It’s so often uncertainty that can be the most unsettling thing when it comes to divorce. The cost of living crisis is not helping that, causing understandable anxiety for some.
Now more than ever, people considering the next step in ending their relationship are thinking about how they might be able to afford contributing financially towards two households - plus their legal fees - with a smaller pot of cash.
These are practical, understandable concerns, which need to be addressed to allow couples to move on. After all, one of the worst things in a relationship which has reached the end of the line is for husbands and wives to feel as though they are being forced to stay together.
The turn of the year - if you believe all that you read - is a point where many take stock about their marriages and the future.
If you are, the more certainty you can bring to your situation, the better. And there’s growing recognition, among lawyers and the public, of the fact that the best, most cost-effective way of achieving that is by couples talking and agreeing as much as possible themselves before bringing the lawyers in.
Of course, every divorce is unique, and we know that talking with a partner you are separating from may not be easy. But, if you can reach a settlement without protracted legal discussion - or ending up in a courtroom - it will be better on every level.
If you can come to an amicable, negotiated agreement, it means you have much more control over events than if you were in the hands of a court and a sheriff who doesn’t know you or your circumstances and who can impose a decision which you may not like or feel as though is in your own interests.
This allows creativity too. If you can reach agreement by negotiation, you can take account of circumstances such as tax implications, which can sometimes be significant. You can structure things in a way that would minimise these or maximise the way your money is invested.
You can achieve a solution which suits both parties, in the immediate and longer terms. Someone might need an income, another might need a capital sum. You can structure things in a certain way. One person might be older and want to keep their pension assets. Another might have a lower salary so want more capital. You can balance it overall if you sit and work together.
One of the ways in which my colleagues and I are helping to achieve this is through collaborative law, where both parties work together to find a positive solution. This is particularly useful on specific, contentious points or where complex assets are concerned.
There’s little formal correspondence. It’s simply getting around a table, with your lawyers, and talking.
What’s good about the collaborative process is that it’s inter-disciplinary. You can have people such as life coaches and financial advisors coming in. If there are emotional hotspots causing a blockage to sensitive financial negotiation, for example, this provides a forum for the issues to be aired, recognised and dealt with. Then everyone can move on. While these emotional hotspots are there, it’s often very difficult to move forward.
For many couples, the key thing about their divorce is not what the settlement is on paper, but what it looks like from a practical point of view.
If you manage to stay out of court, and keep it collaborative at the point of negotiation, you can control the outcomes and be as creative as you want to be. If you end up in court, you lose that.
There’s nothing people hate more than being told something’s going to happen without them having control over it, so talking amicably is so important, from the moment at least one partner decides they want to separate. You need to try and bring the other person on the journey with you - from understanding what assets you have, to knowing what each of you would like a settlement to look like.
If everyone buys into what that practical picture is going to look like at the end, you have a far greater chance of that happening - and at a more affordable rate.
Nina Taylor is a Partner in the Family Law team at Lindsays