So attempts at trying to reconcile with your spouse have failed, and you have come to the agreement that divorce is the only option left. This is a difficult decision overwrought with emotions and uncertainties. It is likely that you have so many questions on how to handle the obstacles you now face. Who can I turn to for legal advice? What is the cost of a good lawyer? How can we protect our kids from the worst? And is it possible to reach a peaceful conclusion despite our differences?
It will be a stressful time, and it is likely you will feel anger at your soon-to-be-ex, for not doing enough to save your marriage or changing over the years, for example, but do not let your emotions take over. No one wins in divorce; if no complicated issues arise, both parties are likely to walk away from the negotiations with similar responsibilities with assets equitably distributed among themselves. If there are children, custodial rights are there to serve the interests of offspring and not their parents.
Outline what your needs are from the start. Can you really not live without your estranged spouse’s coffee machine or set of golf clubs? If you are the financially weaker or dependent spouse, how much will you need to pay your monthly expenses? Or, as the likely sole custodian, how much child support from your partner will you need to cover school fees and costs of living?
If it is possible, try to work out issues between yourselves. Effective communication after a break up is hard, which is why hiring a divorce solicitor to represent you and provide sound legal advice is recommended. Settling matters in court should be your worst case scenario, as the proceedings are lengthy, emotionally draining, expensive, and will not necessarily work in your favour or your partners.
You cannot agree on anything, what is next?
Your legal counsel might advise using mediation to help reach compromises that meet both parties interests.
A person facilitates mediation with no personal connections or biases toward either party, there to help with better and effective communication. More often than not, peaceful resolutions are reached when ex-spouses encounter each other face-to-face, rather than over the phone or emails.
On children and the division of property
Out of everything that needs to be negotiated, offspring and finances are on the top of the agenda.
On matters relating to the children, there is a lot that needs to be discussed. First and foremost, who will they primarily live with? The parent who can provide the most care is the likely candidate. Once that is decided, a visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent should be drawn up, as well as the divvying up of school holidays.
When it comes to finances, the first port of call is to divulge all money matters to your lawyer and be completely transparent with your spouse. Coveted money is likely to be uncovered.
If assets, like a home, are owned by both parties, then a settlement needs to be reached. It may be easier if you have children, in that the primary caregiver is granted the house to maintain a stable household for the child, unafflicted by the prospect of having to move homes.
To change the locks or force the other party off the property is ill-advised as they are legally entitled to live there. It is likely that your spouse wants to move out on their own accord and start anew. Ask them if they are willing to move out and retract their name from the title deeds so that you can reclaim sole ownership of the home. Other options are to sell the house and share the profits or settle the matter in court.
No one gets married thinking about divorce, but it is a reality that couples do face. Do not be left in the lurch. Seek out professional legal counsel who will help you understand technical jargon, guide you through mountains of legal paperwork, and advise while showing compassion toward the ordeal you are experiencing.