Here at Higgins Miller we specialise in family law, dealing with highly emotional issues such as wills and probate, adoption and children disputes. We’re keenly aware of the stress that dealing with matters of this kind can cause for our clients, and that’s why we always offer advice which blends legal expertise with support and empathy. Our experience has also taught us that many clients who feel that their marriage has come to an end plan a divorce after Christmas rather than before.
It’s easy to see why couples might opt for divorce after Christmas, particularly those with younger children. Protecting the children and giving them an enjoyable Christmas is one very good reason to plan a divorce after Christmas, as is a desire to avoid awkward questions over the festive period. Arranging a divorce after Christmas, however, doesn’t mean delaying taking the necessary steps to ensure that the process is handled as calmly and positively as possible.
The concept of a ‘positive divorce’ may seem counter intuitive, but we know from experience that many of the couples who come to us wanting a divorce after Christmas are still on relatively friendly and polite terms with each other. In cases like this the reality is simply that they have realised the relationship isn’t working any more and want to arrange the divorce after Christmas in a manner which delivers the best result for all parties involved.
First and foremost, we would advise any clients planning a divorce after Christmas to try and reach amicable agreement on as many aspects of their divorce as possible. While the process itself may be set out in law, the arrangements which each couple come to in terms of issues such as the welfare of any children and the financial impact of the split are in their own hands, unless an agreement can’t be reached, in which case they will have to ask a court to decide how to settle things fairly.
We always work to keep clients planning a divorce after Christmas out of court as it minimises the stress, time and expense the process involves. To this end, we would first advise clients to go through a process of mediation, which is not concerned with attempting to persuade the couple not to split, but is rather intended to provide a space in which they can work through the issues calmly and reach an amicable agreement.
As the law currently stands, a couple planning to divorce after Christmas will first have to agree on the grounds for divorce from the following options:
• Adultery – the spouse has had sexual intercourse with a person of the opposite sex.
• Unreasonable behaviour – this term covers a range of behaviours, from controlling behaviour and domestic violence to one spouse spending too much time focussing on work or a hobby. In many cases unreasonable behaviour is agreed as the grounds for divorce when the couple have simply drifted apart and no other concrete grounds apply.
• Living apart for more than two years – if spouses have lived apart for at least two years, and both agree to the divorce, then this can be the grounds for divorce after Christmas.
• Living apart for more than five years – if the spouses have not been living together for at least five years either partner can file for divorce after Christmas without the agreement of the other.
If a couple have mutually decided to divorce after Christmas the process is relatively simple, involving filing papers including the initial petition, gaining the decree nisi and finally converting this into the decree absolute, which marks the formal end of the marriage. Working with the experts at Higgins Miller will guarantee that each piece of paperwork is filed in the correct manner with the right court or divorce centre, and the process should take between four to five months. What may take a little longer is coming to agreements on financial matters and the care of children, although working calmly with the help of Higgins Miller will enable a couple parting on fairly amicable terms to come to agreements on aspects such as the following:
• How the cost of household bills will be met after the divorce
• Who will reside in the existing family home after the divorce and what will happen if it has to be sold
• How outstanding debts relating to the couple will be handled
• Dividing assets such as savings, investments and stocks and shares etc.
• How to divide items which have been purchased jointly, such as pieces of art, motor vehicles and items of furniture
• The amount of maintenance – if any – to be paid in the future to any children or either spouse
In most cases, a divorcing couple – particularly a couple who have opted for divorce after Christmas to protect their children – can be relied upon to put the welfare of those children first when coming to an amicable agreement. We always try to avoid treating spouses as ‘winners’ or ‘losers’ in financial terms, as this approach can often lead to conflict on other matters, such as child care. Instead, we offer advice which encourages agreement between spouses and sets out the agreement which they reach in written terms which are clear and robust.
If you want to ask about divorce after Christmas please call us on 0161 429 7251 or email us at [email protected]. We’ve recently passed our Cyber Essential accreditation, something which demonstrates our forward-thinking attitude and determination to remain ahead of the competition. The first 20-minute appraisal is provided free of charge, and we’ll give you the first appointment for a fixed fee, so you don’t have to worry about how much our advice is going to cost. If you want to explore our wider charging system then please take a look here.