New Year, new decision?

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Zsa Zsa Gabor recently passed but her life was as colourful as she was famous. In particular she will be remembered for the procession of nine husbands that she married. She is quoted as saying that she was always good at housekeeping and always kept the houses when she divorced!

Whilst that may have been the case in the USA, the divorce law in this country concentrates on bringing fairness into any divorce settlement but fairness does not always equate to equality. Many people fail to take advice before making any hard and fast decisions regarding settlement and a rush to sort matters and save money can often prove to be very costly indeed.

Faced by the cuts to legal aid and higher Court fees – the cost of applying for a divorce increased from £410 to £550 in March 2016 – through to the difficulty in affording to set up two homes, many couples are turning to increasingly desperate measures.

For some, it involves continuing to live together, even when officially separated, or even post-divorce, including so-called ‘bird nesting’ arrangements, where the children stay in the family home and the parents come and go.Others turn to online help or untrained mediators, only to discover later that they may have agreed financial or childcare outcomes that leave them at a significant disadvantage, when professional advice and representation could have reached a fairer outcome.

“The workload of the family lawyer is not reducing” says Stephen Williams, Head of Family at Ashtons Legal. “Dealing with problems arising from self-conducted negotiations, or where negotiations have been managed by an untrained intermediary, is becoming more common.”

“DIY can seem a sensible option when you’re trying to keep the lid on costs and everyone is saying its simple. Whilst it’s true that the application process itself is relatively straightforward, it is only one small part.It is not fool-proof – if you get it wrong it could lead to paperwork being sent back, which could mean additional court fees.”

Stephen adds: “It’s tough sorting things out between the two of you when emotions are running high, but talking things through is the best way and having someone help you with those conversations is a good idea.You should have expert input at some stage in the negotiations, to make sure that what you have agreed is fair and that neither party is pushing the other into a corner.This should be in line with what you could expect as a reasonable outcome if you had gone to court.”

Such encouragement for couples to talk reflects the findings of recent research in the United States.This suggests that couples who share their problems with each other are more likely to overcome difficulties than those who share problems with their friends.Reported in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, researchers found that sharing concerns with a friend increased the odds of a break-up by 33%, but talking it out with a partner doubled the chances of them staying together.

At Ashtons Legal we offer an initial free consultation on divorce matters and have two evening consultation evenings a month when a free of charge discussion about the potential divorce is available.


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