Good communication is the key to a smooth divorce process, says Osbornes Law partner Lisa Pepper
Revenge comes in many guises. An acrimonious court battle taking a year or more, with the costs in the hundreds of thousands, doesn’t always feel like a win at the end. For some, a subtler approach wins the day. If there has been an affair and an ex feels guilty, that can be advantageous in negotiations.
It can pay to respond in a dignified manner, but make it clear what you want. If you can strike at a time your ex is feeling guilty, you might be able to get more than a court would give you. Let’s face it, passion doesn’t last forever: for many it’s about six months.
Your ex might just be regretting the loss of family life and reflecting on how decently you behaved when you found out about their betrayal. They may start to feel the grass isn’t greener. Is there no sweeter revenge (provided of course you have got a good financial deal)? Give some thought to what your ex is like at the outset of your divorce.
What has been the best way to elicit a favourable response? Whatever way your case progresses, whether that is in mediation, arbitration or court, what do you want your life to look like when you come out the other side?
It can be hard to think like that at first, but as therapists say, endings are beginnings. I had a big break-up in my mid-thirties and feared I’d lose my home and would never have children. I came through it and am now a mum. That experience has made me better able to understand what my clients are going through. Any solicitor can talk to you about Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act being the factors that the court takes into account, as well as the Court’s approach to inherited assets, businesses and pre-acquired wealth.
In my experience, what clients want is value added beyond that: they want advice on strategy. For example, is there an issue with regards to inherited assets? Can the money be earmarked for the children as a compromise? If a property is sold can a ‘top slice’ be used as an education fund?
It’s not always possible to settle every case without recourse to court proceedings. There are a number of situations where in a very first meeting I’ll say to a client: ‘Let’s not mess about and waste costs – you are going to need a court timetable to force progress here and you are going to need a judge to impose the answer on your ex.’
There can be vile correspondence – letters being emailed three or four times a day from the other side. The trouble with that is, if the other lawyer responds in a similar fashion, there is a big falling-out between the lawyers. Lawyers should remember that it’s not about us! As an experienced mediator, I bring those skills to every case and will work hard to achieve an out-of-court settlement if that’s what my client wants.
Mediation can often be worth a try. The difficulty is that usually the clients attend without their lawyers, and that can leave a client feeling quite vulnerable. If there are complex disclosure issues, I consider it unwise to proceed with mediation. I suggest anyone whose marriage is in difficulties should have a ‘what if ’ meeting with a family law solicitor.
There are things you didn’t know you didn’t know, and steps you are likely to be able to take now to protect yourself should the worst happen. There is life after divorce, but it can be a rocky road to get there. You need to feel you have a safe pair of hands and absolute trust in the professional you instruct.
Tel: 020 7485 8811
Image by David Harrison
This piece first appeared in the latest edition of Spear’s magazine, on newsstands now. To buy a copy and subscribe, click here.