Finally taking the decision to separate may come as a welcome relief. It may also come as a massive shock. Some clients are able to sit down and agree that their relationship has come to an end. For others it literally feels like a rug has been pulled from under their feet when their partner announces they want to separate or they find out their partner has been unfaithful.
Not surprisingly, the feelings that both of you will experience from time to time are akin to that of a death in the family. This is of course entirely natural as you are mourning the death of your relationship. Some clients feel that they are on the “back foot” if they have not instigated the break up and it becomes apparent that the other party has been formulating an exit plan for some time. Others feel vulnerable if they have given up work to look after children and a have reduced earning capacity as a result. Some have had no real dealings with the family finances over the years and allowed their partner to do all of that. Having limited information makes them feel insecure.
Other clients may have all the financial information at their fingertips and have a good career however in so doing they have spent less time with their children than they would have liked and are now worried that they will be viewed negatively for that.
Stages of separation
- shock and denial that it is really happening
- anger and blaming your former partner or another person
- sadness and depression
- moving forward – acceptance and adjustment to your new life.
Clients come to Cath Karlin Family Law at all stages of the process. The feelings that they have are not linear and they will have good days and bad days. Part of what I do is identify the bad days. If you are having a bad day, you can’t be expected to make life changing decisions for you and your family and I will tell you that. We can always reschedule a meeting.
I would always recommend that you consider counselling when you are going through a legal separation or divorce. A counsellor or family therapist is a great resource and can assist in getting you to a place where you feel confident making big decisions. I am also very much of the view that you need to be in control as far as you can be in relation to your divorce and separation and you need to be able to do that in a calm environment where you feel supported.
I believe that you are the best placed person to make decisions about you and your children’s future and that you should be able to do this face to face with your ex. It is actually very easy to hide behind your lawyer and instruct them to play hardball with the other side. It is far more difficult to sit in a room with your ex and speak about things that might be really hurtful. In my experience, unless those “hot button” issues between you are articulated they will derail any chance of lasting peace. You may agree to disagree but if you allow yourself to go through the process harbouring animosity and resentment you will have done yourself a disservice.
Both Collaborative Practice and Mediation provide the templates for a good divorce. This may sound like an oxymoron but I believe separation and divorce can be done well.
At the outset
What I generally find to be helpful is that if we can get a short to medium term plan agreed quite quickly, this gives you a degree of certainty and relief. I make sure to help you understand all the options you have available to you.
I would generally like to have in place a temporary plan that deals with the following:
- where your children live and who will take care of them
- how you and your former partner will support yourselves and your children
- what, how and when you will tell the children, other family members and friends
- who will pay outstanding bills or debts
- who will stay in the house
- how will the rent or mortgage be paid
- what will happen to any joint bank or building society accounts
- what will happen to the house, car, furniture and other property.
Once these arrangements are in place, we can then agree on who is going to provide financial information, instruct valuations of property etc.
The middle of the process
Once we have all the valuations of property such as house and pension values and a note of any debt we can then begin to make a list of the assets and liabilities. This is often referred to “a schedule of matrimonial property”. In Scots law as a general rule, assets and debt acquired by either party before or after the marriage are not considered to be matrimonial property or debt and are therefore not available for division. Gifts from third parties and inherited wealth are also not part of the matrimonial pot. We then need to work out how to divide these assets. Both you and your partner may want the same assets such as the family home. If we are engaged in a Mediation or a Collaborative Divorce I would normally ask you both to identify your interests. Your interests will be pretty similar in that you will both need a house, want to spend time with your children, need enough money to live and both hopefully have some retirement provision.
We can then use this wish list as a basis for fulfilling your needs. There may be a number of scenarios and we would reality test them all. This helps with the division of assets process. You may be sent to obtain financial advice in the middle of the process so that we can be sure your chosen option is not only viable but sustainable. I also like to make sure that the process is not moving too fast and that both of you feel comfortable with the pace. It is important that you both feel that you fully understand both the practical issues such as the finances and you feel emotionally ready to deal with big decisions. Don’t be surprised if your ex who seemed totally prepared with the exit plan at the outset has a wobble in the middle of the process by which time you feel much stronger and ready to move on.
The end of the process
Once options are verified and we have resolved all issues, I can go about drafting an agreement known as a “Separation Agreement”. This is a binding contract and will deal with money, pensions the house and can include a parenting plan and provide for levels of spousal support and child support for those with child custody. Both parties sign in the presence of a witness and this deed is generally registered. Once registered you each get your own extract for safekeeping. There is no real need to divorce after this unless you want to.
Divorce and dissolution of civil partnerships
If you have a separation agreement in place, your divorce will be relatively quick and straightforward as you have already agreed everything in advance. We normally wait either a year following the date of separation to file with the consent of the other party or wait two years after which their consent is no longer required.
If this process sounds like how you want to handle things in your own separation, get in contact and look at our costs. I’m very familiar with the process of divorce and can expertly guide you whatever your situation. Read more about me and my ethos to fully understand how I apply my expertise to my handling of legal procedure. Don’t just take my word for it though, read the reviews of my services so you can make an informed decision.