Did you know that more people go down the path to divorce in January than any other month? January really is National Divorce Month!
What is it about Christmas that makes us sick of the sight of our families? Desperate to get the kids back to school and then legally get rid of the husband? Does cabin fever well and truly sink into such an extent that divorce is the only option? Or is the start of a new year the focus point we need to sort out the crap in our lives? When you have a family Christmas is such a focal point in the year that it’s easy to understand why people would put off seeking a divorce until after the festive period.
The divorce rate in the UK currently stands at an estimated 42%. The average marriage that ends in divorce lasting 11 years and six months. The divorce rate is currently one fifth lower than its peak in 2002 with more couples choosing to cohabitate. Almost half of divorces occur in the first ten years of marriage and the peak break up period is between four and eight years. Adultery is still the most common reason for divorce and is cited in 1 in 7 divorces. Is it any wonder with the rise of sexting! And it is women who more commonly initiate the divorce process.
However, the reasons for divorce are often what lead to further complications down the line given that UK law does not allow for a no-fault divorce. The top two reasons for divorce are adultery and abuse, both highly emotive issues. And with 48% of divorcing couples having at least one child under 16, it’s easy to see why many divorces are acrimonious and very rarely go smoothly. On average it takes 17 months to finalise a divorce. If your marriage hasn’t ended well and you are then thrown into the gauntlet of a messy divorce, one thing is for certain; It won’t be easy.
Not For The Faint Hearted
Whereby staying in a bad marriage is never a good idea, entering into divorce unprepared, really isn’t a good idea. From personal experience, I know just how difficult it can be and if you end up in a lengthy, drawn out legal battle then it can leave you wondering why anyone ever bothers getting married in the first place! It can even put you off dating! (more on that next week).
If you are the one initiating the divorce you may feel like the injured party and be highly emotional about the breakup. Unfortunately, courts don’t take into account your level of hurt and anger at your former spouse. They are merely concerned with the facts. And remember, divorces take place in the civil courts. Not criminal. You aren’t going to get your ex sent to prison because he had a bunk up in his car with some girl he met in the pub. Sorry. You may want to punish him or get some form of revenge or justice. The courts are not there to do that. They are just there to implement and fix orders determining how your marriage will end and how your finances will be divided up, the care of your children if you have any so that you can all move on with your lives.
And before you say it, no, you can’t take him for all he’s got either. Stop listening to the school gate Mum’s or reading dodgy facts online. If you take this road of wanting revenge or punishment, the only person you will punish in the end is yourself.
Financial Settlements In Divorce
I asked Jacquie Birkett, a divorce solicitor and former chartered accountant, who is head of Family Law at Lancashire based law firm, Barber & Co Solicitors, why arranging a financial settlement is so important?
Arranging a financial settlement provides certainty for both parties. This can help them make important decisions as they move forward into a new life and ensure that they do not need to worry about, for example, providing stability and security for their children.
What problems can arise if you do not arrange a financial settlement?
If an agreement is not reached as to how financial issues are to be dealt with on the breakdown of a marriage then this can make it extremely difficult for both parties to move on. In principle, either party can make a claim against the other in relation to those financial issues at any time in the future unless the party who wishes to make the claim has since remarried. If a claim is made then the assets of each party will be valued at that time and not at their value when the marriage broke down thus including lottery wins, inheritances, the fruits of business success and the increase in value of property in the intervening period.
As with anything legal related, it’s best to get good advice from the start. Don’t rely on what others say or Googling these things. Speak to a pro!
And As For Taking Him To The Cleaners
Just because he cheated on you that doesn’t mean to say he’s going to have to keep you forever.
What consideration is given to spousal maintenance in a financial settlement?
This is a complex area and very much depends on the particular circumstances of each individual case. Recent decided cases have concentrated much more on the needs of the spouse who is to be paid spousal maintenance and the need to set that spouse on the road to independence rather than earlier cases when much more generous decisions were made. It is vital to get expert legal advice in this area to ensure a fair outcome.
Are financial assets always split 50/50?
No. The starting point is that matrimonial assets should be split on a 50/50 basis however this may be departed from after considering the children’s needs, the length of the marriage, the ages, health and income earning capacity of the parties, the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, needs and any other relevant circumstances. As always everything depends on the facts of the individual case and there is no set formula which can be applied.
I know it’s very difficult when your emotions are running high and you feel like the injured party. But, in the long run, it will make things far easier if you keep your emotions in check. Only deal in facts and for the love of God, face your problems, don’t Facebook them! Social media is estimated to be cited in 1 in 7 divorces. But personally, I would suspect that it’s at the root of much more. And the fallout that is often played out on social media will only make things worse. In American courts, it’s becoming more commonplace for social media posts to be used as evidence.
If you’re the type of person that’s prone to a Facebook rant or posting things that may be incriminating at a later date, wouldn’t it be wise to perhaps step away from the keyboard for a while? At least while your solicitor deals with the legal stuff?
Remember, courts don’t deal with emotions, just facts. If you start posting online about how you are going to make sure your ex never sees his kids, chances are that is going to backfire on you. Big time! So don’t do it. Keep a clear head. Not one filled with wine and emotions!
All’s fair in love and war, so play nicely. Yes, you may well want to exact huge amounts of pain and torture on your ex. But just remember that you loved him once. Just because things went wrong it doesn’t condemn a person to a life of suffering. And if they are the father of your kids then it’s tough luck, you’re stuck with them for life. So learn to play nice and fair!
The best revenge is to be happy!
Divorce is never easy, even if you both agree on everything and happily go your separate ways. A part of you will still mourn for the marriage that didn’t work out. But it’s important to deal with that in your own time and at your own pace. You may have friends that want to see you back on the horse and out there dating as soon as possible. You may feel in some way that you want to feel wanted and worthy of love again. But actually, it’s more important to take the time to heal, be happy in yourself and who you are. Be happy to be fabulously single and independent. You are more likely to attract the right kind of partner if you are happy with yourself. Be the type of person you want to attract. Opposites don’t attract. Like attracts like.
If you’re on the rebound and not happy, confident and secure within yourself, then chances are you are going to attract someone who is in exactly the same emotional place as you. Miserable, on the rebound and not over their ex. Now that’s a recipe for disaster right there!
Over the coming weeks, I’m going to look at the whole scary world of dating after divorce with a little help from a few friends of mine. They think they can get me a wonderful new man this year. I think they’ve got their work cut out. He’s going to have to be one hell of a fella to tempt me out of my single life. I’ve even got a checklist ready for everything he needs to be!
Watch this space!
Thank you to Jacquie Birkett for taking the time to talk to me about divorce settlements and ensuring we got the facts.
Barber & Co are a Lancashire based law firm with their head office in Preston. Established in 1996 by Arif Barber, the firm offers a full range of legal services to both individuals and commercial clients, covering commercial litigation, residential and commercial conveyancing, family and employment law and wills and probate.
Jacquie Birkett, who is head of Family Law, is a UK Law Society prize winner, an accredited member of Resolution and a member of the Law Society’s Family Law Panel.