Getting a divorce doesn’t come with an instruction manual.
Which means, it’s very easy to make mistakes.
The divorce process itself is complicated – and one that you’re not likely to have much practice at. After all, you’re probably doing it for the first and (hopefully) only time in your life. Throw in the emotional turmoil of separation and it’s not surprising you feel overwhelmed.
But we’re here to help. At St Helens Law, our divorce solicitors have countless years of experience in this area.
We can guide you step-by-step through this difficult process, offering sage divorce advice along the way. And to get you started, here we take a look at some of the most common pitfalls that people encounter – and share some of the main do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.
The do’s and don’ts of divorce proceedings
A guide for absolute beginners.
Seek the help of a divorce solicitor
One of the biggest mistakes people make is taking the DIY route.
Usually, this is an attempt to save money on legal fees – but it often backfires.
Divorce is a complex process that involves a lot of paperwork. From financial declarations to childcare arrangements, there’s a lot to sort out. And without a professional to look after their best interests, most people who choose to represent themselves walk away without a fair outcome.
Perhaps you could call us biased…but, enlisting the help of an experienced divorce solicitor is almost always the best option. At the very least, you should seek initial advice and ensure you’re clear on the options available – before hastily agreeing to anything or signing any documents.
Get a financial order
Think the decree absolute severs all financial ties?
Wrong – it’s a common misconception amongst first-time divorcees.
To ensure a clean break, you must also apply for a financial order. This cuts all monetary obligations and prevents your ex-spouse from making any further financial claims in future (e.g. if you came into money or their circumstances changed). Therefore, it’s a crucial step that you can’t afford to miss.
Again, applying for a financial order is a technical process – and it’s important to get it right. So in most cases, it’s worth recruiting the help of a solicitor who specialises in this area of the law.
Plan your future finances
Another common slip is agreeing to an unequal distribution of assets.
Divorce is bound to affect your finances – likely for the worst. Therefore, it’s essential to be clear-eyed and have a good understanding of how your financial situation is going to change.
How much do you actually need to start afresh – on your own – and be financially secure?
Find out how much your various assets are worth, and don’t undercut yourself. There’s no point asking for 40% or 50% of the total value if you have no idea what this percentage equates to in real terms. Work with a solicitor and financial advisor and plan carefully for your future.
Pensions are often overlooked during divorce proceedings.
However, aside from the marital home, they’re usually your next biggest asset – and upon separation, there can often be an imbalance of pension provision between you and your ex-spouse.
Although it’s a complex area, various options are available to ensure this valuable asset is shared fairly – and it’s possible to seek advice on what may best suit your circumstances. So, be sure to explore your pension rights properly and ensure you have the means to support yourself later in life.
Start a new relationship
Already moving on with your life? Not so fast.
Starting a new relationship – or setting a date to re-marry – before the decree absolute is finalised is usually a bad idea. Not only does it complicate the divorce proceedings, you’ll also lose your right to apply for a financial order – meaning you won’t be able to rely on the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.
Instead, any applications would need to be made under the ‘Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996’, which is much stricter and may leave you without your rightful share.
Our advice? Be patient, claim what you’re owed first and then start to look to the future.
Offset capital assets against child maintenance
This is another commonplace divorce mistake that it’s important to be aware of.
Often, divorcees will be asked to provide a lump sum – or a higher share of the marital assets – rather than paying ongoing child maintenance payments. But the answer is always no.
It may seem like a good deal – but, in reality, it’s a terrible idea.
Where children are concerned, there’s no such thing as a completely clean break. Even if you pay the lump sum, there’s nothing to stop your ex-spouse from claiming child maintenance in the future. And regardless of the agreement, this is something you would then have to pay by law.
No refunds. No re-negotiations. You’ll simply be left out of pocket.
Take legal advice from friends or family
There’s no denying, the support of friends and family can be invaluable during difficult times.
However, don’t take everything they say as gospel. Perhaps they know you well? Or have been through a divorce themselves in the past? But that doesn’t mean they’re an expert in your current situation. And their advice may well be outdated – or tainted by personal experience!
Accept their emotional support, but only accept guidance from a qualified divorce solicitor. Your relative may have your best interests at heart, but we know how to secure the best outcome.
Apply to the court at the first hurdle
Tempted to apply to court straight away? This is another huge no-no.
If you’ve been treated unfairly by your ex-spouse, it’s easy to assume the court will see your point of view – and resolve the dispute in your favour. But the fact is, the judge doesn’t care about your feelings.
Applying to court should only ever be a last resort.
Not only can it be emotionally draining (and expensive!), you’re putting important life decisions into the judge’s hands – and it won’t necessarily go your way. Instead, it’s usually much more beneficial to try alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation and arbitration.
Divorce advice from our trusted solicitors
If you’re about to start divorce proceedings and are worried about falling foul of these common divorce mistakes, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our specialists.
We have a team of experienced family divorce lawyers, who are knowledgeable and experienced in this area. And we’re ready and waiting to guide you through the process – side-stepping any potential pitfalls – and ensuring you receive the best possible settlement.
For tailored divorce advice, the first step is to contact us.
Arrange a free initial consultation by either filling out our online form or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or if you have any questions and would like to chat with our divorce solicitors directly, you’re welcome to call us at any time on 01744 742360.