The start of the year can be a stressful, difficult time for many. The post-Christmas period often means poor weather, financial troubles, increased tension in the household from too much time spent together over the holidays, and the longing for a fresh start.
It follows that, January is a time when law firms often notice an influx of divorce inquiries. But divorce is not a process to be rushed into. Of course, if you feel your marriage has irretrievably broken down, you will be eager to start anew, but there perhaps there are a few things you should get to grips with first.
Every marriage is different, and so it follows, that there's not one clear set of guidelines for every divorce. However, there are a few items of essential advice that will apply to most couples and these should help ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible for all parties involved.
Oratto's top ten tips for separation and divorce preparation
- Seek legal advice from a divorce solicitor early on. Doing so will provide you with the information you need to make considered and well thought out decisions. You do not have to act immediately, but at least discuss your options, arrangements for any children, and the possible financial settlement.
- Don't be hasty. If your relationship has been limping on for some time, consider attending counselling sessions. Relationship counsellors don't just help repair relationships, they also help couples manage their separation in a constructive way; so there is as little hostility as possible. If it becomes clear that the relationship cannot be salvaged, the sessions will allow you both to talk through how you feel and receive professional support in coming to terms with the major changes you are facing.
- Familiarise yourself with the family finances. You probably already have a pretty good idea of what comes in and what needs to go out, but it's a good idea to get completely up to date with your family money matters and to have a good idea of the value of all family assets and any debts you are jointly liable for.
- Educate yourself about the divorce process. There are plenty of excellent free resources to help you access great information; Oratto's Wiki pages are a fantastic starting point. Other good free resources are The Divorce Magazine, Gov.Uk, The Money Advice Service, and The Citizen's Advice website. The more you understand about what's involved in divorce, the better informed you will be and the time you spend with your divorce solicitor will be more constructive.
- Be realistic about the timeframes. Divorce is not a quick process, and things may not progress as quickly as you hope. But remember that progress is still progress, even if it seems as if you are only inching forward towards divorce. It isn't a race. This applies to both your "recovery" from this life-changing event and to the legal processes involved in formally breaking away from your former spouse.
- Build up your own credit score. If you have always shared credit with your spouse or partner, now is a good time to start building up your own credit score. Make sure you use your credit card sparingly and always pay off the balance in full each month to maintain a good credit score. Having good credit in your own name will help when you apply for a mortgage, buy a car, or apply to rent from a private landlord.
- Check out the state benefits. You might be entitled to benefits once you have separated and, for many, these are a lifeline when you're getting back on your feet after divorce. There is a free calculator on the Entitled To website that is comprehensive and easy to use. If you are entitled to any benefits, do not delay in claiming them as it may not be possible to back-date a claim.
- Don't bottle up your emotions. Going through separation and divorce can make you feel as if you are on an emotional roller coaster, and you will experience a wide range of emotions, including shock, anger, disbelief, low moods, guilt, and so on. Hopefully, you'll be able to reach out to loved ones for support, but if you don't wish to burden your friends with how you are feeling, then perhaps try keeping a journal to record how you are feeling.
- Be cyber security savvy. Change your passwords to email, social media and any online accounts that your former spouse may be able to get into. If you don't have your own email account, set one up so that your solicitor can email you in confidence. On social media, you should "unfriend" your spouse/partner. Don't use social media as a platform for negative posts about your spouse/partner, and try to keep separation/divorce related posts to a minimum – better still don't post anything on social media about your personal situation. Negative or unkind posts about your spouse/partner could be seen by your children and, in extreme cases, social posts could be used by your spouse to their advantage, even as evidence in your divorce proceedings.
- Do accept that divorce is life changing. While the days, months and years following divorce may not be entirely as you had thought before you separated, divorce can sometimes be a very positive force. Make changes, create new memories and ambitions, and live the best life you can. Far from being an ending, many people find themselves having incredible experiences and appreciating wonderful opportunities after divorce. And while the ending of a marriage is often a very sad time, it is certainly not the end of you.
Deciding to go through with a divorce can be extremely tough for both you and your partner, but sometimes, if you do it right, it can be the launch pad for a happier future. Seeking the help and advice of a divorce solicitor can be extremely beneficial and, at Oratto, we aim to make the process of finding the most appropriate lawyer for your personal needs as straightforward as possible.
Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with a family law adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.