Divorce often carries connotations of negativity, sadness and failure. When we think of divorce and the termination of a marital union, it is rare to imagine the process as amicable, smooth, and non-adversarial. However, the idea of ending a marriage without confrontation is not an impossible feat and can most definitely be achieved. The biggest contributing factor to divorce and how it will play out, is the attitude and mentality that is applied throughout the proceedings. The impact that this can have on the outcome and process of one’s divorce is extensive.
While blaming the other party may feel cathartic in the short term, in the long run it can prove damaging as they sour relations between parties, preventing productive communications and raising costs as solicitors are required to intervene in even the most minor of disputes. It can also be difficult to maintain positive relations for the children involved in the relationship.
Before you start the process of divorce it is always worth taking a step back and checking that the marriage is truly over. This is not something you want to decide on the spur of the moment. Only you will know when you should get a divorce but it is always worth looking objectively at the situation before you start the process to make sure it is what you really want.
Until no fault divorce is introduced in April 2022, it is still necessary for the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage to be proved by one of the five grounds for divorce, three of which involve effectively blaming one party. While the petitioner needs to meet the threshold of behaviour that they cannot reasonably be expected to live with their spouse, this does not need to be a character assassination. Instead, many divorcing parties choose to rely on more anodyne examples of spousal relations gone sour, such as no longer socialising with one another, and a lack of intimacy or meaningful conversations. Where possible, it may be helpful to involve your spouse in the process so that they do not feel blindsided by your unilateral action. For example, you may choose to send your spouse a draft divorce petition for them to amend and approve prior to filing with the court. This also avoids the shock of a divorce petition landing on their doormat out of the blue.
Your understanding of your spouse and their temperament will be invaluable in guiding your solicitor’s approach to proceedings. By predicting how they will react to different eventualities will help to avoid unnecessary conflict. Indeed, in certain circumstances, it may be advisable to propose that your spouse file the divorce petition themselves, if you feel that affording them this element of control would make them more amenable going forwards.
Of course, this will not be possible in every situation and jurisdiction disputes and situations involving domestic violence, for example, will require more unilateral action to secure your position.
The process of getting divorced is split into two separate elements which run alongside one another. The first is the process of divorce itself, which brings your marriage to an end. The second is the financial process in which finances are divided and the parties are set up for the future.
The divorce process itself is a largely administrative process and the divorce petition will have no bearing on the financial proceedings, meaning that it does not matter who petitions, or what is written in the particulars. However, the financial process (as well as the arrangements for any children) is much more complex and requires negotiation between the parties to reach an agreement. Should the parties fail to agree how finances are to be divided, the outcome will then be at the discretion of the court, ultimately decided by a judge at the last of three hearings. Evidently, it is in the parties’ interests to communicate constructively as much as possible and not to derail any potential progress on the financial side with explosive particulars of behaviour in the divorce petition.
Therefore, it is advisable to pick your battles and understand your own non-negotiables, as well as those of your spouse. Conceding in certain areas may help you gain in others, as well as managing the level of conflict between you and your spouse.
When beginning divorce proceedings, if an amicable experience is at the heart of the parties’ desires, then the approach taken is key to the conclusion. For the parties to begin on the right track and have a cordial experience, they need to think about the mentality and attitude they are going to have throughout the proceedings. Not only does this mean not apportioning blame for the breakdown of the marriage but it also entails understanding both side’s point of view and taking into considerations each other’s desires and feelings towards that breakdown.
A good place to start if looking to end a marriage amicably, is to understand what is most important for you and your spouse. This includes considering the impact on your spouse not only throughout the proceedings but also in the future when you begin to live separate lives.
Where there are disputes, a proactive and positive approach may be assisted by the use of mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution proceedings. By beginning in a non-adversarial way, it will allow both parties to confront the issues they have had within the marriage and approach them in a less destructive way. This will give both parties the time to think about what they would like to achieve, in a safe environment, where costs are kept low, and the settlement is in the hands of both parties.
Additionally, divorce is about your future life and not your past. Although it cannot be denied that there are often past events that have led to the breakdown of a marriage, to keep the proceedings amicable, it is key to ensure that those events are recognised, not ignored, but approached in a way to find a resolution for them rather than to debate them. This involves avoiding acrimony and focusing on moving forwards with your lives as separate individuals.
Finally, it is important to remember that marriage breakdowns impacts everybody in the family. The more the parties can work together, the better the outcome is likely to be. This idea of working collectively will also help to reduce costs, as well as the resulting animosity that can accompany huge legal fees. Parties need to identify and adhere to each of their goals and by doing so they will create a more positive relationship affording the possibility of an amicable divorce.