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Good Divorce Week: Avoiding the Bad and the Ugly

26-30 November is Resolution’s Good Divorce Week. Head of the Family Law at Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors Jacqueline Major talks through how to achieve a Good Divorce:

Divorce has a reputation of being bad and ugly. In over 22 years of practice I can firmly say there is such a thing as a good divorce and this is the key:

  1. Information
  2. Communication
  3. Negotiation
  4. Resolution

1. Information

Whatever the emotions are, when going through the breakdown of a relationship, it is vital to get information on the procedure and process for divorce, finances and children at an early stage and in the right frame of mind.

If you are destructively engaged with each other from the outset it will be impossible to constructively engage and focus on legally ending the relationship through divorce and dealing with financial matters and the children. Information at an early stage is key.

A good lawyer will advise on the choices or options available to you and give advice on those choices and options as to how to proceed. How you start this process has a knock-on effect on how it will continue – how long, how much it will cost and how much court involvement there has to be. The less contact with courts and lawyers the better the divorce.

Sometimes going through lawyers is inevitable but the aim is to (however difficult) try to keep the emotions that you are experiencing separate from the legal procedure. Take the lawyer’s advice on board. Be informed. Always think the long term and know that when the process is finished the emotions will die down and what you want to look back on is a constructive process albeit with difficult emotions attached to it. Take advice early, take advice as often as required, and be informed.

2. Communication

The more you can communicate with the other party directly the more constructive unravelling the relationship will be the less expensive. If that is not possible do use lawyers who will engage constructively – and are, like myself members of Resolution preferably collaboratively trained – we try to minimise conflict and aim to communicate, whether with the other party’s lawyer or the other party as a litigant in person, courteously and professionally.

Communication should not be inflammatory and should not be personal in nature.

3. Negotiation

Good negotiation is vital to sorting out the finances and the children. It is vastly better for two parties to come to a negotiated agreement than have a court imposed order – not least because the latter involves huge amounts of time, emotion and cost. Court is sometimes necessary to help move forwards with negotiations but parties are well advised not to become entrenched and to listen again to good lawyers’ advice on how to reach negotiated agreements.

There should be a sense of fairness with finances and the children – fairness of course is a subjective concept but again listening to an experienced lawyer who can help explain why a settlement is fair (even if it is not how it is perceived) can greatly assist.

I would add that the vast majority of my cases settle by negotiation long before a final hearing. This is largely down to the individuals involved accepting legal advice and being prepared to give and take to some extent, knowing that neither feels victimised by the other and that the overall agreement is one that I would describe as acceptable. A good check to have in mind is that “you might not like it but you can live with it” – this gives you the autonomy to agree a settlement rather than having one imposed by the court.

4. Resolution

All legal processes have an end. Divorce, finances, children – there will be finality on all issues. Sometimes this takes a long time and sometimes the court needs to be involved in a kind of “steamroller approach” particularly if the other party is not cooperating.

Experienced lawyers can assist with moving cases forward and on focusing on the real legal issues rather than being side-tracked into the emotional issues. Everyone reaches the end of this process and will obtain emotional closure. Some have this sooner than others but once the divorce finances children the legal issues surrounding the breakdown of a relationship have finished it is like a period of limbo that has lifted and parties go on then to be able to recover from the emotional side, have closure and lead happy and successful lives. I see it all the time.

Recently a client who I acted for three years ago wrote to me – a perfect example of a successful happy person who has moved on in life from what was a very difficult divorce. I will leave you with my client’s words which, whilst the divorce was not the easiest, still resulted in a good outcome for the person involved:

“It’s the three-year anniversary of my divorce today. I wanted to say that life is good now for me and I often think of you and how much you helped and supported me and got me through that torturous ordeal. I want you to know what a difference you make to people’s lives so thank you.”

A good lawyer will aim for a good divorce every time. But even with the bad and the ugly you can still reach a good outcome and overall result, which is what we at Hodge Jones & Allen in the Family Team are committed to. If you would like to speak with one of the team please call 0808 252 5231 or request one of our team to call you back online.