Parenting can be challenging, especially when there is uncertainty in the home due to an impending separation and likely divorce.

This year, National Children’s Day falls on Sunday 15 May. The aim of the day is to promote a healthy childhood and the need to protect the rights and freedoms of children and young people. To support this important campaign, we wanted to give you some advice on how to help your children deal with separation. We also explain how the new no-fault divorce law (explained in our blog HERE) will benefit families.

You and your spouse have decided that the relationship has broken down irretrievably. What now?

Every child handles separation differently. Their behaviours may depend on their age and whether learning that you’re splitting up will come as a shock or if they were aware that your relationship with your spouse is unhappy.

We advise that both of you speak to all your children at the same time initially, keeping in mind that conversations need to be age-appropriate.

Plan your first conversation carefully to deliver a consistent message and be mindful of your body language, as children can quickly pick up on any negativity. They may also mirror your behaviour, so try to stay calm.

There is nothing worse than seeing your child distressed but creating an environment where they can show their emotions is positive. Reassure them that feeling sad, angry or upset is normal and perfectly OK.

Here are some pointers if you’re not sure what to say:

  • Tell them that you both still love them very much, but your feelings for each other have changed
  • Acknowledge that the situation is challenging for them too
  • Explain that they are in no way at fault
  • Make them aware that circumstances will change, but you will still be a family and both of you will play significant parts in their lives
  • Promise that things will get easier in time

Naturally you will worry about your children, but one way to alleviate that is to take time to allow them to share their feelings and listen to them without interrupting. That way, you can act accordingly rather than trying to guess what is going on. This will also make children feel like they matter more and emphasise that you’re still emotionally available to them.

Adjusting to co-parenting

Once separated, your role will evolve. Everyone will have to adjust to new routines and living arrangements, with parental, social and financial changes.

Communicating clearly and regularly with your ex-partner is key to ensuring each knows their responsibilities and establishing a routine that will help children settle as quickly as possible.

It may be wise at this stage to seek help from a mediator who will help you consider aspects you may not have thought about. They will also facilitate constructive conversations to help you plan the practical elements of co-parenting. This may include helping you agree to specific rules at both homes and planning special days, such as birthdays and Christmas. You can find out more about mediation HERE.

Make sure you tell schools, nurseries and clubs what is happening at home so they can look out for, and deal with, any changes in mood or behaviour.

Making decisions for and with your children

One of the toughest aspects of parenting through a divorce is knowing how and when to involve your children when planning their future.

Although it’s essential to allow them to voice their feelings and concerns, some decisions can only be made by adults. You need to be careful not to overburden your children with responsibility.

We’ve outlined some of the key decisions you need to make to help you consider where to set boundaries.

Decisions you could make with your children:

  • New leisure activities/hobbies to keep their mind off the separation
  • Picking out new clothes if part of your fresh start involves a more grown-up or trendy look
  • How they would like their bedroom or personal space decorated and furnished if they are to be spending time in a new house as well as the family home
  • Getting a new pet to give them something to focus on and nurture
  • A holiday location so you can all relax and have a good time

Decisions you could make on behalf of your children:

  • Living arrangements
  • Which school they attend
  • How time will be divided between parents
  • Where they will spend Christmas, birthdays and other special days. Giving them the option of choosing for themselves is like asking them to pick their favourite parent, so you should avoid that
  • Any potentially contentious or highly emotive decisions where you need to protect your child’s emotional wellbeing

Decisions you can discuss together, depending on the age of the child and your parenting style:

  • House rules such as how much screen time they’re allowed and what time they go to bed
  • Frequency of treats and unhealthy snacks
  • Rewards for doing housework

How no-fault divorce is better for children too

Children cope much better with parents separating if the agreement is amicable.

Under the new divorce laws, couples don’t need to assign blame to either party whereas previously a reason for divorce would have been cited, even if the spouses were on good terms.

This caused unnecessary bitterness from the start of the process and the negative impact on children was huge. We’re relieved that divorce law has now been reformed to better reflect why modern marriages fail.

It’s important to look after yourself

Separating is a complex and difficult time, so relieve pressure on yourself by accepting that it may take a while for things to settle down. Think of it as a journey on a long, new path rather than a single event.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it as the more supported you feel, the more you will be able to support your children. We can help with the legal aspects and guide you on your rights. Also, seeing a therapist or coach may help you feel more positive and better able to control your emotions.

