Top ten tips if you are considering starting divorce proceedings
The number of enquiries received by our dedicated family law team have almost tripled compared to the same time last year, as marriage breakdowns have surged post-lockdown.
1. Take your time:
Commencing divorce proceedings is life-changing and not a decision to make quickly. It may be that marriage counselling, and taking time to reflect and consider your future, could help to identify and overcome some of the issues you are facing.
2. Get legal advice:
Having a full understanding of your legal rights and responsibilities, and being aware of what the divorce process is, will help to make you feel more in control and less anxious. It is important that you find a solicitor that you feel comfortable with.
3. Consider your options:
There will be lots for you to consider – where will you live, how will the children spend their time between both their parents, will the house need to be sold, and so forth.
Rather than jumping in headfirst and trying to answer all of these questions, make sure you have an understanding as to the options available. Mediation and collaborative practices, for example, can be a very helpful, dignified and family-focused way of reaching agreement.
4. Understand your finances:
To assess the fairness and reasonableness of any financial settlement, your legal advisor needs to understand your financial circumstances. This will include details of capital, income and any pensions.
Preparing a ‘budget form’ of your monthly expenditure can also be helpful to collate all of your outgoings, so that this can used to consider how these are going to be met in the future.
5. Put your children first:
Regardless of your status as a couple, you will always be parents to your children. Decisions relating to the children’s future, such as where they will live and the amount of time they will spend with each parent, must be made in their best interests. Building solid foundations early on in your co-parenting journey can help your family for years to come.
Effective communication is key. For those who are struggling, there are family apps such as Our Family Wizard and 2Houses that can be downloaded and used. Completing a parenting plan can also help to record mutual agreements and principles about how your children will be brought up.
6. Consider child maintenance obligation:
If, as a parent, you are living separately from your children, you will have financial obligations towards them. The Child Maintenance Services has a helpful online calculator if you are not able to reach agreement between you as to how much should be paid.
7. Remember the importance of self-care:
Separating from your partner can be an extremely emotionally turbulent time. It is important to gather support from loved ones around you and possibly invest in professional help from a counsellor.
8. Locate your marriage certificate:
Your original marriage certificate must be lodged with the court with a divorce petition. If you have misplaced the original, a copy can be ordered from the General Register Office.
9. Updating your personal details / entitlements:
If you and your partner have recently separated and are living independently, you should check to see whether you are eligible for a council tax discount. You may also be entitled to other benefits such as universal credit.
10. Be IT savvy
Now may be the time to consider changing your passwords on your social media accounts and banking apps. Also be thoughtful as to what you post on social media – putting details of your personal circumstances on the internet is often not helpful, and only serves to increase tensions.