Thinking about a January divorce?

You might not have put the Christmas Tree up yet, but at the back of your mind, you’re waiting for Christmas to be over. You’re biding your time until to can ask your spouse for a divorce. Perhaps you’re getting chewed up about it because you really want to get things moving but you feel that until the January sales are over, there’s nothing that you can do. However, the more prepared you are before the event, the easier it will be for you, your spouse and your children.

1. Be clear with yourself first

Before you ask for a divorce, be certain that you want one. It’s ok not to be sure, but if you want your spouse to know that you’re definite about your decision, you actually need to be definite! Reading this you might think that sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised the number of people who say they want a divorce when in reality, they aren’t sure and they are thinking out loud. Once you are clear it will make the whole process easier.

2. If it’s safe to do so, tell your spouse before going to a lawyer

We’ve all seen clips of the East Enders Christmas Day episode where Dirty Den hands Angie a letter from his lawyer asking for a divorce, but in reality, such actions aren’t likely to help you have an easy divorce. Sometimes its not safe for people to ask for a divorce because of the real or perceived threat of emotional or physical abuse. If this is you, seek the advice of a solicitor as soon as you can.

If you know that you aren’t in that position, speak with your spouse first. Tell them that you want a divorce. Sharing your thoughts with your spouse before you go to a lawyer means that they wont be shocked when they receive court papers or a letter from your lawyer. It means that you get the opportunity to decide between you, how you want to proceed. You might agree to separate before initiating a divorce. You might decide that you want to divorce as soon as possible. You can also discuss whether you both want to consider relationship counselling before you end your marriage. The more you and your spouse can agree, the easier your divorce will be and the more time and money it will save you.

3. Remember you will have to consider Mediation if you want to go to Court

If you decide that the marriage is over, or you want to separate, there will be things that need to be sorted out, namely financial matters and arrangements for your children if you have them. Child arrangements can be sorted out informally between yourselves. In fact the court will only want to be involved if you can’t agree what’s best for the children yourselves. In respect of your finances however, you will need a court order to make formal legally binding agreements.

There are a number of way that you can get help with this:

  • You can use the traditional route of finding a lawyer, instructing them to act on your behalf and they will do this by writing letters to your spouse and or their lawyer. You won’t need to have any contact with your spouse if you choose this route (except for dealing with the children’s arrangements). Obviously this means that you pay for all the correspondence that needs to take place.
  • Another alternative is Collaborative Law. Using the collaborative process is different in that you and your spouse use collaborative lawyers who are specially trained to enable you and your spouse to sit in a room with your lawyers and negotiate a solution that works for both of you. Whilst you get to meet with your lawyer on your own, you negotiate all together. It means that you are able to stay more in control and to be sent backwards and forwards. It means that you get to see and hear progress and make decisions and put forward options in real time.
  • If you can’t reach agreement through the traditional or collaborative process, and you need to apply to the court for an order, you will be obliged to see a mediator if you are the person applying for that order. Seeing a mediator is, the gateway to getting into court. Now some solicitors aren’t very keen on mediation which is a shame because mediation has helped thousands of people deal with their disagreements over money and their children quickly and efficiently. It has helped them stay in control of their situation and has saved them money.

What are the benefits of Mediation?

So if you decide to separate in January, consider finding a mediator before you do anything else. A mediator will consider if mediation is suitable for you. If it isn’t, your mediator will give you the necessary paperwork so you can apply for a Court Order. If mediation is suitable, they will make all the arrangements for your former partner to be notified and invited to attend. You do not have to do this yourself if you don’t want to. The mediator will also explain the law, give you contacted details of local lawyers and support you to make the best arrangements for you and your family. The mediator will not give you legal advice, but the legal information that they give you will inform you of the options available to you. You can use a lawyer to help you decide which of the options is best for you individually.

You might be wondering why you would use a mediator? Well the answer is straight forward. By choosing mediation, you reduce the amount of time you spend with your lawyer and the process is quicker because you and your former partner work together with the support of the mediator to discuss solutions, rather than waiting for your lawyers to send letters back and forth.

So in summary:

  • By choosing mediation, you stay in control of all the decisions.
  • Mediation is quicker than the traditional court process, you agree how often you have sessions.
  • The average number of meetings is between 2 and 4. Sometimes 1 session will be enough depending on your circumstances.
  • Mediators will support you with lots of the same things that lawyers do and  you won’t have to do them twice. For example, a mediator will help you with your financial disclosure. Once it has been made in mediation, those documents can be sent to your lawyer.
  • If you reach proposals that you’d like to be made into a legally binding agreement, the mediator will draw up a Memorandum of Understanding which you can take to a lawyer to have drafted into a Consent Order to finalise your financial arrangements.
  • Because mediation is quicker, and you are supported with legal information for both of you rather than individual legal advice, it is less expensive than using a lawyer exclusively. Mediation can literally save you thousands of pounds.
  • Mediation gives you the opportunity to say to your former partner what you think and feel.

So as December unfolds and we move closer to a New Year, there are things that you can do to prepare yourself to make smart decisions,. Decisions which will be kinder, more rational and which will support you and your spouse to separate and divorce as amicably as possible.

Emma Heptonstall is a Family Mediator at Crombie Wilkinson Your Family First in York. She can be contacted on 01904 679960 or via email Evening and weekend appointments are available.