Contact us

To request a consultation, please complete the form on our home page. Alternatively, you can get in touch by calling us on 0116 340 0094 or emailing hello@agrlaw.co.uk.

Back in March 2021, our blog ‘No-fault divorce – untying the knot without playing the blame game’ talked about the long-awaited reforms being made to English and Welsh divorce law.

We explained how the campaign to modernise divorce and separation proceedings through the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill had run for several years. Championed by Resolution, the community of family justice professionals of which AGR Law is a member, Royal assent was granted in June 2020 and the new law will come into force on 06 April 2022. It’s the biggest reform of divorce law in almost 50 years.

The main changes were:

Prior to no-fault divorce Now
A reason for divorce would have been cited, blame apportioned (and in some cases evidence required) even if the spouses are on amicable terms Couples can now legally separate without assigning blame to either party for their relationship breaking down. Evidence is no longer required. Domestic abuse victims will no longer have to produce statements and revisit the trauma they suffered
Apportioning blame often created unnecessary bitterness and resentment from the very beginning of the divorce process 

 

The process will now be less damaging to divorcing couples and their families as confrontation will be minimised and talks more constructive. This will allow them to focus on more important areas, such as children and finances
One spouse needs to issue divorce proceedings against the other Couples now have the option of making a joint divorce application
One or more of the following five reasons (also known as ‘facts’) had to be given as proof that the marriage has broken down: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion or separated for two (if both agree to divorce) or five years (if one disagrees) Divorce will now be more reflective of why modern marriages fail. Going forward, couples only need to produce a statement saying that the marriage has broken down irretrievably
The language used was outdated and unclear Terms will be simpler: 

  • The ‘petitioner’ will be called the ‘applicant’
  • The ‘decree nisi’ will be called a ‘conditional order’
  • The ‘decree absolute’ will be called a ‘final order’
Divorces typically take three to four months minimum if they are straight forward and both parties agree to terms. Delays, errors, contesting and overburdened courts often meant divorcing took much longer 

 

A period of reflection has been introduced to allow couples more time to consider their decision. It will begin on the date of application and last a minimum of 20 weeks when the conditional order can be made. There will then be at least six weeks between the conditional order and final order
One party begins proceedings and their spouse can contest the reasons The concept of contesting a divorce has been removed

What is the new no-fault divorce process?

Broadly speaking:

  • One or both parties apply, citing that the marriage has broken down irretrievably
  • After a 20-week period of reflection, the applicant or couple decide whether they wish to proceed
  • The court makes a Conditional Order
  • After a further six weeks the court can make a Final Order

Although the process may take around 26 weeks, it’s likely to be longer to allow for negotiations, processing and administration.

Can anyone get a no-fault divorce?

Married couples (including same sex married couples) and civil partners will be able to apply for a no-fault divorce to end their marriage or dissolution to conclude their civil partnership.

The new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will amend the existing legislation around separation in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and the Civil Partnership Act 2004.

Do I still need a divorce solicitor?

With divorcing being more amicable and less complicated, and more of the process done online (read more about that HERE), we wanted to outline our role in divorce cases and explain why it’s still crucial to have legal representation to guide you.

As lawyers representing you in a divorce case we can, through mediation:

  • Prepare documents for court
  • Advise on financial matters including the family home, pensions, savings and investments
  • Advise you on what you are and are not entitled to and help you negotiate
  • Advise disputing parents on childcare, contact and maintenance payments

If an agreement cannot be reached through mediation, we will:

  • Instigate court proceedings and represent you
  • Prepare cases for presentation to the judge
  • Communicate with your spouse via their solicitor if conversation is not possible between you

Why is legal representation important?

Getting divorced is a highly emotional time, even if you and your spouse agree it’s the right course of action and your relationship is amicable. There is a great deal to consider, and your state of mind and any pressure from friends and family can cloud judgement. This may make it difficult for you to manage constructive conversations and deal with the practicalities, such as contact with children and paying the bills.

A divorce is legally binding. Once terms are agreed upon and you’re separated in the eyes of the law they cannot be altered, so it’s imperative to get paperwork in order and make sure every detail is considered. There are also legal consequences to changing your marital status. For example, your tax and pension may be affected.

