Divorce can be a difficult experience, especially when there are children, multiple properties and significant assets or debts involved. But is it possible to have a “good” divorce?
With the right help and considerations taken, divorce can be much less stressful and challenging than you think. In this blog, we explore the different types of divorce options available to help make your divorce experience as positive and stress-free as possible.
‘Kitchen table’ negotiations
Kitchen table negotiations are where you and your spouse sit down and talk through your issues together until agreements are reached. This should take place before any legal proceedings start. This can prove quicker than other methods, it can be done at your own convenience, and best of all, it is completely free!
The only thing to be wary of is that you will not have the benefits of legal support or guidance. There will also be no ‘clean break’. Remember, unless your agreements are embodied in a Court Order, they are not binding or necessarily final.
This is where you and your spouse meet together with a qualified family mediator for a series of discussions to help you reach a settlement. Mediation is typically faster than other ADR (alternative dispute resolution) options. The mediator can share relevant information and guidance (but not legal advice) and help to keep your discussions constructive.
Although mediation costs are shared with your spouse, you will each need to separately consult a lawyer for advice alongside mediation; agreements reached in mediation will need a lawyer’s intervention to make them legally binding.
Resolution, the association of family lawyers which promotes a non-confrontational approach to family law issues, provides a special mediation service for separating couples.
For further information read Mediation.
Both you and your spouse need separate representation from a collaboratively trained divorce solicitor. Your lawyer supports and advises you in the meetings and throughout the process and you will all work together as a genuine team in 4-way meetings.
Collaborative experts can be brought in if needed, such as a financial consultant and/or family consultant to help work through the more complex issues.
An agreement is signed at the outset that you will not litigate, and you will keep talking until all issues have been resolved in a respectful, open and honest way. These agreements are then converted into legally binding consent orders.
The beauty of this method is that you control the pace of the process, what goes on the agenda and you retain control over the outcomes.
Collaborative divorce has a high success rate (around 85%) and outcomes can be more creative than litigated orders, with two legal minds helping to identify options that might work for you and your spouse.
Unfortunately, if agreements cannot be reached and the process breaks down, this means you and your spouse both need to start afresh with new lawyers, as your collaborative representative is not permitted to litigate on your behalf.
With this approach you and your lawyer meet with your spouse and their lawyer to talk through an agreed agenda and to negotiate settlement terms. These meetings can be highly effective in either reaching a full agreement or at least narrowing the issues in dispute. There is no restriction on litigating what cannot be agreed in roundtable negotiations.
As with the collaborative approach, you and your spouse retain control over the eventual outcomes, and you agree on the agenda and pace of the process.
You will be supported and legally advised throughout the negotiations and your lawyers can convert agreements reached into binding court orders.
This is where either you or your spouse (or possibly both of you) issue a court application; for example, for financial remedies or for a child arrangements order. The court will fix a timetable to progress the application. Whilst the court encourages settlement to be reached if possible along the way, the court will ultimately determine the case and impose its decision if agreement is not reached before trial.
If your spouse is being unreasonable or refusing to come to the table, this may be your only option and emergency orders can be made quickly to offer protection where necessary. However, due to the court system being under strain with a backlog of cases, there may be delays and it can sometimes be a while for cases to come to trial.
While the court should ensure a fair outcome, remember that people’s perception of ‘fair’ can vary.
Family arbitration is a relatively new concept; it’s a bit like litigating in that decision-making is handed over to an arbitrator compared with a judge. Both spouses need to sign up to the arbitration process and agree to be bound by its decision, which is then converted to a court order. If you decide to go down this route it means avoiding the court timetable, resulting in a speedier process.
Unlike court proceedings, you can choose what documents the arbitrator needs to see and how many hearing are required – you decide the timetable and have continuity of the same decision maker throughout. The downside here is that you will have to pay the arbitrator’s fee and may not agree with the outcome.
For further information read Arbitration.
How to have a ‘good’ divorce
If you are heading for divorce, it is rarely a happy place to be, but you do have choices.
The type of process you opt for and also the lawyer you choose to represent you will both impact on your divorce journey and likely outcome. If you have children, you and your spouse will need to pick up the pieces beyond your divorce and continue working together to some degree if you are to effectively co-parent your children from your separate homes.
A ‘good divorce’ is possible if both parties are willing and it can allow you to move forward amicably, as well as develop positive relationships as co-parents.
If you need help with divorce you can use Rocket Lawyer’s Fixed Fee Divorce Service from £250+VAT.