What Makes a Good Divorce or Civil Partnership Dissolution?Published on: 26 November 2021
Good Divorce Week commences on Monday 29 November 2021. But here’s the question; what is a “good” divorce? One where one “side” “wins” or “gets the lot”? Or rather where the parties are still talking to each other and prepared to sit in the same room afterwards? Where they negotiate and strive to avoid court and save fees? Where the children are put at the centre of their parents’ considerations?
Resolution is the organisation representing specialists in Family law. Members must subscribe to their good practice code of conduct. Resolution members would say that it is not about winners and losers and all about the other answers. Actions speak louder than words so how do Resolution members support and assist parties in achieving a good divorce or civil partnership dissolution?
Communication is often the key to achieving a good divorce. If parties communicate civilly and openly and engage with each other to identify and resolve issues, then much of the hard work has been done.
To obtain a Financial Consent Order parties must each provide a minimum, prescribed level of financial information by way of disclosure. By communicating openly and being transparent about their assets including pensions and income, this exercise can be undertaken swiftly. With minimal legal adviser engagement. Which all means minimal cost. Such open communication also promotes direct discussion about any concerns the parties may have for their children’s welfare. It is important that the parties never lose sight of the fact that, although they may want to go their separate ways, their children are their shared treasures and their welfare should be their paramount consideration. Certainly the welfare of any minor children of the family is the first consideration of the Divorce court when considering how fairly to divide parties’ assets at the end of a relationship.
Working towards identified aims and goals also makes for a good divorce. For example, alternative housing is likely to be needed for one or both parties and the children. A willingness to adopt an understanding about this, the realistic likely costs of both acquisition and running the new home, the limitations upon each party of mortgage capacity or barriers to increasing working hours if there are young children to care for, are all helpful insights. Such appreciation of the issues facing each party generates goodwill, builds respect and supports a negotiated outcome.
Agreeing some ground rules for parenting the children in two separate households is also a good idea. Agreeing bedtimes, homework arrangements, picking up and dropping off times and the treats and goodies which are and are not allowed, are all common examples. Sticking to these ground rules in both households will present a united front on parenting and a sense of security through certainty and consistency for the children.
Parties striving for a good divorce can also seek help from lawyers who are trained in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods such as the Collaborative law approach. This promotes direct discussion and decision-making by the parties away from the Court and enables parties to be central to their process and the outcomes that they shape. Mediation is another ADR model available to couples and in certain circumstances there is still Legal Aid available for Help with Mediation.
It is possible for parties to come to an agreement entirely through negotiation or through a mediation forum, a collaborative law approach or engaging solicitors who will negotiate through correspondence and regular liaison with clients to come to an agreed solution. Avoiding court proceedings has the benefit of saving costs, retaining control, minimising delays and avoiding a significant amount of stress. An agreed financial consent order can be filed at court and granted by a judge without Financial Remedy proceedings being issued. Likewise an agreed Children Act order.
So, what is a good divorce to a Resolution member? It is knowing that the parties have reached a solution which is workable and fair to each of them. That the parties have protected and supported their children through the process so that they continue to have meaningful and healthy relationships with both parents and their wider families. It is one where clients recognise the support that has been provided to them by their advisor. Also one where the client appreciates the efforts throughout to keep costs to a minimum, reduce argument and conflict and focus on the negotiation and resolution of the central issues.
From April 2022 a no-fault divorce system will be unveiled. It is hoped that this will encourage more people to strive for a good divorce. Practitioners are presently awaiting guidance on the procedure and sight of the new rules. Hopefully they will be delivered in good time before the predicted April rush! However please remember that it is perfectly possible to achieve a good divorce NOW and a healthy exit from a damaged relationship, be that a civil partnership or a marriage.
An excellent new Resolution guide on "Parenting through separation" is available free of charge for parents or carers to download to support those seeking to implement good parenting through separation and indeed after parting.
I am a member of Resolution, a member of the Law Society’s Family Law Panel, an associate solicitor and a Collaborative Law Practitioner. Email me email@example.com for further information.
We have a number of useful episodes on our podcast The Legal Lounge, you can listen via the links below:
Alternative Dispute Resolution https://apple.co/3EwJoIB
Financial Disputes https://apple.co/3c0aPh8
Domestic Abuse https://apple.co/3Fu0s1I