The Reluctant Divorcee: Rebecca's story
At the start of 2017 the SA Law Family department started a blog which told the story of Dr Rebecca Green. Rebecca, a fictional character, is a mother of two, a GP and a soon-to-be-divorcee. Albeit a reluctant one...
Divorce can be an emotional rollercoaster and a confusing legal process, especially without guidance.
We wanted to find a new way to help people understand the divorce process and share the practical advice that I have gained during my many years in family law and as head of the Family Department at SA Law. And so in January 2017 Rebecca’s story first appeared.
Nearly one year on with 46 blog posts published, 1 award won and over 2,500 regular readers per month Rebecca is on the final stage of her journey.
Whist Christmas can be a happy time for many it can also be a difficult time for some and I am conscious that as we approach the start of a new year, a number of people will be thinking about whether to initiate divorce proceedings or not.
If someone you know is contemplating the next phase of their lives Rebecca’s story might help, here are a few excerpts from her story which can be read in full at www.reluctantdivorcee.com
December 2016: My marriage isn’t going to last much longer
“My gut says it’s all over but my heart doesn’t want to admit that everything has changed. The question is, what to do next?”
12th January: Finding Marilyn
“I’ve found a really pleasant and knowledgeable lawyer to talk to. She seemed to understand what I needed to know about the practical timeline of a divorce and “got” my concerns about the impact on the children."
31st January: The Conversation
“After a long heart to heart with James, it’s been agreed that we’re going to separate and I will look into divorce. The conversation wasn’t as straightforward as that sentence makes it sound. He was very angry and said a lot of very hurtful things about me and how difficult he’s going to make things.”
14th February: The Children
“There’s a lot to process but it’s clear that James is legally obliged to pay for his children and I can probably claim spousal maintenance too. We can agree the amount of child maintenance that he pays between us and if we can’t, then we apply for help.”
19th February: Emotional Support
“When I phoned Marilyn earlier, I got rather upset. I didn’t plan to cry down the telephone but it was such a relief to talk to someone who understood what I was trying to say, it all just flooded out.
Once I’d calmed down, I confirmed that I wanted Marilyn to prepare the divorce petition stating that the marriage has broken down due to James’s unreasonable behaviour. Incidentally, it surprised me that I couldn’t just say that our marriage has broken down until we’ve been separated for two years.
I have to give examples of what he’s done that’s “unreasonable” which is going to be hard as I don’t want to inflame the situation.”
6th March: The House
“I’ve been thinking about our house. I really want to stay here so I’m going to investigate whether I can get James released from our mortgage. When I spoke to Marilyn she told me that time is on my side. James won’t be able to do anything quickly and he cannot force the sale of the house. If I don’t agree to sell, there will be Court proceedings.”
7th May 2017: Climbing the financial disclosure mountain
“Thoroughly completing a financial disclosure statement is imperative as it is used to determine maintenance payments and the financial outcome. As my net income will not cover my outgoings, I should get spousal maintenance. The financial statement will help our solicitors agree these payments. We can decide the level of child maintenance between us or use the CMS formula.”
30th May: Revealing finance, the plain truth
“James’s solicitor has returned the Acknowledgement of Service document which confirms he will pay my costs of the divorce itself.
Basically it appears that there’s not quite as much money in our accounts as I thought there was, and as he’s usually so good with money, I wonder if he’s revealing everything? Marilyn said that she can ask further questions and I want her to do this as this feels all wrong.I don’t want him to be left penniless but I do want things to be fair - for me and for the children.”
3rd June: One step forward
“Today we applied for Decree Nisi and I’ll receive a hearing date from court in a few weeks’ time. Once we have Decree Nisi, we can pause the divorce itself until the finances are agreed.”
12th June: Holidays
“Marilyn explained that I need James’s consent to take the children abroad; giving him the details of our dates, flights and where we’ll be staying.”
20th September: Patience & time
“Marilyn’s been very patient with me but James and I need to make some decisions about money and the children.
Marilyn has prepared a financial proposal which sets out how we think the finances should be handled, including how much I will receive in maintenance. I think that the proposition is quite fair and it’s with his solicitor now. We’re awaiting his proposals.”
28th September: The power of a conversation
“Rather than go backwards and forwards on this, Marilyn has suggested that we should hold a “financial roundtable”. This is where both parties meet face-to-face with their solicitors to discuss and try to agree on a settlement that works for both parties. I think that this is the right thing to do.
One of the things that I hadn’t realised about the divorce process was how much time it all takes. Marilyn has prepared me for the roundtable meeting, explaining that it is important for me to listen and try not to get too upset about anything James or his Solicitor says, but to let her know if I’m upset and need a short break.”
2nd November: Financial Agreement
“Marilyn was fantastic at the financial roundtable. She went through everything with a fine-toothed comb and was sensible, level headed yet open to compromise in order to help us reach an agreement.
We debated everything from the cost of the cleaner, holidays, and private health cover through to dental care, food budgets, school trips, school uniform and shoes. So many details but Marilyn was focused - I don’t know how she managed all that information, but she did.
I am so pleased that the finances are now agreed and I know how much money I will have each month. James and I were able to smile at each other afterwards.”
10th November: Signed, sealed & practically delivered
“I’m so relieved we’ve agreed a financial settlement. In practical terms though, it’s not signed and sealed just yet. Marilyn is in control of the process and has drafted our consent order. This is with James’s solicitor for review and she will keep communicating with him until it’s finalised.
This means that I can wait to apply for the decree absolute in the New Year - a fitting time to start the next phase of my life.”
4th December: Christmas Play
“Marilyn’s advice is that James and I should sit next to each other so that Lottie only has to search once to find her parents in the crowd.
I’m pleased to say that things are relatively civil between my soon-to-be-former husband and I. I’m absolutely convinced this is down to having the support and experience of my Solicitor. She has given me pragmatic advice that helped me navigate through this difficult time and reach a fair agreement that enables me to start a new life comfortably with my children.”