- Get advice early. If you think you might have some initial discussions with your ex about the divorce, the financial aspects of the divorce or about the arrangements for the children, it is essential that you embark on those discussions with knowledge of what your rights are.
- Keep any discussions ‘without prejudice’ until you have sought advice. If you do start discussions surrounding financial issues or children arrangements, without having taken any legal advice, then make sure it is clear that those discussions are ‘without prejudice’. This means that the discussions are off the record and could not be brought up in any subsequent Court proceedings. If you are minded to agree to a settlement then make sure you make it absolutely clear that you need to take advice before openly confirming your agreement.
- Try not to make emotional decisions. This is easier said than done, but emotional decisions can lead to unnecessary acrimony. This in turn results in higher legal costs and a longer period of time to reach a resolution. If you have children this is particularly important as you will need to co-parent together in years to come and therefore unnecessary acrimony should be avoided.
- Think about how you communicate with your solicitor. The legal process is expensive and so communications should be kept to what is relevant and should be communicated in the most efficient way possible to avoid costs being incurred unnecessarily. For example in some instances, it may be more cost effective to communicate in one email, rather than to spend an hour on the telephone going through the points. Solicitors charge according to the time spent, so reading the email may take comparatively less time than the hour long phone call.
- Recognise when you might be struggling and in need of some help. The end of a marriage can be devastating. Many people find it hard to cope with their feelings or go through periods of anxiety and depression. It is important to recognise if this is happening. Friends and family will be as supportive as they can be, but sometimes it is necessary to seek specialist help from a doctor or therapist.
- Keep the children out of the divorce. Children should not be drawn into the disputes between their parents, or be used by one parent to score points against the other parent. If children become party to the bitterness between their parents it can be very distressing for them and potentially damaging in the long term.
- Listen to the expert. Very often divorcing couples will seek opinions from their friends or family about certain issues arising in their divorce. Whilst this is a natural reaction it is important to remember that you are paying an expert for their specialist advice. Anecdotes from friends about their experiences in divorce will not necessarily help you, as each and every case is different and the law and procedure is constantly changing and evolving.
- Agree to disagree. Realise that you and your ex are divorcing because you have differences of opinion that you have not been able to resolve. The reality of this is that you are unlikely to be able to get them to agree to everything you want, any more than they will be able to get you to agree to everything they want. Embrace the notion of compromise as there will need to be some compromises made along the way.
- Keep a sense of proportion. It is extremely important through the divorce process to continually undertake a costs benefit analysis and to assess whether the costs being incurred are proportionate to the value of the assets being argued over. There is little monetary justification for spending legal costs of £30,000 to go to trial if you are only £20,000 apart in terms of your settlement positions. Costs orders in financial proceedings are rarely made unless there has been serious litigation misconduct, so you are unlikely to recover your costs as a matter of course.
- Talk to each other. Unless there are concerns about domestic violence or about there being some risk of harm, it is better to try to keep the lines of communication between you open. This is particularly the case where there are children. If you need a solicitor to write a letter about details such as what needs to go in the weekend bag for a contact visit, then not only will this be expensive, but once the case is over you will need to pick up the pieces and learn to communicate again anyway. If you can maintain the ability to communicate, this will stand you in good stead for the future and may even mean that you will be able to reach a resolution more easily in relation to the legal dispute between you.
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