What to Avoid and How to Avoid it.
It is natural that where a marriage has broken down, there is usually at least one party feeling angry, sad, disappointed, or a mixture of all of those things. It is therefore very easy for a divorce (and any associated financial or children-related matters) to become a forum for airing those feelings and for parties to lose sight of what matters: moving on in the way which is most conducive to a positive future.
It might help if you are going through a divorce to bear in mind the following 10 pitfalls and the best ways to avoid them:
1. Not using a lawyer
Sometimes clients approach us some way down the line of divorce (and associated financial proceedings) because they were told by their spouse, family members or friends that they did not really need a solicitor. It may be that they thought it would save them money not to instruct a solicitor, or that it was nothing they could not handle. However, most people find they have to resort to a solicitor, and to instruct a solicitor when the case has already been running and there are entrenched positions which could have been avoided often ends up costing more than had a solicitor been instructed from the start. The process is inevitably contentious and adversarial, and parties will often find themselves not knowing where to turn in that moment; instructing a solicitor solves that problem.
Even where matters are handled amicably and an agreement is reached between you, it is advisable to get that agreement drawn up into a legally binding order, and you would be best advised to instruct a solicitor to handle this.
2. Using the wrong lawyer
Using an unreasonable lawyer will make the entire process so much harder. Combative and ruthless does not necessarily equal effective, and certainly does not guarantee that your spouse will be intimidated and concede. Using a difficult lawyer will be costly and damaging and cause relationships to break down further. At Neves we recognise that different situations need different handling; there may be times when we should be more forceful or times when you can pick your battles more generously to achieve a better result in the long run, and we are capable of managing both situations. A co-operative approach is always preferable to an argumentative one. After all, you and your spouse may have to have an ongoing relationship for years if you are co-parenting or relying on their financial support in the future.
3. Listening to your ex-spouse’s advice
Your spouse may have been your confidante and the person you went to with your concerns. Whilst it is great if you are able to continue a friendly relationship even during your divorce, you have to recognise that your spouse may not (and often, cannot) have your best interests at heart anymore. More often than not, your best interests will be in direct contrast to their best interests, and so you should not be led by their advice or blindly follow it during divorce.
4. Listening to bad advice from other people
You have to be careful who you listen to. Your friends and family may well know the general principles of family law, or know someone who has recently divorced, but their advice is no substitute for professional legal advice which is accurate, up-to-date and tailored to your situation. Some family members may also have a certain opinion of your spouse which clouds your judgement (whether that opinion be good or bad).
5. Failing to keep things amicable
It is not always easy, or indeed possible, to keep things amicable between you and your divorcing spouse. However, you should try to do so. Often, couples have to remain living together during the divorce process (except in circumstances where one party can get an injunction against the other because there is domestic abuse – which we can also help with). This means that the family home can become a tense place to be; instructing solicitors can help to ease that tension by stopping you and your spouse from having to discuss issues directly with each other.
6. Using children as pawns in the “game”
Children are inevitably affected by their parents divorcing, but the impact on them can be minimised by not falling foul of these pitfalls. Sometimes, spouses try to limit contact that the children have with the other parent to “punish” that parent, or they will refuse to allow that parent to see the children if that parent does not make a financial contribution or concession of some kind. Use a solicitor to fix these issues, not the children.
7. Getting drawn into games
Even if your spouse is a reasonable person, it can be hard to keep your head straight. If your spouse is not reasonable, it can be almost impossible to think logically. You should instruct a solicitor so that you have someone who can keep a clear head about your matter and not feel intimidated by any games your spouse plays. Having a solicitor also sends a clear message to your spouse that you will not be pushed around.
8. Rising to the bait
Similarly, you should avoid retaliating or any knee-jerk reactions to things your spouse says or does. Instructing a solicitor will help you to avoid doing so, as you will be able to calmly discuss any comments or concerns you have before a response is sent to your spouse. A solicitor will also be able to help you maintain some distance and clarity by being that one step further removed from the situation, enabling you to see things from a less emotionally-intense angle.
9. Letting shock take over
It is absolutely understandable that you might be in shock if you receive a divorce petition out of the blue. You should instruct a solicitor straight away so that for that period of time where you are shocked and vulnerable to not thinking clearly, you have someone who can “hold your hand” and guide you through the necessary next steps.
It can be hard to recognise where a situation has turned from one where two people do not get along to one where one person is being abused especially while the divorce process is going on and emotions are heightened anyway.
Do not let your spouse physically, emotionally or financially abuse you. If you think any of these things is happening, let someone know.