Monthly Archives: February 2014

Young couples take Divorce to new year low

The divorce rate is retreating substantially from the highs of 1991.  The ‘seven year itch’ seems to be a feature of the past. Couples married in 2005 are 24% more likely still to be together after seven years than their 1991 predecessors. The divorce rate over the first three years of marriage is down 48% on the 1991 high*.

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Historically two thirds of divorce petitions were brought by women who were calling time on their marriages owing to infidelity or their husband’s unreasonable behaviour. Women used to be more aggrieved about bearing the main burden for child-care and the chores, whilst increasingly working themselves. Nowadays, their husbands are pulling their weight in the home and with the children and there is less resentment at the unfairness of the division of labour destroying marriages.

 

The figures are also greatly affected by the modern social acceptance of co-habitation – marriages that might previously have ended in an early divorce, are simply not taking place. Most couples live together before they marry and if it doesn’t work out then they split up without divorcing. The implications statistically for those who marry are good – but the figures obscure the vast problems of couples in co-habitations that split up – the effects on their families of relationship break-down is just as destructive and de-stabilising as divorce, both for the individuals concerned and for society.

*according to ONS statistics

Setting out the Finances

3 Easy steps to setting out the finances

  1. Honesty
  2. Form E
  3. Summary

If you are separating or divorcing, you will want to understand the legal framework relevant to your situation, but one cannot advise you until it is clear what assets there are.  So, any process to resolve a financial settlement on divorce starts with identifying then valuing the assets. You must supply information and paperwork showing the value of all the assets, the house, the savings, the debts and the value of the pensions and your income.   This is called ‘disclosure’ and the law says this has to be ‘full and frank.’

If you seek legal advice first, your lawyers will often complete disclosure for you – two of them preparing it for each of you then exchanging it and asking questions about anything unclear. If you mediate disclosure, then the mediator does the disclosure with you both together – this is quicker and costs less and again questions can be asked and answered.
The mediator can draft a summary of your financial information so you can take legal advice on options.

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Honesty

It is not an option to decide an asset is out of it and does not need to be valued; no one can proceed on that basis.  Any agreement needs to be binding.  That either means a Separation Agreement or a Court Order in a divorce.  For these to be binding there has to have been full disclosure and, at Court a Judge has to have a Statement of Information with a complete summary of all the assets and what they are worth, nothing can be omitted, or the agreement could be overturned.

Form E

At Focus Mediation we will work with you so that your Form E (the form that your solicitors and the court would want to see) is complete. We go through the process of disclosure and produce figures to work from. This can be done by two solicitors over a few months (court proceedings take over a year), but in mediation you can each see and hear and understand the financial position at the same time and the mediator helps you with suggestions and information.

Open Financial Summary

The mediator as part of the mediation process will prepare a summary of your background, your family assets and income, which can be used as the foundation for your binding agreement. If you seek legal advice you can show this to your solicitor and ask for a realistic assessment of the likely range of possibilities at court. If you both do this and bring your advice to mediation, there should be an overlap where you can compromise. Your Focus mediator will help you both to focus on realistic, affordable and practical options, so that you can reach an acceptable outcome which meets your and the children’s needs for the future.

The Basket of Truth

The basket is asymmetrical and looks different from every angle.
Each observer is convinced by the truth of their view.
Imagine the basket is the physical embodiment of the truth.

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We believe our recollection of the truth is right, because we saw and experienced it and the challenging, contrary memory of others feels like an outrage. So people have genuine conflicting beliefs about the past, about whose fault it was, who said and did what.

The process of the Law collects evidence about these truths, to decide which is right and the apparent or real truth wins, who knows if it is always right? The process of Mediation shows people they each can have their beliefs – they will anyway. However, they need to resolve the conflict about their differing understandings of events in order to shape an outcome together that they can both live with.

We should always start with the end in mind. Where there is disagreement, usually agreement eventually follows, in order to bring matters to an end. We need to end with a settlement that lets people move on with their lives.

So we should not automatically first embark on a process (the Law) that makes out each most extreme position first, as that positional bargaining drives people further apart and makes them enemies in a fight, instead of people with a shared interest in an early and affordable resolution.

If you feel angry or upset that someone does not understand events or even the world as you perceive it, persuading them may not work. You may have to agree to differ and negotiate a way forward together. A mediator will help you do that. That, in a nutshell is the spirit of mediation.

What do you tell your children when your relationship ends?

Dealing with your own emotions at the end of a relationship can be tough enough but how do you help your children through the pain and upheaval of separation?

Are you and your partner able to sit down together and talk to your children about what’s going to happen? Do you know what’s going to happen? Would one of you rather talk to your children alone? What will you say to them? Can you and your partner agree what you will say?

There are no sections on the court forms for this type of discussion and yes, these issues can be tough to talk about. So tough, both of you may decide to engage solicitors to do the talking for you.

How will that work in the long term? You might find that you have spent your children’s university fund by the time you realise that any level of communication you and your partner did manage is now virtually extinct.

You will always be your children’s parents. Don’t you owe it to them to find a way to talk about the important issues as parents and to decide together as parents what you want for your children?

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At Focus we can help you both talk through these difficult issues – and in many cases if you and your children want, we can also talk to your children in confidence about their thoughts, wishes and feelings.  It won’t be easy for either of you, but at the end of it we hope that you will have reached an agreement that you both feel works for you and most importantly your children.

You may never be friends in the future, but whilst your children are growing up and need you both, we can help you to put a workable arrangement in place that will keep you talking through the pain of the separation and into the future.
For your children’s sake.