How To Have An Amicable Divorce
How To Have An Amicable Divorce

How To Have An Amicable Divorce

Sometimes, despite all the will in the world, a relationship just breaks down – especially in later life when children have flown the nest and the 'golden years' loom large. If you believe you’re at the end of the road but dread the thought of expensive lawyers and acrimonious proceedings, help is at hand. We asked a divorce lawyer and a divorce coach to share their insights to help you move on in the most amicable way possible.

In your experience, is it possible to have an amicable divorce?

“Absolutely. If both parties are focused on maintaining positive lines of communication (either directly with one another or, if that is challenging, via their solicitors) and carefully consider each other’s proposals and/or concerns about the future whilst having a mutual focus on reaching a fair and reasonable settlement, there is no reason at all why resolving arrangements on divorce need be acrimonious. This has been assisted with the new 'no fault divorce' regime which means that divorcing couples no longer need to attribute blame to the other or remain married but separated for years before they would be eligible for a divorce.” – Nina Lake, partner at Howard Kennedy

“An amicable divorce is always the preferred route, but it’s not always possible if one party is hell-bent on creating difficulties. Most healthy relationships can achieve an amicable divorce, and this is only possible with good communication from the outset. An amicable breakup or divorce is one that is fair and respectful and enables you to have the best chance of a good relationship with your ex in the future.” – Sara Davison, The Divorce Coach 

Can you explain what a 'no-fault' divorce is and what it allows for?

“The no-fault divorce came into effect in April last year. Almost 100 years in the making, it means that divorcing couples no longer need to apportion blame or wrongdoing to the other for the divorce. This is a really positive step forward as it avoids unnecessary conflict from the start of the process. It relates to the process of legally ending the marriage or civil partnership and does not relate to the separation of finances or arrangements for children. The removal of blame undoubtedly helps reduce the heat and antagonistic nature of divorce, encouraging people to look at the end of their marriage more objectively and find the best solution for everyone. If you’re no longer arguing over who did what, you can approach matters like money and children more calmly, through mediation and collaborative practice – rather than battling it out in court, which costs both parties dearly financially and emotionally.” – Sara

“The 'no fault' divorce regime replaced the previous divorce structure which required couples to rely on either a significant period of separation, desertion, adultery or unreasonable behaviour in order to proceed with a divorce. The law now requires no element of blame to be apportioned to the breakdown of the marriage and, instead, either a sole or joint application can be made to the court for a divorce to proceed. If a sole application is made, the other party would have 14 days to return an acknowledgment to this. There is then a 20 week 'cooling off' period, following which a Conditional Order can be applied for, which confirms that the parties are eligible for a divorce on the basis of their application (for example, that they have jurisdiction to divorce in England and Wales). After a further 6 weeks, the Final Order can be applied for, which is the Order that actually dissolves the marriage and is the final stage in the divorce itself.” – Nina

What's the process of getting a 'no fault' divorce? Do you still need a proper lawyer or does a mediator suffice?

“A divorce can be applied for either directly by the individual wanting to divorce, using the courts online platform, or by instructing solicitors to do it for you. Although the process has been simplified to make it more user friendly for people to do themselves, the process can still be quite stressful or daunting for some. So, it is not uncommon for solicitors to be instructed to do the divorce for a client to take away some of the burden of having to navigate the rules. A mediator may be able to assist couples who can't decide whether they want to issue divorce proceedings in one of their sole names or jointly but, generally speaking, mediators tend to assist clients in relation to sorting out their financial arrangements on separation, or arrangements for children. The 'no fault' divorce process itself is actually fairly straightforward and so there are few occasions where a dispute might arise in relation to the process.” – Nina

Most HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS can achieve an AMICABLE DIVORCE, and this is only possible with GOOD COMMUNICATION from the OUTSET.

What are some of the advantages of mediation?

“Mediation helps you to work through any areas of disagreement with a third party who is trained to assist you to come to a resolution. It works well for couples who are relatively amicable but who have some sticking points on agreeing the settlement between them. It can help you avoid expensive and time-consuming court hearings which are both financially and emotionally draining.” – Sara

What considerations might you have to consider as an older couple in say your 50s or 60s if you choose to divorce?

“Silver Splitters, as this group is called, have a lot more choices these days when getting divorced. 50 is the new 40, so often this is a great chance to redesign your life just the way you want it. Detox out the old and bring in the new. There are specific dating apps designed to help them find new partners and also social groups for making friends. It’s important to be clear on what you are looking for moving forward so you don’t end up repeating old patterns. Learn the lessons from past relationships and bank them.” – Sara

What things can you be more relaxed about?

