Maintaining a good relationship with your spouse during the split will help avoid stress and financial hardship. But is it really possible to have an amicable divorce?

Have a kinder, gentler split

Many people view divorce as a battle where the spouses fight out every issue from child custody and financial arrangements to who keeps the wedding presents and who gets the goldfish. But in fact most people end their marriages with dignity, then fairly quickly move on with their lives. An amicable divorce will not only save you immense stress but also a lot of money, and is the way most people do it.

 

Doing it together

Once you decide to split up, the first person you should talk to is not your lawyer but your soon-to-be ex-partner. The conference agenda:

  • Can we do this together?
     
  • Can we agree now on the big issues and work out the details as we go along?
     
  • Can we talk about who needs to end up with what, where the children are going to live and who's going to pay how much for their support?

If your ex-partner is reluctant to try the cooperative approach, trot out the facts about contested divorces: they take much longer, they are infinitely more expensive, they create more problems than they solve and they can leave the two of you permanent adversaries. That can make for a lifetime of tension-packed encounters at events such as children's school performances, graduations and weddings, and grandchildren's birthdays.

You don't have to like each other. Just be sensible and avoid getting involved in bitter hostilities if you possibly can. In the end, being able to share your children's triumphs is more important than who gets the stereo.

 

Keep relatives on the sidelines

Why do people who never lost a night's sleep over your marriage suddenly present themselves as indispensable guides as soon as you start down the road to divorce? Because, they tell you, they “have your best interests at heart”; they “know how you feel”; they “know a good lawyer/counsellor/detective/psychic” you simply must see. Because, some will say, they've “been there”. And because, all will say, they knew all along that your no-good spouse was never right for you.

I Know how you feel, I've been there. I knew all along they were no-good

The only thing that they don't seem to know is that this is your divorce and yours alone. You and only you must control it. No matter how well intentioned or well informed your family members are, it is almost always best to accept their emotional support but keep them away from the action.

So yes, go ahead and listen—to your wise uncle, to your parents, to your sisters and cousins and aunts. Listen to your friend, to your hairdresser, to your child's football coach … but then make your own decisions.

 

Check your financial situation

As soon as you contemplate divorce, the most important thing to do is review your financial circumstances. Make sure you understand your present financial position and future needs. Do a budget. If your ex-partner is responsible for the family finances, check the status of any joint accounts and that any joint mortgage payments are up to date. The more legwork you can do yourself the better. As the nature of the divorce process depends on mutual financial disclosure, don't throw away anything relevant—keep bank statements, for example. It's important that your solicitor understands the full picture.

 

Be honest about finances

Dividing up assets and sorting out future financial arrangements is often the most complicated part of a divorce, and can create considerable tension. Assets include savings and investments, the family home and personal property. It is best if you and your ex-partner can come up with an agreement with which you are both happy. This can avoid the need for a protracted and expensive court battle. Reaching an agreement is not always easy, however, and family dispute-resolution services are available to help you with this task.

 

Weighing up assets

The first step is to list all of the things that you own. Identify items that you own alone and those that you own jointly. Next, look at the contribution that you and your ex-partner made to the relationship. This includes both financial contributions as well as non-monetary contributions, such as home-maker duties. You should then consider the future financial needs of both partners. Will you be the main caregiver of your children? How easy will it be for you to earn an income, particularly if you were a stay-at-home parent with smaller children or a special-needs child?

Either the solicitor (or the lawyer), or the court needs to know what each of you earns and who owns what, so that the assets can be divided fairly and future financial needs assessed—especially if you have children. If you don't both share your details freely, your lawyers could spend months in the attempt to extract information, racking up billable hours in the process. Better for you and your ex-partner to sit down together like adults and get it done in a day or two. Both of you will gain, financially and emotionally, from sharing this information, which eventually is going to come out anyway.

Once the divorce is settled the next stage is moving on.

Reader's Digest Legal can help you set up your legal affairs from the comfort of your home. Click here to arrange a FREE consultation now.

 

Related Posts