Monthly Archives: May 2016

Family Justice Council Publishes ‘Sorting out Finances on Divorce’

Ever wondered what a clean break is? Or what the options are for your pensions on divorce?

The new publication launched by the Family Justice Council is a useful guide for those contemplating separation and all that this entails financially. A lot of the case law we read about are the ‘high end’ cases where millions of pounds are at stake. The guide however provides a summary of the legal position for those people with a regular financial picture where the focus of the courts will be on the wellbeing of the children and dividing the finances in a way that meets the needs of both parents in the short term and hopefully in the longer term too.

In mediation, we suggest to clients that they take legal advice on the best and worst case scenarios should they end up in court. Would the court consider the split that they are asking for in mediation as being appropriate? Does the proposed division meet the housing and income needs of both separating partners and, most importantly, does it adequately provide for the needs of the children? For some clients, where finances are very tight, they say that they can afford to take only limited advice. Without understanding what the legal parameters are, it can be harder for them to reach agreement in mediation, which makes this guide particularly welcome.

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I would recommend that couples who are separating, with averages, with or without children, should read this guide. These are the principles which might provide the framework for a mediated agreement, which can become legally binding as part of their divorce.

In order to be binding, the agreement reached in mediation will have to take into account the principles covered in this handy guide. The writers have done a fantastic job in bringing the main points in one place and writing in clear readable language. It won’t be universally applicable as there are always special cases and a general diagnosis cannot replace tailored advice. However, it will be a very helpful resource for many people.

You can find the guide to ‘Sorting out Finances on Divorce’ here: https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/fjc-financial-needs-april-16-final.pdf

The Bottom of the Rollercoaster – and what happens next

Sometimes in life we suddenly see something and realise that until that moment we have not understood it at all. I had one of those moments when someone described the rollercoaster of grief – because that is what the pain of separation can feel like. This image describes the emotional journey people take through grief – starting with denial and shock, fear and confusion, through anger and blame, shame and anxiety to the depression and helplessness of the low point of it all. This is arguably the worst point, as there is sorrow without the distractions of blame and anger. It is a time of realisation and coming to terms with the new reality, even for someone who wanted the relationship to end, as there is still change and loss. It can be hard. What people don’t always realise when they are in this dark place is that there are more stages to come on their journey. The stage of dialogue and bargaining eventually arrive and then acceptance and a plan for a new future. They can and will go on; they will have a life to live and a future.

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In summary, when couples separate they – and indeed their children – experience grief, as they are living through loss. This is best described as a rollercoaster of emotions and the traditional processes that have evolved through the decades to ‘help’ couples resolve their differences are wholly unsuited to actually resolving anything. This is because they are adversarial and tend to promote discord and holding on to extreme positions. Court proceedings may feel deeply attractive to the angry blaming person, as they offer an apparently legitimate outlet for their fury. By contrast mediation is an opportunity to listen, to try and understand each other, be mutually respectful and compromise. If you’re mad as fire, this will be unappealing. I’ve lost count of the number of clients when hearing about mediation and what it can achieve, say firmly: ‘Well that won’t work. My ex is very unreasonable. There’s no point in even trying to sort it out.’

But here’s the thing, no one ever said to me that they wouldn’t mediate because they were unreasonable. And here’s another thought – people do arrive at the stage of being ready to bargain and talk. They will want to sort it out and move on. It happens. It may be in the middle of court proceedings, it may be some other time, but when you get to that point, suddenly all the fighting and messing about seems utterly pointless, a complete waste of time and money. That is a great time to mediate, because mediation is fast and effective and you will get where you need to be surprisingly quickly. Everything can be sorted out, agreed and put behind you, you can move on from the conflict of the past and through dialogue and bargaining to acceptance and to a new and brighter future. You will have come up the other side of the rollercoaster and will be able to look back with relief on the journey you have accomplished – and be glad it is behind you. Nothing is so focused on getting you both to that point as mediation. Think about it.