For the lockdown love there is also a lot of lockdown loathing. Here are some tips from one of the UK’s top family lawyers, Sandra Davis, on how to get your divorce ducks in a row… quietly.
First things first – consider carefully what you actually want before doing anything rash. Divorce is not a process to be embarked upon lightly. The current lockdown will put even the strongest of relationships under new stresses and when things finally get back to (nearly) normal, your relationship may improve. If, however, your mind is made up there are steps you can take even while stuck at home.
- If you think you may need to leave quickly, get your paperwork in order and try to accumulate some funds that you can use immediately post-separation.
- If you have children, think carefully about what arrangements will be in place for them immediately after separation and in the longer term. Your children will need to be at the centre of any future decision-making. Judges are likely to take a dim view on using the lockdown as an excuse to prevent your ex seeing the children.
- Back up your emails and consider getting a pay as you go phone.
- If you have any shared passwords or devices that automatically log in to your accounts you should consider changing the passwords and settings.
- Don’t go rummaging around your spouse’s private documents or their computer. Don’t photocopy their documents or hack into their accounts (even if you know the password). You may not be able to use anything you find and will be criticised for your methods.
- On the other hand, consider your own bank statements, which may have to be pored over by your ex’s legal team in due course. Is there anything on there that might be embarrassing?
- If you’re likely to move out of the home, start your research now – although you can’t view properties in person, many estate agents have prepared videos of properties on their books.
- If you know you want to proceed with a divorce, do some research on solicitors. If you have any friends who have been through a divorce, see if they have any recommendations. You need to make sure that this is someone who you feel comfortable having some very personal conversations with. When you can’t meet them in person to get a sense of whether they are the right ‘fit’ for you, make sure to have a video call. Don’t be scared to speak to more than one, to see who you feel most comfortable with. Read articles or blog posts they’ve written to get an idea of whether they are on your wavelength. This is going to be an important relationship.
- If you do get early advice from a solicitor, make sure that you have arrangements in place so that their firm’s name doesn’t flash up on your phone, or show in your bank statements.
- No matter how difficult things are at home at the moment, don’t give in to the temptation to destroy your spouse’s favourite artwork, cut up his suits or shred her paperwork – you are likely to need to remain in close proximity for several weeks to come…
Sandra Davis is the head of Family Law at Mishcon de Reya