Breaking up is hard to do – and divorcing infinitely more so.
Because when you have an emotional split, the last thing you want to do is consider the legal ramifications of your separation.
If divorce seems to be in the air today, it’s no coincidence: January is the most popular month of the year for people to file for divorce, with 7 January – which fell on Monday this week – proving the most popular ‘D-day’, according to family law firm, Goodman Ray.
Only today, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced his divorce from wife of 25 years, MacKenzie.
With this in mind, we’ve sought out expert advice for a happier-than-normal divorce.
Seek therapy – even if you are set on divorcing
Going for relationship therapy may seem counter-intuitive when you have made the decision to divorce, but it might actually be the best decision you make.
“Do not be afraid to ask for help or talk about your problems. There can be a stigma about seeking help, but many individuals going through a divorce or separation find that therapy or counselling, together or separately, can be helpful,” explains Thomas Brownrigg, partner and accredited mediator at Goodman Ray.
“This does not have to be with a view to reconciliation- it can help you both communicate post-separation, and be the first building block in working towards an amicable divorce or separation and maintaining a positive and constructive long term relationship.”
Think before you move out
As much as you might want to create physical space between yourself and your soon to be ex spouse, think carefully before you act, as often moving out won’t do you any favours legally.
“Moving out of the home can have a lasting impact on the outcome of your case, so take legal advice at an early stage,” says Brownrigg. “I would encourage anybody going through a divorce to take advice so that they can make informed decisions.”
Take control of your situation
Despite what you see in legal dramas, the majority of divorces are settled through a process called mediation, which takes place in a solicitor’s office, rather than in a court room.
“Mediation is a voluntary process which can enable you to have discussions directly with each other, aided by a mediator in a neutral and confidential environment,” explains Brownrigg.
While going to court may seem like you are ‘fighting’ for a better outcome, it will often not end that way and therefore should be used as a last resort.
“By going to court you are leaving somebody else to make a decision about what should happen with financial matters or in relation to children. There are other forms of dispute resolution available which ensure that you retain control over the outcome of the divorce, children and finances.”
Tell your lawyer everything
Avoid the temptation to hide important details about your marriage breakdown from your lawyer. While some truths might not put you on the most flattering light, it does – as they say – all eventually come out in the wash.
“Your legal representative can only give you advice if they know all of the details of your case. The relationship between a solicitor and their client is confidential, and if you want them to give you accurate advice then you should share all of the background to your case- the good and the bad.
Put the kids first
As difficult as it may be able to face, if you are divorcing your fellow co-parent, you are going to have to keep them in your life forever – one way or another. If you can agree on one thing, make it a mutual desire to shield your children.
Brownrigg says: “Communicate with each other and parent together. You may no longer be a couple, but you are both still parents. Stopping being a couple does not prevent you presenting a united front for your children.”
Think carefully about how you are splitting assets
Splitting a relationship’s worth of assets is never easy or pleasant, especially if there is bad blood between you and your ex-partner, but being organised about this process will help put into perspective that hour-long argument about the Vitamix.
“I would start off by agreeing an inventory first, then setting out what you both want from that inventory, and taking it from there,” advises Brownrigg.
You should also bear in mind it might not be as bad as you think, if you take the time to realise what you both want.
“Every case is different, and different people have different priorities. One person’s treasure, is another person’s junk.”
Be respectful and empathetic
At the end of the day, a successful divorce is all about trying to keep things fair, and this starts with putting yourself in your spouse’s shoes and refraining from acting unfairly. That means no slagging each other in public or sending angry text messages to one another, and certainly no passive aggressive Facebook statuses.
Brownrigg says: “I would encourage people to set aside their differences though and a good rule of thumb is not to say or do anything that you would not like said or done to you.
“The fact that your relationship has broken down should not prevent you have respect for each other. It is helpful to talk about your problems, but think twice before putting your views on social media, criticising each other publicly or upsetting each other. If it is not going to help you communicate or resolve matters, is it worth doing?”
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