Life

Sunday 31 August 2014

Good divorce advice from a top lawyer in the field

Laura Wasser

Published 16/06/2014 | 02:30

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Couple having a screaming match

People often come to me for consultations, before making any moves towards a separation, to understand the processes and legalities of divorce.

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Plan ahead

Having that conversation can lead to a change of perspective and, often, these clients do not file for divorce. Calculate your monthly expenses so you are prepared for the financial effects. Include all outgoings, from parking charges to big-bill items, such as roof repairs, to get an idea of how much you would need to give, or receive, as spousal support and, if you have children, child support.

Do your research

Find a prospective solicitor through a personal or professional recommendation, and read client testimonials and industry reviews to assess whether you will be able to relate to them. Meet a lawyer in person before hiring them, to get a sense of whether they make you feel at ease. Determine factors such as their availability, your time frame, who you will be working with (usually it's not just one solicitor), and who will be the barrister to represent you in court, if necessary – I advise avoiding court, if possible.

Push emotions aside

Avoid talking about your feelings with your partner during the legal process. Splitting finances and scheduling time with your children is never easy, but it is certainly easier if emotions are taken out of the equation. Find an outlet through which you can vent your feelings – be it therapy, a support group or your family – so you are able to make legal decisions using reason. Set boundaries, to keep interactions simple. For example, when one of you moves out, how often may he or she return to the family home?

Keep children in the loop

Tell your children soon after deciding on divorce, if not before. They have probably heard more of your conversations than you imagine. Be sure that you and your spouse talk to them together. Make it clear that they are not at fault, and that your love for them, and commitment to raising them, remain. If your children are in school, tell a staff member about the divorce so they understand any unusual behaviour and provide support.

Work together

If you can stay on civil terms with your partner, you will be able to work through some legal processes – dividing assets, for example – without paying a lawyer or mediator. I had a client who divided up their house with their spouse using Post-it notes. He stuck a green Post-it on everything he wanted and she did the same with yellow. They flipped a coin for anything that had both colours stuck to it. You know what you want, and its sentimental and financial cost, so you don't need a lawyer to go through things with you.

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