is important. When you open a separate bank account, make sure you tell your spouse it is happening and transfer your share of any joint financial obligations in good time.
- Communications: You are only allowed to share your own emails and texts. I must not be shown any communications that you have not been given express authority to share by your spouse.
- Healthy body, healthy mind: It may not seem vital now but taking care of your physical and mental wellbeing will help with emotional stability and clear thinking, and these are vital. Also remember to take care of any pressing dental or medical needs.
4. Allocate Money
Your solicitor will give you an estimate of costs and you should think about setting aside some money or arranging borrowing for your legal fees in advance, because, divorce can be expensive. Remember that this is your future and if you have them, your children’s future. At Cullimore Dutton we explain that we are not and would never try to be the cheapest. If you want cheap and everything that comes with that, then we are not the firm for you. If, however, you want a quality service, delivered by experienced solicitors (I have been practicing over 40 years), at a reasonable cost, then we would be delighted to represent you.
5. Make A Plan
A good divorce is better than a bad marriage. So, if your situation is bleak with no sign of improvement, divorce may be your best option. However, if you don’t feel ready to proceed you should give yourself a finite amount of time in which to consider your situation and your options and to make an informed decision. During this time, you might perform a cost/benefit analysis and suggest marriage guidance counselling, or whatever you need to make the right decision for you. The act of making and sticking to a plan is incredibly empowering, doing this will help you take more control of your life. You cannot control your spouse’s behaviour, but you can control your own.
6. Don’t Rise
Divorce can bring out the worst in people. Try to stay calm, think clearly and be honest. Don’t vilify your partner or anyone else to the children, do refrain from airing your dirty laundry on social media and be very careful what you send by email and text message, as it may be admissible. Empathy is of huge benefit. By putting yourself in your spouse’s shoes you can better understand their perspective, their emotional drivers and triggers. Being empathic, in my experience, eases the process and leads to a better outcome.
7. It’s Not Always About the Money
If you have children, their needs should be front and centre. That said, your emotional wellbeing is also of paramount importance as you cannot take care of another if you are not taking care of yourself. Albeit children are incredibly resilient and adaptable, this will be a significant event in their lives. Ask yourself the question; will you be a better parent if you are separated? What impact will it have on their and your lives? Generally, children like to stay in the family home, is that possible? How can you make that work? Do try to tell the children what is going on and speak to them, if possible, together with your spouse.
It may be difficult to believe right now, and as daunting as the divorce process may feel, it is finite. Remember "a good divorce is better than a bad marriage"
For more information about our Family Law services, please contact a member of the Family Law team on 01244 356 789 or email email@example.com
Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.