Here we give some help and tips on how to overcome obstacles
and agree on a settlement
Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first and the lesson afterwards. Unless you have been through a previous divorce or experienced one at close hand, it is difficult to realise that there are a set of obstacles which may well hinder the chance of an agreement. When you are both riding the roller coaster of divorce, it is easy to be distracted from your main objective. You could be so wrapped up in the legal struggle that you forget to give some thought to how you are both feeling and therefore how you are able to cope with this process. It could be worthwhile spending a few moments to look at the following list of trouble spots.
Why is my spouse so emotional?
Feelings of guilt, anger and blame are very common in all stages of this process. If you're both travelling this route at different speeds, then it is quite likely that decision-making is going to be quite difficult. When emotions are running high, reasoning will be at an all time low.
What can I do?
Be patient and, above all, try to understand. Have you come to terms with the end of this marriage? Are you both being honest? Have a go at seeing the other's point of view and slow down. Perhaps counselling could assist you, alone or together, to discuss the end of this relationship. You could also read through our Emotions section.
Why is my partner so fearful?
Insecurity and fear, whether real or imagined, are very powerful negative emotions. If your spouse suffered from periods of low self-esteem during the marriage, then these feelings can be accentuated during the divorce process. A lack of experience in dealing with people and making important decisions can lead to an unequal balance in negotiating power.
How can I help?
Try not to be verbally aggressive, 'I demand, I want, It is my right...'
This could make your partner go to ground or at the other extreme, lash out. If you are feeling like the victim, seek legal advice and then you may be able to consider mediation as discussed in our previous article. You should both keep communication open and remember that any small act of kindness could help your family to accept the situation and move on. Remember how you used to feel about each other. Love once lived here.
What about the children?
Shouldn't they know what is going on?
No, not really. They should only be aware that the family's arrangements are changing and that you are both trying to sort things out. You could tell them that you are not feeling at your best and that things will get better. Above all, they should be reassured that they continue to be loved by both parents and always will be. Be careful not to make them take sides. They do not need to know about all the details - things which children should not hear.
How can I help them?
By allowing them to be children. Seek out adult company and you could read through Children/Parents sections where you will find a site for children, a larger one for teenagers and articles and places to look for support for parents. There are recommended reading lists according to age from pre-school to adult.
I can't cope with the legal system
But you must. Ignorance and misinformation about the legal system and your rights can make you feel even more insecure and vulnerable. Misinformation can come from well-meaning friends comparing your situation to others and even from solicitors who are not qualified in family law. Expectations can therefore be easily distorted or fears increased.
What can I do?
Information is power. It is up to you and no-one else to read up on the legal system and consult a good family law solicitor. Do not be bullied. Do not rely on anyone else's advice. You will always and we stress always need your own family law solicitor. Each spouse needs to consult a different firm.
How should I handle my solicitor?
If you think that he is there to fire bullets on your behalf, then think again. The legal process is there to bring your marriage to a legal end. The legal process is not a vehicle for righting wrongs nor for seeking revenge. It is not there for point scoring. All your grievances will have been heard before and you have to look at the big picture, forget the past and work out an agreement for the future.
But I need to be heard!
Yes, this is part of the process and you must tell your story but talking to your solicitor about non legal matters will not help you. Apart from the expense, he is not your friend nor emotional confidant. Talk to your friends and family or try a spell of counselling. Or you can email Divorce Aid and look back in our Emotions section for sources of support.
My spouse and I have agreed to separate. Can you offer any advice? Liz Tait of Irwin Mitchell Solicitors in Manchester replies:
In terms of some basic Do’s and don’ts at this difficult time, I would recommend the checklist used by the Solicitors Family Law Association now called Resolution:
• Remember that although you may no longer be together, you will
both remain the children’s parents. Put the children first
• Keep the door open to dialogue
• Substitute politeness if love has gone
• Be aware of the positive benefits of counselling in helping you cope with your changing relationship with your partner
• Be ready to compromise – an agreement between you is more likely to work than an order imposed by the court
• Tolerate threats or violence. Ask your solicitor how the law
can protect you
• Sign or agree to anything without speaking to your solicitor first
• Let your partner undermine your confidence in your solicitor
• Expect the best of your partner or of yourself – aspire to reasonableness
• Leave confidential documents where they can be found
My friend had a most acrimonious divorce, court costs were high and discussions about the children are strained making contact handover difficult. How can I deal with matters so this doesn’t happen to me?
Whilst never an easy option, I firmly believe it is not divorce itself that does the damage but the way you choose to divorce. There are a number of options available which can be easier, quicker and cheaper that the traditional court process.
Mediation and collaborative process are two ways in which problems
arising upon separation can be solved - by talking – working together
to work it out. Ask your solicitor about these alternative options.
Stop asking your solicitor to send off inflammatory letters
If he is a member of Resolution - he will have to adhere to a strict code of practice. If you are on the receiving end of upsetting letters or affidavits (sworn statements), it is hard not to respond in kind. Be guided by your solicitor. If negotiation and mediation fail and the case goes to court, this type of letter will not reflect well on the writer. At the end of the day, only you and your spouse know what really happened. Although many hurtful things may be said about you, try to be strong and firm but not vindictive. It is only in very extreme cases that conduct is taken into account. There is no real advantage in discussing each other's behaviour in minute detail except for establishing grounds for divorce.
If you have children, you will have to co-operate as parents. Think about the future. Concentrate on moving on.
"Conflict builds character. Crisis defines it."