The breakdown of a relationship is a challenging and stressful time, even when you and your partner are on relatively good terms.
There are a number of support services we recommend to help manage the strain which comes with relationship breakdown and the significant changes to your and your children’s circumstances. People often go first to friends and family and then perhaps to a lawyer, counsellor or financial advisor. Many people do not feel comfortable talking to their employer about their circumstances and in this blog, we explore how it can be important from a personal as well as family law and employment law perspectives.
If you are unable to agree the children and financial arrangements arising out of your separation either directly or through using another form of dispute resolution, court proceedings may be required. Court proceedings can take a significant amount of time and energy and it is likely to be beneficial to you if your employer is made aware of the circumstances you are in. Although there are relatively limited legal obligations on your employer in these situations, many employers will recognise the benefit in supporting employees through difficult times. It can be important for them to understand when key dates are approaching and, where relevant, how the family legal advice you are being given may impact on your job.
In a straightforward Financial Remedy case, you may have to attend two or three hearings. Prior to each hearing, you will be required to prepare a number of documents to enable the court to manage your case, such as a Form E (which is a statement setting out your financial disclosure), replies to questions arising out of your disclosure and, if your matter proceeds to a final hearing, a full statement in support of your position. For a children case, you will be expected to provide a full statement if the court needs to make a decision about the overall arrangements for your children and children proceedings usually take place separately to financial proceedings, meaning two sets of hearings.
When it comes to the hearings themselves, while they may be ‘listed’ at a set time for, say, 30 minutes, an hour or for a number of days, in reality you will need to set aside the whole day so that you can discuss the case with your legal team and you are available when the judge calls you on. You should be sure to agree any necessary time off from work in good time and make sure you “set aside” sufficient annual leave for these purposes.
In between the hearings, there will be a number of intensive periods during which you are in regular communication with your solicitor. In addition to this, you will need give yourself time and space to consider your case and to make use of additional therapeutic support. It may help to ease the pressure if your employer is aware and can afford you flexibility in respect of court commitments and the work required in the lead up to them.
Your working arrangements will impact on both the financial and children arrangements and it is critical that you consider these at an early stage.
From an employment perspective, you may consider options such as:
Five practical tips
- Inform your employer at an early stage to help them understand your circumstances and obtain the relevant policies.
- Provide your employer with the key dates for hearings and the work involved as part of your case, and request these days off as soon as possible. Speak to your employer to see if it is possible to limit your work commitments in the lead up to these dates.
- Request time off in order to prepare during critical points in your case such as the preparation of your financial disclosure and statements and attendance at hearings.
- Inform your employer that you may need time off for therapeutic support/family counselling and ask HR whether your company benefits provide free access to these and any other well-being resources. Although there is no general right to time off for medical appointments, your employer will need to consider making reasonable adjustments if your condition meets the definition of disabled within the Equality Act 2010.
- Discuss flexible working with your employer either as a short or long term measure, and make any formal request as soon as possible.