What clients should know before starting divorce proceedings

Getting married can be really quick. A couple are in love, endorphins are flowing and life is good. Walking hand in hand, sharing and caring for each other – what could go wrong? Unfortunately, this heightened state of love that runs through the body does not lead to the best judgements being made. Marriage is a legal relationship one could say, just like a business, and business decisions are made after lengthy financial and economic considerations. However, the legal relationship that is formed by getting married has decisions being made on a loving, sharing, giving basis. What happens when those initial feelings fade and the question of separation or divorce arises? How does a disgruntled party seek to move forward when they find out, for example, their partner has been cheating on them?

What decisions am I talking about? Well, what do most couples do financially when they are building their nest? Often couples transfer property into joint names, give cash to each other and buy expensive ‘gifts’ for one another. Parents get involved and help fund the purchase of their first home together. They buy a dog and lovingly go for strolls in the park. These are common scenarios when couples are together. These are normal things that happy couples do. But what happens when they separate? How do they feel when one of the partners cheats on the other and they then have to try and sort out these financial matters? Did they put in writing their intention with these financial matters when everything was rosy? 

Such matters cause the biggest disputes at separation:

“My parents gave us a £10,000 ‘gift’ when we bought this house. They want it back”.

“But, it was a gift”. 

“No it wasn’t, it was a loan. They want it back.”

“I owned a flat before we were together and I sold it to buy the house we are in now. I want the equity from my flat back before we split the equity from the house.”

“I bought the dog, I want to take it with me”. 

“But you bought it for me, and it is me that usually takes it for a walk and I always pay the vet bills.”

So, what’s the solution? Consider these matters at the time, reach an agreement as to what you want to happen long term, and especially if you separate in the future. Write down your intentions and ideally ask your lawyer to draft a short agreement encompassing what you wish to happen. It seems cold and calculated to do this when separation isn’t even being considered but in so doing you can save thousands of pounds on legal disputes and will keep your sanity in tack when it comes to seeking a divorce. 

As I said at the beginning, getting married can be quick and easy, but getting divorced can be quite the opposite and cost a lot of money. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been separated 6 weeks or 16 years, if you don’t sort out the finances, no court in the land will grant a divorce. The solution is in having a well drafted agreement in place, dealing with financial matters. An agreement that allows both parties to ride off into the sunset financially and leaves the matters of divorce to follow on a no-fault basis, 12 months after they initially separated, with the consent of the other party. Oh, and I haven’t mentioned the children. The same applies. Again, you will not be able to get divorced if you cannot agree on how the children are to be cared for after you separate. That’s the subject for another day…

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