Marilyn Stowe in the Daily Mail: Divorce D-Day
December 31, 2013 13 comments
The following is an edited extract of an article by journalist Deni Kirkova which appeared in the Daily Mail earlier this week:
January is the busiest month for enquiries, with 30 per cent more enquiries than the second busiest month of the year – and that number has grown year on year.
A study found that almost a fifth (18 per cent) of British parents say they return from school holidays only to consider divorce, splitting up, separation or other measures.
Almost half (46 per cent) report that they come under increased financial pressures during school holidays, with women (49 per cent) feeling the pinch more than men (43 per cent).
Nearly a fifth (14 per cent) of parents across the country say the best time to start divorce proceedings is just after school holidays.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that the first day back to work in the New Year is nicknamed ‘Divorce D-Day’ and is traditionally family lawyers’ busiest day of the year.
Parents who aren’t married are twice as likely to feel the strain in their relationship (10 per cent) than the ones who have tied the knot (5 per cent).
Senior Partner Marilyn Stowe, author of Divorce & Splitting Up: Advice From a Top Divorce Lawyer, says: ‘For many people, Christmas continues to be an expensive, exhausting, miserable slog.
‘Parents take on the festive chores year in, year out because they feel that they must and combine this with around the clock childcare. By the time Christmas is over, tempers have frayed and the children are under-stimulated and bored, making for an explosive environment not least because there is so much alcohol consumed over Christmas.
‘Many of my clients have complained about the hard work over the holidays, cooking all the food and the pressure to spend money they haven’t got. Credit cards get filled, there is the never-ending rounds of relations and friends. No wonder some relationships crumble under all this added pressure. ‘
Top lawyer Marilyn Stowe’s ten classic divorce mistakes to avoid
- 1. Giving up at the first sign of trouble
I am frank with my clients, when they come to see me for the first time, about what divorce involves: the time, the money and the emotional cost. The grass elsewhere is not always as green as it may seem. Studies show that subsequent marriages are just as likely – more likely, in fact – to founder. If you are both committed to fighting for your marriage, can it be rescued?
2. Refusing help
If your partner insists the relationship has broken down and will not budge, pretending it isn’t happening or refusing to accept the decision is not going to help. You will only make the process more painful, stressful and expensive in the long run. I have known people to continue to harbour vain hopes of reconciliation, even to the point of ignoring the pile of solicitors’ letters building up beneath the letterbox.
This approach, while understandable from an emotional point of view, can take its toll on your finances and on your health. I often recommend professional counselling to clients: I have observed that when clients have been to counsellors, the results are often swift and truly amazing. Don’t sit there worrying.
3. Thinking that when it comes to family law, you know it all
The truth is that unless you are a trained family lawyer, you don’t. You wouldn’t pull your own teeth out, would you? Or conduct an appendectomy on yourself? Following the disappearance of much family law legal aid, we are seeing increasing numbers of people representing themselves in court, for financial reasons.
However there have always been those who have represented themselves out of choice. Why they think they can provide their own, sound legal counsel, I do not know. The legal issues can be complex. A divorce will affect your life, and your children’s lives, for years to come.
4. Thinking that legal aid is available
In most cases, it isn’t. New legislation, which came into force in April 2013, removed certain areas of law from public funding. Family law legal aid has now been limited to very few cases which involve domestic abuse. It is still available for mediation.
5. Panicking about legal fees
Instruct a solicitor in whom you have confidence, who can give you a guide from the first appointment as to what to expect and why, and reach an agreement as to how much you will be charged and how the fees are going to be paid.
6. Throwing money away
Always be pragmatic. Be ready to negotiate and to settle. On the other hand, if the other side isn’t playing ball and is intent on racking up costs, let the court take control and move to a hearing as fast as you can.
7. Withholding information
Don’t be tempted to conceal little details or keep things to yourself. Instead, be honest and upfront with your solicitor. Keeping things hidden can be a way of trying to retain control of the situation, but by trying to pull the wool over your lawyer’s eyes you are potentially putting yourself at a disadvantage. In order to do their job properly, your solicitor needs to know the truth.
8. Hiding money. Don’t even think about it
Forensic accountants who specialise in tracking down secret bank accounts and other assets are becoming more and more commonly involved in divorce cases. At our firm, for example, we have an in-house forensic accountancy team. Even if evidence of hidden finances are found after a divorce is finalised, an existing court order can be overturned retrospectively and the guilty party may be landed with a hefty bill.
9. Thinking verbal agreements count
Proof is always in writing. Even in amicable cases, don’t rely on something agreed verbally. Your spouse may promise one thing but, unless it is clarified in an official settlement, it won’t hold up in court. Remember, matters can easily turn nasty. This isn’t just about how the wedding presents are divided. It is your future life and can affect how pensions are shared or who gets the children over the Christmas holidays.
10. Settling your finances before you are ready
Timing is essential. Settle too early before all the assets have been fully investigated, and you may settle for too little. Settle too late and circumstances may have altered irrevocably. An economic recession or upturn can have major effects upon a case. And don’t settle because of financial pressure. Your lawyer can advise you through it all.
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