New year, new you – can you have a ‘healthy’ divorce?

Along with the pledge to get healthier, this time of year sees many couples decide that the New Year is going to bring them a fresh start in their home and family life.

The thought of starting the process of divorce can be overwhelming and frightening – but much like fad diets, do all divorces have to be an expensive emotional roller coaster?

If you have made the decision to separate from your partner, here are some easy to follow tips about the process and how to approach it early on to avoid making mistakes:

  1. The most important thing you can do for yourself is to get some advice as early as possible. Even if you have not completely settled on the idea of separating it is important that you understand your rights and obligations before you take a step that could have consequences that you have not foreseen. Your legal advisor will be able to set out the various routes available to you including options that save money and avoid Court by concentrating on constructive discussions to bring matters to a swift conclusion by agreement.
  2. Of course the family finances are going to be one of the front runners when thinking about separation. Investigate any state benefits that you or your partner may be entitled to such as tax credits. Most calculations can be done quickly online. If it is affordable, it is usual for the financial status quo to be maintained at least in the short term while you investigate a long term settlement – however many spouses fall at the first hurdle and make key financial mistakes before they have taken legal advice.
  3. The family home will be very important, whether it is owned in joint names or not. Married couples are both entitled to occupy the family home. One spouse cannot simply evict the other from the home or change the locks without consent, however the needs of the children to be housed are likely to be a paramount consideration. Obviously if your personal safety is threatened (or the safety of the children) then seek urgent solicitor advice.
  4. It is important that both you and your partner reassure your children that although you don’t get on anymore, they are safe and loved by you both. Be open with the children without involving them in the conflict. Research indicates that parents that work together for the children during this difficult time have a much better outcome. Give the children permission to enjoy time with the other parent. There is lots of advice on this issue in the Resolution leaflet ‘Parenting After Parting’ from
  5. It is very common in the early days of separation for ad hoc payments to be made. These can be payments for child maintenance, household utilities, mortgage or household upkeep. It is imperative to keep a record of any payments made or received and try hard not to make or receive any payments in cash. Try not to agree to sell any key assets in a piecemeal way without an overall agreement in place. Rarely do assets need to be sold quickly so resist giving in to pressure to do so.It can be difficult to see the road ahead during separation. Everyone will have an opinion on your situation and maybe a horror story to tell – however from a legal perspective every family situation is different, so try not to compare your family with anyone else’s.

    Modern family law encourages separating couples to try and agree a way forward wherever possible. Mediation, collaborative law and solicitor negotiation are all ways to avoid Court and the costs associated with it. Most cases proceed cooperatively and amicably.

    If you would like further advice, don’t hesitate to contact Katy Barber, specialist in Family Law on
    023 8071 8056 or email: