A guide to a smooth divorce as we approach good divorce week
21 November 2016
Ahead of ‘Good Divorce Week’ starting 28th November, Jacqueline Fitzgerald gives a number of strategies to try to manage a smooth divorce. The guidance is designed to help reduce animosity during the divorce, which could save unnecessary legal costs and prevent delays created by getting bogged down in vitriolic arguments.
‘Good Divorce Week’ will be promoted by Resolution, the organisation of family lawyers, at the end of November.
- Send the draft of the divorce petition to the other party
By sending a draft of the divorce petition to your partner prior to submitting it to the divorce centre, you can resolve disagreements before beginning proceedings. It should also prevent any sudden surprise objections from being introduced later in the process, which may derail the timetable for the divorce once the procedure begins. The divorce petition can almost be an agreed document.
Jacqueline Fitzgerald explains: “The other party should be aware of what is coming and be able to agree to the draft petition before any official steps are taken. This should prevent any disagreements flaring up further into proceedings, and enable you both to devote more time to discussing amicably the more important issues, such as children and money.”
- Unreasonable behaviour petitions should be kept benign
Unreasonable behaviour petitions – used to explain that your spouse has behaved in a manner such that you cannot be expected to live with them - should be kept undramatic. Ensure that any behaviour descriptions are put across in benign terms, helping to keep any causes for argument to a minimum.
Jacqueline Fitzgerald explains: “If your description of your partner in the unreasonable behaviour petition hits a nerve with your spouse, they may object to it, adding more time to the process.”
- Keep provocative conduct to a minimum
It is important to avoid conduct to which you know the other person will be particularly sensitive, to prevent any objections arising. Any provocative behaviour could cause a breakdown in proceedings making it more likely that points will be argued through expensive and time consuming court hearings, rather than reaching a negotiated compromise.
Jacqueline Fitzgerald adds: “What you don’t want to do is trigger a reaction of the other party in the divorce which slows down proceedings, and could increase the time and cost of the divorce as a whole.”
- Don’t name the third party in adultery petitions
If you are submitting an adultery petition as a reason for the divorce, don’t name the third party involved – known as the co-respondent. As long as your spouse admits to adultery, there is nothing to gain from naming the co-respondent.
Jacqueline Fitzgerald adds: “If you do name them, then the co-respondent will also be sent a copy of the petition, which will add time and cost to the process, and could potentially create more conflicts later in the process.”
- Express regret that the divorce has arisen
It will always be a sad realisation when your partner receives the divorce petition for the first time, so the first solicitor’s letter should express regret that the situation has come about. Showing empathy will help reduce animosity between the two parties. You also want to keep control of the process rather than leave it to the authorities, so stress that you’d like to resolve things amicably. This way, aspects such as access to children can be sorted without unnecessary court involvement.
Jacqueline Fitzgerald explains: “Showing regret about the situation and a genuine will that neither party should be affected more than it has to be, the divorce stands a greater chance of running smoothly.”