“You won’t have to juggle babysitters and may be financially more independent, so this gives you more freedom to create the life you are excited to live. Self-care, eating well and exercising are crucial to help you keep a strong mind and make better decisions. But it’s just as important to keep some fun in your life and find ways to laugh and connect with those you love. Divorce is an opportunity to rediscover yourself and, whilst you may feel like curling up and hiding away from the world some days, trying to see a friend or trying something new will help you feel stronger.” – Sara

Any advice on reaching a fair and amicable financial settlement? 

“The process for divorcing and dealing with your financial arrangements on divorce is the same, no matter your age, but when considering what a fair and reasonable financial settlement might be for older couples, certain factors must be taken into consideration. This includes, for example, both parties’ retirement plans and how they might be able to meet both their income and capital needs on retirement. It is likely that older couples will have a much-reduced mortgage earning capacity which could impact on the value of the property they can afford to buy following their divorce. Other considerations, such as the costs of care, might need to be factored in, as well as the impact of sharing any pensions with your soon to be ex-spouse and how this would impact on each of your respective incomes on retirement. Divorce can also impact on your will and so it is imperative for wills to be reviewed too as part of the divorce process. This goes for a divorce at any age but is perhaps even more pertinent for older couples.” – Nina

Divorce will bring out THE WORST in the most AMICABLE OF COUPLES as they start to SEPARATE THEIR LIVES, so it is important to establish some GROUND RULES early on if possible.

As a woman, perhaps who hasn't worked or earned their own money for some years, what are the main considerations to think about in a 'no fault' divorce?

“Ongoing spousal maintenance claims have famously been referred to as no longer being 'a meal ticket for life'. Generally speaking, gone are the days where very long (sometimes lifelong) maintenance orders were made. Women who have not worked during the marriage are now expected to maximise their earning capacities, post-divorce, in order to meet, or at least help with meeting, their income needs. This does not mean that there is an expectation that a non-working wife would immediately re-enter the workplace, full time with an unattainably high salary, but rather that she should be expected, in due course, to contribute to her own economy in some form. This might mean several years down the line when young children are a bit older or allowing for a period of retraining, or for there to be an acceptance that this would be on a part-time basis. There are of course cases where it would be entirely inappropriate to expect a non-working wife to have her own earning capacity in the future, for example if she is at, or close to, retirement age, is in ill health and cannot work or if the parties’ resources were sufficient that in fact there was no need for her to work. Each case turns on its own facts, and there is no one size fits all. Aside from how a non-working wife might meet her income needs in the future, consideration would also need to be given to how she might meet her capital needs, such as how she might rehouse with a limited or no mortgage earning capacity and whether she should be entitled to a larger share of the parties’ capital to ensure her reasonable housing needs can be met. In addition, if she has not been working, it is unlikely that she would have been contributing to her future retirement fund and so there would need to be careful consideration of any pensions and how these should be shared.” – Nina

How should you react if your soon-to-be ex suddenly changes tack and decides to go to court?

“Don’t panic. Court proceedings can be a really great way to focus everyone's attention on resolving matters. The court will first of all set a clear timetable for financial disclosure and getting in place all the information required in order for productive negotiations to take place. There can often be months between the various court hearings and therefore plenty of time for out of court negotiations, or even negotiations at court on the day of a hearing. If agreement cannot be reached, it also provides a 'long stop' date for matters to be resolved, being a final hearing at which a judge will ultimately decide on what a fair and reasonable outcome will be. It is worth remembering that just because court proceedings have been issued, it does not mean that negotiations have to cease and an out of court settlement is no longer possible. On the contrary, it can actually encourage couples to reach a settlement to avoid the need for ongoing litigation.” – Nina 

“This can happen, and it can be upsetting and frightening too. Make sure you have a good breakup support team around you. If anything is worrying you, find an expert to help you answer your questions in this area. It could be a breakup coach, legal advisor, financial advisor or a friend who can be there to provide constructive support. There are lots of people experienced to help you through this so do reach out and get the support you need. If you don’t have a choice and end up going to court, then preparation will be key so find out what you need to do and schedule the time and the support team around you to help you.” – Sara

Finally, any advice for handling the emotional turmoil to maintain good relations with your ex?

“Good communication is key from the start. Divorce will bring out the worst in the most amicable of couples as they start to separate their lives, so it is important to establish some ground rules early on if possible. Agree how you will approach difficult conversations and how you will handle disagreements. If you can both focus on being kind and understanding, this will help the chances of maintaining a good relationship after the divorce is settled. Avoid bad mouthing your ex especially to your children or mutual friends. Don’t rush to respond to upsetting emails or texts; instead, take your time and think through the consequences carefully. Look after yourself during the process – self-care will enable you to make better decisions. Get outside, get some daily exercise – even a walk around the block will help clear your mind. Be aware of your coping strategies as some, like drinking more wine, may feel good in the moment but will result in you feeling worse in the long run. Treat yourself to some time out, a nice bath or country walk, chatting to friends that love you or a manicure to pamper yourself a little.” – Sara


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