Divorce can be a painful and expensive process for both the parties concerned. Sue Bailey, a Family Solicitor at Ashton KCJ, offers seven golden rules to follow:
The end of a relationship is a stressful and uncertain time. If you are separating, early legal advice can be invaluable.
My seven golden rules highlight the things you should think about when choosing who to seek legal support from, as well as providing some hints and tips about separation.
- First listen, then advise:
Is your lawyer more interested in the sound of their voice than yours in your initial meeting? Any initial meeting is going to involve a lawyer providing you with advice about your situation; but they need to take time to understand your circumstances before they can offer you appropriate advice.
With any new client, I always get them to talk first about the situation, their concerns, fears and aims. Once I know this, then I can provide the advice they actually need.
- It's all about the money:
Money and financial security are big concerns for separating couples. I am experienced in working with clients who have complex assets including trusts and company assets, where there can be an element of "unravelling" to be done before we can fully understand each person's financial position.
I discuss with all my clients the need for them to do their homework about their own financial position, too. Have they found out about their mortgage raising capacity? If they have children, are there benefits which might be available help them to pay the bills each month?
- It's all child's play:
The end of a relationship is usually anything but - especially for children. They can feel a sense of loyalty to one parent, and can be confused and upset by changes in their lives as a result of decisions made by the adults they love most.
I discuss with my clients how they can work constructively with their ex-partner for the benefit of their children. Minimising conflict in front of children is extremely important, as is speaking positively about their other parent, whatever your own feelings might be.
- Never mix business with pleasure:
Assets which belong to a company are not necessarily going to be divided with a spouse on a divorce. Knowing where you stand about this at the start is very important.
If you are in business with your spouse, what is the impact of your marriage ending?
Will you continue to work together? Having a pre-nuptial or post nuptial (after marriage) agreement can offer you both more clarity about where you might stand if your personal relationship does not work out but your business relationship has.
- Play nice:
The media perception of the divorce process can be pretty negative: courtroom battles and lawyers "out to get" their opponent. In real life, it should not be this way. Where possible, I work with my clients to achieve a constructive resolution which works for their family.
As a trained collaborative lawyer, I can support clients in reaching agreements talking to their spouse face-to-face, with the benefit of legal support on hand. The benefit of a constructive approach to resolving your situation should not be underestimated.
Agreements are often reached more quickly and more cost effectively, meaning it is a win-win situation for you.
- Pension, pension, pension:
We are all living longer, making income in retirement more important than ever. On a divorce, one person may be entitled to a share of the other person's pension - known as "pension sharing".
The recipient spouse receives a percentage of the other person's pension which is transferred to a pension in their own name which they can draw on in retirement.
Sometimes, it makes more sense for one person to keep a larger pension than their spouse, with the spouse receiving a large share of the other assets to compensate - a process known as "offsetting".
- Because I'm worth it...?
Is the cost of legal advice worth it in the long run?
As a family lawyer I am obviously going to say 'yes' to that, but you should judge for yourself. I am happy to meet with any new client for half an hour at no charge. This gives you the opportunity to decide whether the support and expertise I have is right for you.
The cost of separation is one additional worry you don't need at what is already a stressful time. This is why I am able to offer fixed fees for the majority of the work I do, providing you with certainty and transparency about your legal costs at the start.