10 tips to avoid a messy divorce

From Lawpack's Separation & DIY Divorce Kit

Divorce. It needn't be hard. It's not all handbags at ten paces and snarling legal teams. Most divorces are conducted amicably and often without professional legal help. So here are 10 DIY divorce tips from our DIY divorce expert.

1. Don't employ aggressive or combative lawyers.

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2. Protect your children.

Never involve them in the divorce fall out between you and your spouse, and absolutely never use them as pawns in a divorce game so you can achieve your financial goals. The divorce courts take a very dim view (and quite rightly) of parents who deny or offer contact to their children in return for some financial gain. It has been established that children are not so much affected by their parent's divorce as by the way their parents behave towards each other before, during and after the divorce. Don't let your divorce give your children a legacy of unhappiness and difficult relationships of their own.

3. Be dignified.

Don't conduct your dealings with your soon-to-be ex as though you're in the middle of a battle. Divorce is a process not a fight. Keep your communications measured and don't allow yourself to become personal or critical of your spouse or their divorce lawyer. Whenever you are feeling really angry, avoid writing or picking up the phone - wait a day or two when you will be feeling calmer.

4. Tell the truth.

This is an absolute must in all matters financial, or you may find yourself being penalised by the divorce court. Truth in all matters, even if it hurts, is by far the best policy. If you try to hide things and you're found out, your spouse will delve into your affairs in such a way as to increase your costs and theirs, and they will be unlikely to want to reach an early divorce settlement. You could even find that your divorce costs go through the roof.

5. Be empathetic.

Everybody goes through various emotional stages during a divorce - anger, bitterness, sadness, etc. - but not necessarily at the same time. If your spouse seems to be finding it extra tough at a time when you're bouncing back and feeling fine, give them some time and they will catch up with you. Trying to force people into a situation that they are not yet ready for can be cruel and expensive.

6. Mediate or collaborate.

Divorce court proceedings and divorce lawyers are not the only way to reach agreements and settle divorce disputes. Contact Family Mediation Helpline or collaborativefamilylawyers.co.uk for more details of how these procedures work and where to find expert mediators/collaborative lawyers.

7. Don't fight on principle.

Be pragmatic in your approach to the issues that will arise and bear in mind the costs of your fight (both emotionally and financially), as well as the value of what you're trying to gain. The legal buzzword is 'proportionality'. Keep it in mind at all times.

8. Don't flaunt the new love of your life in front of your soon-to-be ex or your children.

Your spouse will not feel better after finding out that you're happy and getting on with life and, however hard they try, it's likely to increase their feelings of hostility and anger about the situation. Children should not be introduced to your new squeeze without you being absolutely sure that your new relationship is stable and, preferably, you should have consent from your spouse about the meeting. Go slowly. If this is a relationship that has staying power, you can afford to hang on.

9. Don't rush into things.

You're not on a short fuse and it's rare that you need to get on with things quickly (unless foreign jurisdictions are involved). Emotions tend to run very high shortly after separation and this doesn't help a couple to sort things out amicably and rationally. Therefore, wait a while before you start the legal divorce ball rolling. Let the dust settle and you may find things slot into place all the more easily as a result.

10. Step back when the going gets hot.

Your nearest and dearest may well say everything you wish to hear when things get bad, but this may not be what you need. Listen, instead, to those who are not afraid to question you and if this means that you have to pay for independent advice from a divorce lawyer or counsellor, so be it. It could well be money well spent.

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Published on: June 27, 2008

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