Our experienced team deals with divorce cases every day, so will be able to support you and offer the best possible legal advice. We also understand that going through a divorce can be an exhausting and uncertain time, especially if understanding the new laws add to the feeling of overwhelm.

Contact us

To find out more about no-fault divorce, email hello@agrlaw.co.uk or call us on 0116 340 0094

We’ve previously mentioned that our approach to family law is to use mediation when couples are separating, but as it’s Family Mediation Week we wanted to explain what mediation is and how it works in more detail.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a process used to help divorcing couples plan their separation constructively. It can also be used to alter arrangements as circumstances change, for example as children grow older.

The role of a mediator is to help you find workable, practical solutions that suit all parties. They won’t tell you what you should and shouldn’t do, nor will they impose solutions or take sides. Instead, they act as a neutral third party, keeping the conversation moving forward, guiding you both and assisting with negotiation until terms can be agreed upon.

Why use mediation?

When you use a mediator, arrangements are tailored for your individual situations. Both parties have their say in a non-confrontational, constructive way. Discussions are free of blame, focussing on the future and preserving your relationship through clear communication, but not attempting to bring about a reconciliation.

Mediation also addresses the emotional needs and uncertainty that can surround the breakdown of a relationship. It can provide a safe and supportive space for you to talk with your ex-partner, but there is no pressure for you to face them if you would prefer not to at any stage.

How is mediation better than going through the divorce courts?

The process is much quicker, more amicable and usually less costly than going through a lengthy and stressful court battle. It puts you in control of your future, as opposed to a judge making decisions for you. Divorcing out of court also protects your privacy and ensures complete confidentiality.

If court is the only option for your case, you will need to prove that mediation has been properly considered and deemed unsuitable. Exemptions include domestic abuse cases.

What does mediation involve?

The process begins with a meeting known as a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (or MIAM) where you discuss what mediation is, how it might help you and the costs involved. After this initial stage, talks will assist you to determine what needs to be agreed upon and a suitable timeframe in which mutually beneficial decisions are to be made. Your mediator can then help you consider all available options. Areas often negotiated by mediation include:

  • Childcare arrangements and co-parenting
  • Finances including pensions
  • Property and housing arrangements
  • Dividing up assets
  • Jointly owned or managed businesses

 Can I get Legal Aid for mediation?

You may be able to receive Legal Aid if:

  • The dispute involves a child. You may be eligible for a free voucher worth up to £500
  • You are on a low income. Legal Aid may help pay for both parties to attend an introductory meeting (MIAM), one mediation session for both of you, further mediation sessions for the eligible person and help from a solicitor to make your agreement legally binding

How can I find out more?

Give us a call on 0116 340 0094 or email hello@agrlaw.co.uk to discuss your situation and the best way forward.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted individuals and businesses to accelerate their use of digital technologies, and the legal services sector is no exception.

The online divorce process forms a significant part of a £1 billion-plus programme to transform the court system to improve speed, accessibility and ease for all.

Digital divorce – the backstory

In 2017, the government announced they were testing an online divorce application. It could be used by anyone wishing to divorce, and it offered prompts and guidance as they filled out their application. Upon completion, they would need to print it out and send it to the court.

In January 2018, the process was fully digitalised, with forms being submitted online, along with supporting documentation and payment. Around 130 applications were received in the first week.

Feedback was largely positive and, notably, the number of applications being returned due to errors was reduced by over 90%. In addition, people liked the simple, streamlined process and they didn’t have to worry that essential information would become delayed or lost in the post.

The pilot scheme was deemed a success and the refined version was unveiled in May 2018. The next stage was to roll the system out to legal representatives.

Speaking at the time Nigel Shepherd, the former Chair of Resolution, welcomed the move to a fully digital system to bring it into line with other government services, provided it functioned well for all involved.

It’s important to note that although the system was originally developed for those without legal representation to use, we must stress the need to instruct a solicitor to act on your behalf. The portal can be used to end a marriage formally, but it cannot advise on and clarify matters such as finances and access to children. It also cannot help with the emotional journey divorcing couples inevitably find themselves on. Remember, your rights as a married person are lost as soon as your divorce is finalised, so all aspects need careful consideration with support from a professional.

