Maybe you’re itching to get out of your marriage, maybe you’re wondering if it still has legs, maybe you’re really rather content but curious as to… what do I do if it all goes tits up? We spoke to Sandra Davis, Alex Brereton and David Hickmott – titans of family law at Mishcon de Reya – to ask them how to get tooled up for separation. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow, maybe never… maybe.
DO YOU REALLY WANT A DIVORCE?
The first thing to be sure of is your mind – sorry to state the bleeding obvious, but you need to know that splitting up is what you really want. Divorce may not be the answer. If you are feeling unsure and in need of some security and reassurance, negotiating a ‘mid-nup’ (which sets out the financial terms of separation in the event of a future divorce) may give you the will to carry on. And without wanting to be patronising, in the face of the biggest marital traumas, a good therapist can work miracles: it might save your marriage or at the very least lubricate your exit strategy.
Before you talk to a lawyer, do your homework. Get forensic on your finances. Of course the impact on your children (if you have them), friends and family relationships may be at the forefront of your mind, but the financial implications of divorce are potentially cataclysmic. Go through your papers so that you fully understand your current financial position, and what you are likely to need in the future. Save yourself time and hassle by getting your documents in order as these will need to be disclosed.
Separating is expensive so make sure you have access to cash in your sole name. You might need this to live on while the finances are sorted out. If you have a joint account think about splitting the cash – especially if your significant other is prone to emotional spending. If you have a joint mortgage make sure they can’t reduce the pot by securing further lending without your consent.
Now talk to a lawyer. This should ideally be done before you discuss divorce with your partner. Once you have explained your financial position and the current circumstances of your marriage, they will advise you on the process of getting divorced and the most non-confrontational way to settle your financial and child arrangements.
Lawyers can be expensive so think about getting the right level of firm for you. You might want to shop around a bit to find the right person and it can be tempting to meet with all the top brass to ensure that your spouse can’t (the lawyer would be ‘conflicted’ so couldn’t act). There are obvious advantages to this tactic but take it from us, it will be a more painful and expensive process if there is not a sensible lawyer on the other side. Focus instead on getting the right person for you.
Think about when to tell your spouse to start contacting your lawyer. A solicitor’s letter is not the best way to find out your marriage is coming to an end and there is little advantage in making things more contentious than they need to be. That said, if things have moved on and your ex is dragging their feet, a little pressure from the professionals can move things along.
LET’S TALK ABOUT ASSETS
However if you think there is a risk of your spouse seeking to dissipate or hide assets, you should speak to a solicitor as soon as possible. They can advise in relation to dealings with freezing injunctions and interim maintenance – all of which may need to be considered at the outset.
Even if you are not the legal owner of your home, a solicitor can help you issue a home rights notice to prevent it being sold from under you. Except in extreme circumstances (generally where the other party is in danger of harm) you are entitled to remain in your home regardless of the circumstances of your break-up.
END OF THE AFFAIR
Lots of people think that there is some financial advantage to being the “wronged” party but it does not matter who had an affair or who decided to end the marriage. In other words, the moral high ground counts for nothing.