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A Divorce made in Heaven

In Oscar Wilde’s play, The Importance of Being Earnest, Algernon Moncrieff remarks: ‘Divorces are made in Heaven’.[1] It is the opposite of the cliché ‘a marriage made in Heaven’ which forces the audience to rethink the original phrase. Divorce is often regarded as a painful experience however the process and outcome do not necessarily have to be. A good divorce can be achieved allowing two people to exit an unhappy or unhealthy marriage without legal bruises. In this article prepared for Resolution’s Good Divorce week Trudi Featherstone and Jasmine Jones offer some advice on how to achieve a good divorce.

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Tip 1: Acceptance

Divorce is a challenging experience which can leave you grappling with your emotions as the breakdown of the marriage will result in significant changes to your life. The process can and probably will trigger feelings of intense grief like that of the death of a loved one or close friend. While you may acknowledge that you are separating you may struggle with processing that the life you envisioned when you got married is coming to an end. You may also be in denial about the divorce because you hope that your spouse may change their mind or seek to reconcile. Acceptance can allow you to look forward rather than back meaning you can take the steps needed to deal with and resolve the separation.  Do consider accessing therapeutic help to assist you with the process of acceptance.

Tip 2: Prioritise your children

Separation can have a negative impact on your children and may affect their happiness, self-esteem and behaviour. According to a study conducted by the UCL Institute of Education, ‘children who experience a break-up in late childhood and early adolescence are more likely to have emotional and behavioural problems than those living with both parents’.[2]

Here are a few dos and don’ts when dealing with children:

  1. Remind the children that they are loved by both parents and that the separation is not their fault.
  2. Answer their questions in a child focused way keeping in mind their age and understanding.
  3. Avoid blame and do not share any negative feelings that you have about each other.
  4. Let them know that they can talk about their feelings and explain it’s okay to be sad, confused or angry.
  5. Listen more than you speak. Answering questions will allow them to open up.
  6. Communicate with each other about the arrangements for the children but do not speak about arrangements in front of the children.
  7. Do not argue or disagree in front of the children instead try to show the children that you have a united approach to their care as it will be after separation. This will allow them to feel secure in the knowledge that their parents are still capable of working together for their benefit even if they do not live together anymore.
  8. Do not use the children as weapons against the other spouse.

Tip 3: Communicate

Communication is the key to avoiding misunderstanding. It is helpful for both spouses to communicate clearly, succinctly and without blame to maintain a good relationship with the other and increase the likelihood that an agreement can be reached swiftly. Always remain respectful in communication with your spouse regardless of your feelings. Although it may be tempting to speak out based on raw emotions, this can trigger conflict which will undoubtedly adversely affect the settlement process.

Tip 4: Be open to compromise.

Having a willingness to compromise can help to ensure that you are not engaged in a length drawn-out process which can be harmful to both spouses.

Tip 5: Consider Mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR)

Try mediation and/or explore other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).   A mediator can help you to agree how assets should be divided in a quicker and more cost-effective process than the court process.  In mediation you will work together with your mediator to find resolution and avoid the court and potential conflict.  Mediated agreements are likely to cost you far less financially and emotionally.

At Goodman Ray we have two mediators, Trudi Featherstone and Tom Brownrigg.

Tip 6: Get legal advice

By obtaining legal advice you can ensure that an agreement is reached which is in the interests of both spouses (and your children) and sustainable in the long term. In fact, not obtaining professional legal advice may be costly further down the road.

Final Thoughts

Divorce can be financially and emotionally draining but with the right guidance through the process you can separate and resolve matters allowing both spouses to exit the marriage amicably allowing them to move on and begin building their new lives.

Please contact the family team on 020 7608 1227 and ask to speak to the matrimonial team or use the contact form  for any advice on divorce, separation and all forms of ADR.

By Trudi Featherstone and Jasmine Jones

[1] Wilde, Oscar. 1973. Importance of Being Earnest. New York, NY: Avon Books

[2] UCL, “Timing of parents’ split matters for children’s mental health, new research reveals,” January 17, 2019,  https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/news/2019/jan/timing-parents-split-matters-childrens-mental-health-new-research-reveals

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