As we enter another year, true to form, much space in our newspapers and magazines are taken up with two types of article – the latest diet/fitness fad and those revolving around the theme of “January is the top time for divorce”.
Sadly this is not just hype, at least in terms of the latter; the festive season really does bring with it a whole raft of pressures, both emotional and financial, that do leave many couples reflecting on the future and by January are wondering if their future lies together or apart.
Clearly, it would be better both for families and society if couples stayed together but for those who seriously believe separation is the “least-worst” option, it would be wise to follow the tips below.
1. DO NOT RUSH OR FEEL PRESSURED TO RUSH INTO A FINANCIAL SETTLEMENT. The decision to separate is not one taken lightly by most couples but once taken there is often a perceived pressure to rush into a financial settlement and “get things sorted”. This sense of urgency often arises from uncertainty over future financial security but it should be borne in mind that a specialist family lawyer can help prioritise concerns and advise on interim short term agreements to cover immediate worries like paying the mortgage or rent and managing household bills pending overall financial settlement. Professional assistance in breaking down what seems like a massive problem into bite-size pieces can help provide couples with the breathing space to consider the bigger picture and long term needs and goals.
2. SEEK SPECIALIST FAMILY LAW ADVICE. While most high street legal practices offer family law services it is advisable to do some research before instructing a solicitor. Specialist family lawyers can generally get to the heart of the issues and identify solutions because the advice given comes from vast experience dealing with family cases. The Family Law Association (www.familylawassociation.org) has a database of member-solicitors by geographic area all of whom specialise in this field. The importance of having a trained professional advisor cannot be underestimated. With experience in mediation and other forms of ADR, a family specialist will be committed to problem solving and constructive dispute resolution.
3. DO THE GROUND WORK. In order to advise you properly, a solicitor will need as much information as possible about the matrimonial property. Clients can reduced their legal costs by providing the solicitor with appropriate documents and other relevant written information and giving a succinct verbal picture of their financial situation from the outset. This will enable the solicitor to consider all the available options as quickly – and cost-effectively – as possible.
4. DO NOT GO IT ALONE. Good quality advice is essential and not just for legal reasons. Planning a financial future alone after many years as one part of a couple can be very frightening. In addition to legal advice, many legal firms will also be able to assist with financial planning, while organisations like Relationships Scotland offer counselling services and mediation. Family support will always be welcome but for practical reasons more can often be achieved by speaking to a professional such as a trained counsellor.
5. THINK OF THE CHILDREN. Separation is especially hard for children and affected couples must remember that no matter what the future holds, they will continue to be parents. Part of the task of an experienced family lawyer is endeavouring to minimise hostility and ill-feeling so that a separating couple can still co-operate with one another as parents even though they will be living apart.Jennifer Gallagher Partner – Family Law
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