It can be the most difficult time of anyone’s life, but going through a divorce need not be as harrowing a procedure as many think – in fact, negotiating divorce settlements can be quick and easy, with both parties leaving the marriage satisfied.
There are usually three main priorities on the table in negotiations – children, money and property. While the reasons for divorce are usually down to lack of trust and communication, these factors are of the utmost importance in getting the best for all parties.
Courts are not automatically involved in child custody arrangements in the UK – instead, it is the norm that parents come to an agreement. In the long run, a court case involving children is not the best route for the child itself, so try to be flexible, understanding and civil, never forgetting how the feelings of the child or children in question.
Of course, the child’s welfare comes first (underwritten by law, in the Children’s Act 1989), and contact with children can be classed as either a letter, telephone conversations or in person. When filing for divorce, a Statement of Agreements need to be completed, detailing the childcare situation. Only if an arrangement cannot be agreed upon will it go to the next stage – mediation. A mediator will listen to the qualms of both parents and try to come to an arrangement which they will hopefully be happy with. If an agreement is still not found, the case will go through the courts, to be decided upon by a judge.
Not many couples know exactly how much money they have, and where it came from – both salaries may come into a joint account, and over the years they lose track of what belongs to who. The best place to start is going through your accounts, totalling up how much there is between both of you and try to figure out who has the right to what proportion of it.
As with children, an out-of-court settlement is generally the best route to go down, to save legal fees. This will take some negotiating, but it is always best to leave animosity behind, and just try to come to a deal which suits both parties.
The legal wrangling of property ownership and share is long and convoluted, but generally falls into three categories – it is owned by one person, joint ownership or it is owned by a third party.
If it is owned by one person, then the other still has an entitlement to stay in the property – at least until the divorce proceedings are finalised, or even longer, if necessary. For example, they could stay in the property until any children in question are of a school-leaving age.
If it is a joint ownership, then a few routes are available, all of which need to be negotiated and, in the same vein as custody of children, either settled out of court or be decided upon by a judge. The property can either be sold straight away and shared fairly between the two, or ownership can be transferred to one person, in exchange for either a stake in the property when it is finally sold, or for a larger share of the money which is to be split as part of the divorce proceedings.
However the negotiations are – whether they are tedious and agonising or relatively simple, it is always important to make sure everything is legally binding. Seek help from a solicitor from the very start, and get everything in writing, making sure you have recourse if things do turn nasty. For more information on divorce proceedings, check out the Government overview and contact an Instant Law Line for help and advice.