Many of us are in a state of shock when we start the divorce process. You don't really take it all in at first. Its not until much later that you can look back and start to put it all in perspective, and draw out some key learnings.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
If you are unfortunate enough to get involved in an acrimonious fight over a financial settlement then be prepared for a long ride, it often takes over 12 months and can be even longer from the divorce petition to the final agreement on a Consent Order or a Court Order imposed at the Final Hearing.
Keep a lid on solicitor’s costs
With the shellshock of divorce many people head straight for a solicitor, but their time is expensive (one hundred and fifty pounds an hour is typical). It really pays to manage your solicitor costs carefully. Request a first ½ hour meeting free of charge – don’t take over this time. During this meeting ask for an estimate of costs to get to each major stage, first hearing, FDR and Final Hearing. If you decide to go ahead with that solicitor then before you have any other meetings set a budget and detail this in writing to the solicitor. Define that you do not wish charges to exceed X hundred pounds before the first hearing. As the case progresses set the solicitor a budget for each stage.
Because a solicitor is often the first port of call, there is a tendency for the default process to be negotiation between the two parties via their respective solicitors progressing to court hearings if there is a failure to reach an early agreement. Mediation is an underused option and it has significant benefits in that it can achieve a result with less cost and less conflict. This can reduce the financial and emotional impact of divorce.
Divorce forums are a great comfort
Divorce is a difficult topic to discuss with family and friends, but there is great comfort to be had from discussing your concerns with others. Internet divorce forums such as the Wikivorce Divorce Forum can offer tremendous support. As long as you remain aware that the source of advice is not from legally trained persons, and that there are some contributors with an axe to grind (you’ll recognize them) then the majority of forum members are willing to offer you the benefit of their experience at no cost. As long as you are sensible then you can get some very good guidance and moral supports on forum sites.
No one seems able or willing to answer the question “How Much?”
Before long you will be asking the big question: How much will I get? In your naivety you will assume that if you give them a few details, someone will be able to tell you what represents a fair deal. How wrong can you be? Nobody, certainly not your solicitor will commit to a figure. The problem is that the law is far from clear, it is a set of principles and precedents that change over time as new judgments and appeals on certain test cases add extra, often contradictory layers to the already ambiguous law. However, Wikivorce plan to achieve a real breakthrough with their Divorce Calculator due for beta release in April 2007. Though not perfect, this will at least give you a free and objective opinion on a likely range of outcomes given your specific circumstances.
There are winners and losers
The winners are the couples who amicably reach an early agreement on a financial settlement, and the solicitors/barristers/investigators and forensic accountants of those who don’t. The losers are the sadly the kids, as well as the couples whose fight goes all the way to the Final Hearing.
Financial Planning is under-valued
You could easily go through the whole process for petition to final hearing and no-one ever mentions financial planning. Everyone is totally focused on the fight over the cake, no-one stops to think about the smart financial options. Maximising your entitlement to benefits, child tax credits and mortgage interest payments can have a huge impact on your available funds. Capital gains tax can be an issue if you delay property transfers for too long. If you can work together and agree a Consent Order based on smart financial tactics you can end up both being much better off than living with a bluntly enforced court order.
Hurt and anger cuts deep
The anger and hurt felt by someone who feels betrayed by the person that they thought was their life partner is immeasurable. The hate for someone you once loved can be so much more intense that the hate for people you always disliked. Dealing with solicitors and court forms whilst in the midst of emotional turmoil is an extremely stressful experience. It is important to seek support if depression sets in, from friends, family, your GP and/or organizations such as resolution, relate and the various men’s/women’s support groups..
There is loads of information, and yet no answers to your questions
There is a lot of information about divorce on the web, but it is difficult to find, being written in very different styles (from magazine articles to appeal court rulings) and is scattered across numerous web sites. Whatever information you track down never quite seems to provide the answers to your questions. You begin to feel that you need to become a self educated family lawyer to make any sense out it. This is where the Wikivorce LIbrary will help. It will take a little while to develop, but it will ultimately be a single source of all of the critical information relevant to people going through divorce in England and Wales.
There is life after divorce
At times during the divorce process it feels like your whole life is destroyed. You have lost the partner you once loved, your may face limited contact with your children and you will both likely be significantly worse off due to the expense of running two households. But time as they say is the great healer and you will find your way out of the gloom and make a new life for yourself.