On 20th March, the world will celebrate the International Day of Happiness, which is likely not going to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind in light of the current pandemic. This year’s theme is Happier Together, which is not to suggest people should ignore social distancing but instead, focus on what we have in common, rather than what divides us. This way of thinking is needed now more than ever in these uncertain times and is very poignant when it comes to divorce and separation. I realise ‘Happier Together’ might be at complete odds with a couple going their separate ways but this is where I would encourage couples to look at the wider picture.
Separation and divorce do not necessarily mean the end of your relationship, especially when you have children. It’s often agreed among family lawyers that in most circumstances the children will be better off when two people accept that while they may no longer be together, they will continue to be ‘co-parents’. The common ground between you and your ex-partner will always be your children. You might disagree one how the house is divided or who looks after the dog, but you will always have your children as common ground. Focusing on that common ground and acknowledging that each of you can further your children’s best interests in your own, perhaps different, ways embodies this year’s theme of being ‘Happier Together’.
Our role as your lawyer is certainly not to drive a wedge between you and your ex-partner. This approach undoubtedly leads to disaster where one of you feels alienated from the family or, as is sadly the case, the children can get caught up in the conflict. Therefore, we will always try to agree matters directly with your ex-partner where appropriate before taking steps to litigate. This of course is not always going to be possible or appropriate but, in some circumstances, negotiating an agreement directly with your ex-partner keeps focus on this common ground; your children.