Top 10 divorce pitfalls

On this, the eighth day of our #12DaysOfChristmas #12DaysOfFamily law blog series, we consider...

Top 10 divorce pitfalls

Going through a divorce can be stressful, hurtful and particularly so at this time of the year. The process of divorce itself can run smoothly however the division of assets and the handling of issues concerning children are frequently less straightforward.

At BLM we know how to represent with great care and sensitivity the interests of parents and their children whose family life becomes more complex as a result of divorce. So here are ten of the most common pitfalls we have witnessed in divorce proceedings and some ideas around how to combat them:

  • Putting yourself / yourselves before the children
  • Descending into acrimony
  • “Weaponising” the children
  • Failing to update your will
  • Trying to hide money or assets
  • Not thinking about the costs of the divorce
  • Failing to consider settlement
  • Not properly considering your pension assets
  • Losing sight of the bigger picture
  • Just choosing the first, not necessarily the most suitable, solicitor

Let’s look at these in some more detail.

Putting yourself / yourselves before the children
If you and your partner are in disagreement over the finances, or the family home, you can almost see your partner as the enemy. Focusing on how to combat your partner in such a situation may mean that the children are forgotten.

Descending into acrimony
Following on from the above, a descent into acrimony helps no-one, least of all the divorcing parties. Falling out can cause numerous problems. Costs can escalate, matters are often delayed and additional court applications may be made.

Divorce is never going to be a pain-free process. But, especially if young children are involved, it is important that the parties remain civil with each other, for the children’s sake and to make the process as smooth as possible.

"Weaponising” the children
It cannot be expressed enough how important it is not to use the children as pawns in a divorce. In England, any proceedings regarding the children will be conducted separately but UK-wide any discussions about finances should never involve the children.

Christmas is a difficult time of the year for divorcing couples but we encourage our clients to try to put aside their differences for the benefit of their children. And if they haven’t managed to agree Christmas arrangements that they are happy with this year that they start preparations early for next year’s arrangements.

Failing to update your Will
If you have a Will and don’t update it on divorce, you risk your assets being distributed unfavourably should the worst happen to you.

Trying to hide money or assets
Not only is it considered contempt of court if you are in proceedings but the chances are it will be found out. As part of financial proceedings, financial disclosure is carried out, and solicitors forensically examine both sides’ bank statements. Any anomaly will be queried and you will have to provide answers.

We encourage our clients to realise that honesty really is the best policy. If there is dishonesty then there is the risk of having orders set aside at a later date.

Not thinking about the costs of the divorce
If matters can be settled amicably, there is no reason for a divorce to be too costly an exercise. However, if matters become protracted and temperatures are raised, the costs can escalate. Ultimately, this reduces the matrimonial pot available for division, so make sure that you think carefully about costs throughout the case.

Failing to consider settlement
Just because the court process has started does not mean that you cannot reach a settlement out of court. Indeed, your solicitor will prompt you to consider this at various stages. It will often be quicker, cheaper and more amicable to settle out of court, if that is possible. You would be in more control of the outcome in the context of a settlement rather than a decision by the court.

Not properly considering pension assets
After the matrimonial home, pensions are often the biggest asset in a divorce. They should be considered very carefully and solicitor’s advice sought on whether a pension expert is required. More often than not the answer is yes. Despite the expense of obtaining an expert pension report, the benefits can be huge.

Losing sight of the bigger picture
It is important to remember that the divorce has come about because at least one party feels the marriage has irretrievably broken down. It’s now about finding the fairest, most amicable way to end the relationship, which is especially important if there are children involved. Remember that you loved each other once so you should treat each other with respect and kindness. If you have children together, you will need to find a way for a working relationship to continue after the divorce.

Just choosing the first, not necessarily the most suitable, solicitor
When you first speak to a solicitor about divorce, it will likely be an emotive experience. It is important that you are working with a solicitor who you trust and feel comfortable with.

To read the previous blogs in our 12 Days of Christmas series, please click on the links below:

Day 1: Self-care tips during a divorce

Day 2: Why you need a Will

Day 3: Full financial disclosure: England & WalesScotland

Day 4:Are pre-nuptial agreements legally binding?

Day 5:Christmas bubbles and childcare arrangements during the COVID-19 crisis: Scotland

Day 6: How much does a divorce cost? England & Wales; Scotland

Day 7: What happens to my inheritance if I divorce?

Disclaimer: This content does not present a complete or comprehensive statement of law, nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight issues that may be of interest to clients of BLM. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in any particular case.

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Partner and Head of Family Law, Scotland , Glasgow

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