At this time of year people start thinking about their New Year’s resolutions. I know that this year things will be different, it may be new but we're still suffering with the same issues as 2020, but it is important to focus on yourself and what you want or need in the future.

Some of us will want to lose the weight gained in lockdown, but others may start assessing what they want their life to look like this year - which can mean a new beginning in the form of a divorce or separation.

The added stress of lockdowns and being isolated from family and friends can make or break a family, particularly when there are already problems within a relationship. For some people the decision to separate has already been made, but most won't act until after Christmas in the hope that they can make it through the holidays and keep up appearances.

So what can you do if you are contemplating divorce or separation in 2020? This isn’t an easy decision and the breakdown of a relationship is a difficult thing to come to terms with. 

One of the most important things that you can do is to talk to your spouse/partner. It's inevitable that you're both going to be upset about your relationship coming to an end, but if you can remain amicable and keep the lines of communication open then you can make the whole process a lot easier – and less costly. If you have children, this can also mean that you can support them together so that they will not be badly affected by the breakdown and the change that will happen in their lives.

Most people think about divorce or separation as an emotional, highly contentious and frightening experience which, in some cases, can stop them from taking the first step - but this isn't always the case. Specialist family law solicitors and in particular members of Resolution, like me, are committed to finding constructive ways to resolving family law disputes in a non-confrontational way, which encourages solutions that consider the needs of the whole family. There are various ways in which this can be achieved, some of these include:

Instructing a solicitor

When you first meet with a solicitor it is always a good idea to have in mind what it is you that want to achieve – this could be for example, a divorce, financial settlement or child arrangements and what that ideally would look like for you. That way they can advise you on the various options that are available to you and help you to determine which of those would be best to help both you and your family to move forwards. This can look like:

Round table meetings – this is exactly what it says on the tin. In the right circumstances, which are heavily dependent upon how amicable you are with your ex and if they have legal representation, your instructed solicitor can arrange meetings with your ex and their legal advisor. At those meetings you can discuss how matters can be dealt with to ensure that the decisions are being made together. This can help to maintain good relationships and conserve costs. This appears the same as the collaborative law process mentioned above however, if you reach an impasse and the meetings breakdown your solicitor can continue to represent you moving forwards.

Negotiations – your instructed solicitor can help you to negotiate a settlement that is right for you. Their ability to advise will be dependent upon the information that they have access to, particularly in financial matters, but it can offer some reassurance that you are thinking of everything so that can make a well informed decision before agreeing to any terms.

Collaborative law

This process is becoming very popular and involves you and your spouse taking part in a series of face to face meetings together, with your respectively trained collaborative family law solicitors. The aim is to help you reach an agreement which you are both happy with. The benefit of this process is that you can not only have your legal advisor by your side throughout but other specialists, such as financial advisors, children specialists etc. who can form part of your collaborative team. In addition there's no strict timetable so things can progress at a pace that is right for you. 

The downside is that if this process breaks down for any reason then your instructed solicitor cannot continue to represent you. But, if this method does work then it can save time, money and helps to retain a good relationship with your ex into the future – which is great if you have children because big events such as graduations, weddings etc. won’t have to be awkward.

Alternative methods

There are other options available to you that don’t include instructing a solicitor and if you want more information on those options I would recommend that you visit Resolution’s website. An example of this is mediation which means that a qualified mediator will be an independent facilitator of negotiations between you. There are benefits and downsides to this which I would recommend you researching and looking in to.

The above are only a couple of examples of the options available to help you during what will no doubt be one of the most difficult journeys of your life. If you are contemplating divorce or separation I would highly recommend taking legal advice from a specialist family law solicitor. With their help and guidance you can learn how to begin your journey to a new life in a way that won’t hurt any others.