Digital divorce – where are we now?

In September 2021, the system was mandated by HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS). This means that legal professionals must submit divorce applications online via the MyHMCTS portal rather than use a paper D8 form. The only exceptions are the dissolution of civil partnerships, judicial separation and nullity.

There are several advantages of the new portal:

  • It is much quicker for courts to process applications as the lengthy administration burden has been removed
  • Applications and supporting evidence can be accessed remotely
  • There are fewer mistakes and delays. The portal does not allow you to submit applications with incorrect or missing information, so applications are rejected less often
  • The negative impact on the environment is reduced as the process is now paperless
  • Solicitors can send information to judges at the click of a button

Digital divorce – what’s next?

From April 2022, divorce will become less confrontational and more constructive when the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 comes into force. Couples will no longer need to assign fault to one party, so neither will be blamed for the relationship ending. Language will also be simplified, for example a ‘decree absolute’ will be called a ‘final order’. The portal will be updated to reflect the changes.

Hearings will continue to be held virtually or over the phone, so lessening the need to travel to court and be in the vicinity of the person you are divorcing.

How can AGR Law help?

We are experts in all matters of family law, including divorce and financial settlements. As members of Resolution, we are committed to resolving issues in a non-confrontational way through mediation, resulting in a better outcome for divorcing couples and their families.

For more information, please call us on 0116 340 0094 or email hello@agrlaw.co.uk

We’re proudly supporting Resolution’s Good Divorce Week 2021, doing our bit to kickstart a national conversation about how parents can embrace a child-focused approach when separating.

Good Divorce Week runs from Monday 29 November to Friday 03 December 2021, beginning with the launch of a new Parenting Through Separation Guide. Produced by Resolution’s Parenting After Parting Committee, this 21-page downloadable resource is available free.

Packed full of advice and support to help parents through separation, divorce and beyond, the guide begins with real-life stories and talks about dealing with shocking and emotionally traumatic events.

It details the role of a co-parent and how best to communicate with children, including suggestions on explaining the situation and managing a child’s feelings.

The guide also covers when and how to involve children in decision-making and has a handy jargon busting section to help you with unfamiliar and confusing legal definitions.

The Parenting Through Separation Guide is suitable for all parents, whether you fear a relationship is about to end, are newly separated or have been co-parenting with an ex-partner for some time.

As Resolution members, we’re committed to adopting a non-confrontational approach to family law issues to produce better outcomes for separating families and their children. Please contact us on 0116 340 0094 or hello@agrlaw.co.uk if you need support or advice on any issue surrounding divorce or separation.

It may sound strange to talk about a “good divorce” but with help from Resolution, many family lawyers have changed the culture and conversation around divorce to a more conciliatory and child focused approach.

In the past few years, there have been some very big cases in divorce.

Two of the cases were:

1. Owen v Owen, where the Supreme Court found Mrs Owen was not entitled to a divorce as she had not provided whole evidence that her husband had behaved in such a way, that it was unreasonable for her to be expected to remain married to him.
2. VW and BH, a recent case where the judge criticised the husband who cheated on his wife for contesting a divorce in an ‘awful case’. It appears the husband was somewhat dishonest and used the proceedings as a way to torment the wife.

Under the English law, if one party (the Petitioner) wishes to divorce within 5 years of separation and the other party does not consent to the divorce, the Petitioner needs to lay blame for the marriage break down at the feet of the other spouse.  The Petitioner must the provide evidence to support their case.  This adversarial method of divorce can be harmful to both parties and any children involved as it prolongs the pain of separation and creates a toxic atmosphere.

Resolution, with the backing of many family lawyers have called for ‘no fault divorce’. No fault divorce can be as simple as one party giving notice that they believe the marriage has broken down. If they still feel this way after a short period of time, the divorce can be finalised.  This method takes the acrimony out of divorce and enables both parties to focus on what is important; moving on with their lives and being parenting partners to the children.

We have linked below Resolution’s video to a good divorce. If you are considering divorce or have recently been divorced, this video may give you some helpful tips: https://vimeo.com/303651565

At AGR Law, we believe in taking a non-confrontational approach to divorce and matters relating to children. We assist our clients in meeting their objectives in the most pain-free and stress-free way possible.  Contact us to book a consultation on 0116 340 0094