The Divorce Roadmap

What are your choices?

You’ve made the decision to get divorced but do you know all the options?

Decision 1: Should I see a solicitor first and ask them to write a letter?

Divorce is an emotional event with legal and financial consequences. You have two things to sort out. How to split the assets and how to share time with the children. In my opinion, you cannot make important decisions if your emotions are all over the place. To ensure you understand where you are emotionally and to get support to manage these emotions, you would be better going to talk to a professional divorce coach first. They can help you make the right decision at the right time, ask the right questions and listen to the answer thus saving you time, money and stress.

A family solicitor can help you but remember they will charge you for every six minutes of time talking to you, reading emails, writing responses, taking phone calls, and writing letters. Can you afford to spend all this money right at the start of the divorce journey? By the time they have written a letter, emailed it for your consideration, read the reply, edited the letter, emailing again, and sending the letter you are going to runup costs of around £1000 before you’ve started.

Decision 2: Should I ask my solicitor to apply for the divorce or is there another way?

If a solicitor applies for you, they will do exactly what you can do yourself but, in addition to the application fee, they will charge you for at least an hour of their time. However, you can do it yourself by going online to gov.uk where you can apply as an individual or jointly. The cost is £593. You will need a copy of your marriage certificate and the postal address or the email address of your spouse if you are applying individually so that they can be given notice of your intention. If you are on low income or receiving benefits you can get help with this fee.

Decision 3: What are our assets?

  • Property: family home, holiday home, rental properties
  • Financial assets: bank accounts, savings, investments, stocks and shares, pensions and retirement funds
  • Business assets: if either of you own a business, its value and assets may be taken into account
  • Vehicles: cars, motorbikes. boats
  • Personal belongings: furniture, jewelry, electronics, artwork, and anything over the value of £500
  • Debts: any debts such as mortgages, loans, credit card debts

Decision 4: Now Ive applied what’s the next step?

Ideally you should try to talk to your spouse about how you are going to divide the assets and share the time with the children. Too often though this can’t be done easily. Whatever choices you make you MUST try to avoid going to court. This is emotionally draining and very stressful and extremely expensive (You could be looking at a minimum of £20,000 which would be better spent on the children). You have a number of options.

  • Non-Court Options
  • Do it Yourself: risky but cheap – you might miss off something important
  • Mediation: you can get a government mediation voucher worth £500 if you are including decisions about children’s issues.
  • Child Inclusive Mediation: depending on the age of the children, their voice can be taken into account too
  • Hybrid Mediation: mediation with lawyers present
  • Collaborative Law: you both have a lawyer and all four meet together to thrash out decisions
  • Round Table: a lighter version of collabrative law
  • Arbitration: if you can’t come to an agreement on some or all decisions, an arbitrator will make the decision for you. Cheaper and easier than court.
  • Solicitor Neutral: one solicitor for one couple – really good if you are amicable and cooperative with each other and willing to give full disclosure
  • Early Neutral Evaluation: good for very complex cases as a pre-cursor to going to court
  • Private FDR judging: for finance cases only. Can help you avoid court.

Decision 5: What should we do about the children?

Child arrangements must come first and foremost. You must make every decision child-centred. You must NOT use the children as weapons or pawns in trying to win.

Children need to spend quality time with both parents. The quantity of time will revolve around parents’ commitments and the needs of the children. As well as the fun times, childcare arrangements such as school, healthcare, and keeping the children clean and safe should be a priority. Safeguarding must be paramount. Any arrangement should be about how well you can take care of their day-to-day needs, not about how much time you spend with them.

You will need to make a parenting plan that takes account of both parents’ committments and the children’s needs. Plans need to take account of work commitments, including shift work, children’s activities, travel plans, holiday deadlines, school term times. whatever it looks like, it should be completed together so it will work for everyone. Make sure you get the children’s input too.

  • Co-parenting – both parents agree on basic arrangements – bed-time, screen-time, holidays etc. – needs good communication
  • Parallel Parenting – different rules in different homes – you might need help with communication through a parenting app such as Our Family Wizard
  • Counter-Parenting – parents actively work against or undermines each other. it is obstructive and really bad for the children. One parent will often bad-mouth the other parent which can cause emotional stress for the children, or will withhold important information such as school or health, which might cause safeguarding issues

Time-line for divorce

  • Application made
  • 26 weeks reflection period during which you need to start making decisions about asset splitting and child arrangements. You will need to make a full financial disclosure using form E
  • Conditional Order granted
  • 6 weeks and a day during which you must get assets splitting decisions finalised and apply for a financial remedy order as once the final order is issued you may not be able to claim aginst pension sharing or death in service benefits.
  • Final Order issued you are now free to marry again if you so wish but if you do so before the financial remedy order is granted you may not be able to apply for any assets not already agreed such as pension sharing.