Seperating is difficult at the best of times but can only be worse while in lockdown. Leathes Prior’s Family Team reminds readers to be kind during the difficult separation process and share some tips for coping. These tips are by no means exhaustive but a collection of ideas to help you navigate the process as successfully as possible.
- Be kind to each other. Consider the relationship you would ideally like to have with your former spouse/partner. This may not be easy to do (or sometimes even want to do) but is so important, particularly if you have children together and will need to co-parent them to the best of your joint ability. Though it may sound counter-intuitive, this also includes trying to look at the financial settlement through their eyes too which can sometimes help put a bit of perspective on things. Keeping things as amicable and sensible as possible is also likely to keep your costs down and make the process much quicker.
- It’s good to talk. We would encourage you to seek assistance from a counsellor if you are (understandably) struggling to come to terms with the end of the relationship and deal with the divorce process. We will always try to be as empathetic as possible, but help and guidance from a specialist separation counsellor can be very helpful. Talking to family and friends (if you feel comfortable doing so) can also be extremely helpful and important – although be wary of comparing their experiences with your own as every situation is different.
- Be kind to yourself. Emotions such as guilt or stress can sometimes cause people to make hasty decisions and/or be tempted to under-settle, particularly with the idea of sharing pensions. We are never going to try to force you to do something you don’t want to, but remember to think about your own future. You need to ensure that your realistic needs can still be met once the emotions have subsided. It’s so important to consider your long-term financial security and make informed decisions, so take legal advice on your situation.
- Don’t forget the pensions. Some studies have shown that approximately 40% of the overall net family wealth in recent divorce cases is held in pension assets yet fewer than 20% of cases included Orders which shared the pensions. Pensions can often be an easy asset to overlook because they may not become ‘tangible’ for some time. However, ignoring them can potentially be a very costly mistake.
- Try to stay calm and make rational decisions, not reactive ones. We appreciate this is easier said than done, but often sleeping on an issue before instructing your solicitor to respond can be the best way forward. Trying to make considered decisions based upon legal advice and which are your best interests is much more effective and progressive than making quick decisions based upon emotions.
- Try Mediation. If successful it is usually the quickest and least costly way forward. Just make sure you have any proposed agreement properly considered by a lawyer before committing to it to make sure you have considered all of the implications.
- Change your passwords and de-sync devices. If you and your spouse shared or synced email accounts or devices then make sure you de-activate those links and change passwords if you separate. Of equal or greater importance is not to fall to the temptation of spying on your partner if you know their passwords. Not only would this be immoral and incapable of being used as evidence, but could also potentially constitute a criminal offence.
- Be honest and transparent. Formalising a financial settlement places both parties under an obligation to disclose their financial position. We know from experience that clients sometimes feel the temptation to try to conceal their true financial position, perhaps by deliberately failing to disclose certain assets or by trying to dispose of assets to put them beyond their spouse’s reach. In reality taking these steps is very unwise and there can be serious repercussions for doing so. Not only does the Court have the power to reverse transactions or draw adverse inferences against a person trying to hide assets but doing so can also potentially place a person in contempt of Court.
- Think about life insurance policies. There could be either benefits or detriments to taking out or maintaining existing life insurance or critical illness policies, depending upon your individual circumstances, needs and wishes. You should consider whether you wish to obtain or maintain a life insurance protecting your life or your partner’s life in case anything happens during the course of proceedings. This is especially important if you have a joint mortgage or children to maintain. You may also wish to take out insurance against your ex-partner’s life after a financial settlement has been put in place if you are still financially dependent upon them, for instance for child or spousal maintenance. In the alternative, if you do not wish your partner to be entitled to any lump sums payable under any policies of insurance that you have, or to receive any death in service lump sum from any pensions you might hold then you should consider taking steps to make sure that the policy is cancelled or a new nominee is appointed. In respect of life policies we strongly suggest that you obtain advice from a qualified financial advisor so that you can fully understand your options and the possible implications before taking any action.
- Formalise the agreement legally. To make a divorce/dissolution agreement binding and put a ‘clean break’ in place between you and your spouse it needs to be approved by a Judge. In the vast majority of cases this does not mean you have to go to Court, but rather the financial settlement is drafted as a Consent Order and sent to the Court with some supporting documents for a Judge to sign off. If you don’t formalise the financial agreement in this way your financial claims remain open, potentially indefinitely, meaning your spouse could seek a further or increased settlement in the future.
For further advice about using Leathes Prior’s intelligent online platform visit the website. Alternatively simply contact Leathes Prior’s lawyers directly to discuss your matter on a no-obligation basis by calling 01603 610911 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.