The New Year brings with it a fresh start – a clean slate. Often this is an opportunity to tackle an unhappy marriage. For those people, Christmas is a period to ‘get beyond’, but the financial pressures, close contact with extended family and increase in alcohol deepens the cracks and heightens the difficulties within the family. Whatever the reason, statistically it has been shown that more people consider separating or starting divorce proceedings in January than at any other time of the year. These problems most often do not strike like a bolt out of the blue but are a culmination of months or even years of putting up and making do.
If this applies to you or someone you know, here are some essential do’s and don’ts to consider.
DO – get organised. Having as clear a picture as possible of your finances, both in respect of income and capital, will give you an excellent basis to work from and will save both time and costs. Don’t open mail or hack private emails. There are very strict legal rules and penalties for this.
DON’T – try and hide or dispose of money or assets. It will increase the costs and those assets are likely to be found.
DO – seek advice at an early stage from a family law expert so that you are aware of your rights and responsibilities and, most importantly, your options. Ignoring what is happening could cost you more both financially and emotionally in the long term.
DON’T – listen too much to others. Of course you will need emotional support from friends and family but your tailored legal advice must come from a family expert.
DO – focus on what is in the best interests of your children. You both need to do everything you can to minimise the impact of any separation on them.
DON’T – criticise or make negative comments about the other parent. Your children love you both and need to feel that they don’t have to divide their loyalties or choose.
DO – consider real and credible alternatives to acrimonious court proceedings. Find a solicitor that can properly discuss and offer collaborative law and mediation as an option. It might not be the right option for you but at the very least you will have the choice.
DON’T – go it alone. This is a complex area and the consequences of this will live with you for many years to come. It is important that anyone contemplating separation should take their time to find the right solicitor. Choose somebody who acts in a proactive and constructive way. They will do everything possible to reduce the stress that arises from the ending of a relationship.
The Raworths Family Law Team are experts in family law. We can help you to find alternative ways to deal with your separation and divorce to avoid acrimonious court proceedings and, if at all possible, to make the New Year happier and more peaceful.
Carmelita Ardren is a partner, head of Raworths’ Family Law Unit, a collaborative lawyer and an advanced member of the Law Society Family Law Panel. To contact Raworths telephone 01423 566666 or visit our offices at Eton House, 89 Station Parade, Harrogate, HG1 1HF. Alternatively, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.