‘Damien Hirst gave me a pick­led mon­key’

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The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Money -

on­go­ing joint lives main­te­nance or­der, giv­ing them fi­nan­cial in­de­pen­dence.”

Ms Hicks said she didn’t be­lieve that the Gov­ern­ment’s plans for no-fault sep­a­ra­tion would in­crease the rate of di­vorce, although it would sim­plify things and be less emo­tional for the cou­ple. “I still see de­fended di­vorces, which in­crease ac­ri­mony and, of course, le­gal fees, usu­ally be­cause one party refers to some fi­nan­cial mis­con­duct in the di­vorce pe­ti­tion, which is un­nec­es­sary,” she said.

“There are al­ways two sides to a story and hav­ing to un­pick a mar­riage and go through the de­bris to come up with a rea­son to di­vorce is stress­ful. I ad­vise spouses to pre­pare an­o­dyne par­tic­u­lars of be­hav­iour with­out re­fer­ring to fi­nances or chil­dren. That way, it is less likely to be de­fended.”

A third case over the sum­mer, Villiers v Villiers, was fought over whether a di­vorce should be heard in Eng­land or Scotland, with big im­pli­ca­tions for the fi­nan­cial agree­ment. Mrs Villiers was keen for an English judg­ment that gave her £5,500 a month to be up­held; Mr Villiers less so. The case is go­ing to the Supreme Court.

Main­te­nance awards in Scotland are, in most cases, for a max­i­mum of three years, Ms Hicks said, un­less there is se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial hard­ship, which is dif­fi­cult to prove. She added: “Scot­tish courts also look at the value of the mat­ri­mo­nial as­sets at the time of sep­a­ra­tion, whereas in Eng­land and Wales there is an on­go­ing duty to make fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure un­til a court or­der is ap­proved. The value of as­sets is counted at the date of trial or when con­sid­er­ing a fi­nan­cial con­sent or­der. When there is a choice of where to di­vorce, al­ways con­sider the likely level of fi­nan­cial award and start di­vorce pro­ceed­ings in the most favourable coun­try with­out de­lay.

“Rather than try­ing to set­tle mat­ters am­i­ca­bly, this does mean the case starts off with a level of ac­ri­mony, which I fear will get worse once we are no longer in the EU.”

There is an al­ter­na­tive: the “good” di­vorce. Jo Ed­wards of law firm Forsters, a past chair of Res­o­lu­tion, the fam­ily law char­ity, said this was not the oxy­moron it seemed.

“Af­ter 20 years as a fam­ily lawyer and me­di­a­tor, where pos­si­ble not tak­ing cases to court, I can tes­tify that such a thing ex­ists,” she said.

Be sure it is what you re­ally want. Re­la­tion­ships go through rocky patches. Cou­ples coun­selling is a must: if you still agree it’s over, an am­i­ca­ble sep­a­ra­tion is more likely.

Ac­ri­mo­nious di­vorces of­ten oc­cur when spouses aren’t emo­tion­ally ready. Don’t rush the process.

Be re­al­is­tic about what you may be en­ti­tled to in terms of money and the chil­dren. Most cases that end up in court do so be­cause one per­son is try­ing for an un­re­al­is­tic out­come. More than 90pc of cases are re­solved with­out the need for a judge.

‘Courts will no longer rou­tinely or­der main­te­nance for life’

Too many par­ents put chil­dren in the cross­fire. Pri­ori­tis­ing their needs and feel­ings will stand them in good stead. Mak­ing them take sides will cause last­ing emo­tional harm.

Don’t view your spouse as the en­emy – of­ten you’ll have an en­dur­ing bond as par­ents.

Di­vorce is not a com­mer­cial ne­go­ti­a­tion with win­ners and losers; it is about fair­ness and prag­ma­tism. Be open about what you want and be ready to com­pro­mise.

Agree how fi­nances and child­care will work on an in­terim ba­sis while the long-term set­tle­ment is un­der dis­cus­sion. Many peo­ple, an­gry or think­ing they are smart, with­hold fi­nan­cial sup­port or over­spend, or be­come more hands-on with the chil­dren or re­strict the other’s ac­cess. None of this makes any dif­fer­ence.

Many peo­ple can’t af­ford full (if any) le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion. But this needn’t mean a bad di­vorce. There is a lot of in­for­ma­tion on­line. You’ll save money if your solic­i­tor does not have to ex­plain the process to you.

Fi­nally, stay fo­cused on the end goal, look af­ter your­self and keep friends and fam­ily close at hand. A sup­port net­work is im­por­tant so that you don’t feel iso­lated or over­whelmed.

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