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Happy New Year – or D-Day for your relationship?

This is a busy time of year for Family Lawyers. The first Monday of the New Year is often referred to as “D-Day or Black Monday”, due to the high volume of people seeking a divorce after Christmas.

The breakdown of a relationship is an upsetting and difficult time for everyone involved.  This is a decision you have probably been considering for a long time and have been putting off because you will not have wanted to upset the children over the Christmas period.  It is likely that all of the family will be going through a multitude of emotions, such as hurt, anger, grief, bitterness, frustration, fear and uncertainty with regard to the future.

I am a member of Resolution and we commit to a constructive resolution of family disputes and deal with matters in a non-confrontational way.  This promotes a much better outcome both financially and emotionally for all concerned.   I encourage clients to put the interests of the children first.  When seeing a new client who is looking for advice in relation to relationship breakdown, I will explore the possibility of reconciliation, as not all separating couples will have set their heart on achieving a permanent separation, and may simply want to know what their options are and how to protect themselves if things go wrong.  There are often two processes on separation or divorce running in parallel, namely the legal position and the emotional impact.  I can provide you with essential information and details of other professionals that can provide emotional or appropriate support.

Your first concern will be with regard to the children, as to how you will parent the children, whether there will be a shared care agreement and how often you will spend time with the children.

You will want to consider the family finances, as you will now be paying for two homes rather than one.  You will both want to provide a home for the children when they stay with you and you will have to look at how this can best be achieved.  Most importantly, it must be affordable for both of you.  There may be other financial considerations, if there are other assets such as pensions, shares and investments.  You will have to consider how to manage any debts such as loans, overdrafts and credit cards.  There may be other matters regarding your ongoing relationship with your former partner or spouse or the children.  At our meeting, I will identify the matters that are important to you and clarify the issues involved and the options available.

I will consider with you the most efficient and effective way to resolve the issues in your case.  I will consider with you whether your case would be suitable for Mediation.  This should not be confused with Counselling or any kind of Marriage Guidance.  Mediation is a process conducted by an impartial Mediator, whose job it is to facilitate sensible and meaningful discussions between two separating couples, with a view to them attempting to find their own resolution and indeed solutions to their personal issues and matters arising from the breakdown of their relationship.  Another option would be for there to be voluntary exchange of financial information and negotiations through Solicitors, with a view to reaching a settlement.  There are other options such as Collaborative Law, where you and your partner or spouse attend a roundtable meeting with your Lawyers present, in the hope that you can negotiate a settlement.  Another alternative to starting the Court process for couples who are looking to reach a financial settlement, is Arbitration, which is a private process but where the award is binding and the award can be converted into an enforceable Consent Order once it is approved by the Family Court.   There are a number of ways that you can settle matters out of Court and which will enable you to reach a fair outcome.  In particular, Mediation can often improve communication between you, which is particularly important if you will be making decisions and parenting your children in the future.  If you are able to resolve matters amicably, then this will allow you both to move on with your lives happily.

I confirm that Eric Robinson Solicitors offer an initial free interview for 20 minutes.  My top tip for anyone who is separating from their partner or spouse, is to seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity.

Beverley Pym is a Senior Associate and Family Mediator from the Family Law Team at Eric Robinson Solicitors.