Talk Money Week 2020 and How to Divorce Well

The week of 9th – 13th November 2020 marked Talk Money Week. According to The Money and Pensions Service, Talk Money Week is designed to “increase people’s sense of financial wellbeing by encouraging them to open up about personal finance – from pocket money to pensions.”

Money worries are universal in society. This has been exacerbated further during the current global pandemic with many businesses suffering financial ruin and individuals suffering from reduced salaries and at worst, loss of jobs.

The Money and Pensions Service has produced a Talk Money Participation Pack which encourages and promotes having conversations about money with others and gives ideas about the ways in which these conversations can take place, whether in the workplace or at home, and in education as a few examples.

The guide explains that there is research to show that people who talk about money:

  • make better and less risky financial decisions
  • have stronger personal relationships
  • help their children form good money habits for life
  • feel less stressed or anxious and more in control

Financial worries can be a huge source of tension in a relationship and it may be one of the main reasons for the decline in the relationship. Yet more of an issue is when one party is not aware of the full extent of the other party’s financial difficulties and this only becomes known during the divorce process.

Openness and honesty about money during the relationship can help to alleviate tension and avoid some more difficult conversations further along the line.

The Participation Pack contains some useful tips about how to have these conversations at home emphasising that you need to listen as well as talk, understand your husband/wife/partner’s point of view and talk through matters in a respectful way. This will enable a constructive and meaningful conversation when it comes to divorce and separation rather than something more counter-productive which only serves to cause further tension and even worsen the situation.

To mark Talk Money Week, here are six top tips for getting through divorce and separation well:

Divorce reasonably

This is not just some karmic recommendation: it is strongly pragmatic and is likely to see your best way ahead from the misfortune of separation. For most people the biggest risk or challenge is not a poor allocation (of child’s time or financial resources or whatever else is the issue); it is the risk of being sucked into litigation, with its high cost, slow progress and the incredible demands that the process will make upon you. Even the judges at the end of the day, probably will not be pleased to see you. As the ever-quotable HHJ Wildblood QC said: “Do not bring your private law litigation to the Family court here unless it is genuinely necessary for you to do so. You should settle your differences (or those of your clients) away from court, except where that is not possible. If you do bring unnecessary cases to this court, you will be criticised, and sanctions may be imposed upon you. There are many other ways to settle disagreements, such as mediation.”

Yes, it is ironic that the process that is there to solve the problem really is (for many people) actually the problem, but it doesn’t stop it from being true. Divorcing reasonably gives you the best chance of avoiding this.

Focus on what matters and avoid pointing the finger

Almost everyone emerges from a relationship breakdown instinctively wanting to tell everyone how good they were and that mostly the problems were the other person’s fault. Avoid. The importance of recognising when you are communicating as an adult, and when you are communicating in a child-like state. All it does is generate the same in return and the swift descent into litigation (see point 1). We all use language to blame the other and, in many ways, the current legal process (the fault based divorce system) encourages this with its complexity and legalistic language. It is also pointless. Children issues are determined by the child’s welfare. Financial ones are almost always only about an almost monochrome analysis of the black of resources and the white of needs. Anything else is pointless because it is invisible in the legal analysis.

Disclose information fully and early

Your best chance of avoiding court may lie in preparing your case with a ‘weather eye’ on the court’s process. A careful preparation without errors is going to reassure everybody that there is absolutely no point in that court application. There is nothing that irritates a court more than incomplete disclosure. Gaps & omissions are usually found out and will usually lead the court to assume that there is even more than the information that you eventually come clean with. Doing it early means that the conversation can begin early and doing this before positions harden in the heat of the post separation dialogue is highly recommended.

Focus first on the children

They did not ask for this and are often the ones paying the highest price for it. Thinking through what it is like for them and then doing absolutely your best by them has never worked out badly for any parent. Be alert to the ripple effect of your communication on your children. Getting them through this transition well will be the thing that gives lasting rewards. Avoid getting stuck with differences of view: do the best you can but getting an early agreement that you can all just about live with is usually good enough. Things will change and move on. It is much more valuable than becoming embroiled in the long fight (which usually generates more fights over the next issue). For many parents they look back on the litigated process and see that the childhood (the thing that they were fighting over) has passed by whilst they were worrying over the next steps at court.

Be alert and get on with it

If you know that you need to separate then get on with it (if you are not so sure, lawyers are not going to help you come to the best decision without your input and confirmation). The worst situations are usually generated by cases running on for too long. Of course be sensitive to pacing, and holding back whilst a former partner catches up and gets over the rawness of it all but if you can each get to that point then don’t avoid dealing with the challenges this separation will throw out because they seem so difficult and let time go by. Passing months seem to accumulate issues and make solutions harder to find.

Get help to manage how frustrating this all is

Our reactions to separation and divorce are completely natural. That the family law process doesn’t seem to manage or deal with it will be infuriating to almost anybody going through the process. Leaving those feelings lying about is bound to infect how you manage the decisions and will undermine your aim to divorce reasonably. Getting personal support from a professional will be something that you will not regret and it is important to remember that this is not simple stuff to manage. Goodness, even divorce lawyers get divorce lawyers to help them when they divorce. So think carefully before you do it yourself. Never getting guidance at all is complete madness (like stepping out onto a shop or supermarket without any preparation (hand sanitiser) or protection (mask) in 2020). Even a meeting or two is not going to prepare you with the experience or knowledge that you are going to need to manage what lies ahead. Likewise, don’t be drawn into the “I will sort what I can and get legal help if I get stuck” trap, as by the time you have realised that you have problems needing help, you are likely to have cluttered the situation with much more problems to solve.

Our recommendation is: if you are keen (as we think you should be) to avoid the long process with lawyers going to and fro and costing you a fortune, then usually the best way of achieving that is to instruct a lawyer to help you do so. Communication and taking advice are key to finding solutions during this difficult time. We understand that divorce and separation can be incredibly difficult. We want to help, and we pride ourselves in doing this differently. To find out more about how we can help you through divorce and separation, contact us on 01273 956 270. Visit our family law section to view our  legal team and mediators.