Amicable exists to help separating couples achieve better outcomes for their families. Too many families emerge from divorce damaged and scarred. We can’t prevent divorce, but we think it is a sad event not a bad event, with the focus being on people being able to move on successfully with their lives.
Divorce laws in England and Wales have been due a review for some time now. It’s been a staggering 50 years since the last review, and in the words of David Gauke, “the ‘blame game’ that currently exists helps no one. It creates unnecessary antagonism and anxiety at an already trying time for couples and in particular where there are children.”
The current reasons you can use to divorce your spouse under English and Welsh law are; adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years separation or five years separation. The problem is, the majority of these reasons aren’t relevant for couples in England and Wales. Additionally, most couples don’t want to wait two years once they’ve made the tough decision to separate. Which leaves many couples, who want to move on with their lives, with only one option, which is to enter the blame game by using unreasonable behaviour.
If you’re applying for a divorce using ‘unreasonable behaviour’ one of you must list examples of your spouse’s behaviour that are strong enough to warrant ending your marriage. It’s a tough balancing act trying to find reasons strong enough to pass through the court yet not so contentious as to overly upset your ex. Unreasonable behaviour is also often a trigger for acrimony, as one person must read a list of their misdemeanors in black and white. Not a good start to the divorce process and an extra hurdle couples must navigate at an already emotional time.
The government’s proposed plans to introduce no-fault divorce responds to what society wants, with a recent YouGov poll showing that 69% of people support no fault divorce. This change will be a positive move towards divorce becoming a less painful process for individuals, couples and families.
amicable supports the introduction of no-fault divorce, if you feel the same, here’s your chance to add your voice and support. The government is asking for help throughout this consultation, so have your say and share your thoughts here.
Many couples aren’t aware that two years of separation can be used even if you’re still living under the same roof. The courts are aware that moving out sometimes isn’t an option financially or if you have children. If you’ve not shared a bed, cooked together or shared bills and bank accounts etc for two or more years – you can still use this as the reason if you both agree to the divorce. Find out more here.
If waiting two years just isn’t an option, here are some points to remember to remain amicable when using unreasonable behaviour.
The behaviour statement doesn’t influence your financial settlement or childcare arrangements
Many people think that the behaviour petition will influence how much they get in the settlement or who gets primary care of the kids post-divorce. This isn’t the case. The legal process of ending your marriage is an entirely separate process.
It’s not a public document
Behaviour petitions often contain very personal and sensitive information. Therefore, you can rest assured that divorce petitions are not publicly available (unless your case is escalated to the High Court which is very rare). The only people who will have access to it are; you, your ex, the courts and any third parties you use (e.g. amicable or lawyers).
You don’t have to write lots of harsh examples about your ex
You only need to give four to five examples, a list of milder examples that can be used are here.
Discuss what’s been written before you kick off the divorce
It is advisable that you discuss the behaviour statement with your ex so you/they don’t receive it through the post without warning. It’s never nice for someone to receive a list of their bad behaviour laid bare in black and white and can often spark a fall out if not dealt with in the right way. Seek help if you feel you need additional support in navigating this part.
The key to remaining amicable is to remember that often if you want to move on, unreasonable behaviour is the only option. Unfortunately, our legal system does not yet offer no-fault divorce as an option. So be pragmatic. If you or your ex are finding the behaviour statement difficult, it’s often due to the emotions involved, so seek advice and support so you dodge avoidable fallouts.
A divorce financial order is a document that makes your agreements about how to split your finances legally binding. It usually has a clause in it that ends any future claims you may have against each other in the future. If you are divorcing amicably then your financial order will be called a consent order. If you are asking a judge to decide your finances, then you will have a financial order. A lot of people believe that just by getting divorced this will end any financial relationship they have – but this isn’t true. To be financially free and clear you will need a consent order or financial order.
There are different documents required when applying for a financial order:
This is the document that says what will happen to your finances. The law does not have a defined formula for dividing assets. To make fair agreements, you must think about what the courts in England & Wales take into consideration: income, earning capacity and property as well as financial needs, obligations, and responsibilities. The starting pointing is a 50/50 split. But if one of you has a greater need, for example, because you are housing the children or earn a lot less, then the split may different. Your consent order may have clauses that say things will happen in the future such as selling the family home once the children have grown up for example. It usually also contains a clean break clause, ending future claims.
Statement of Financial Information(Form D81)
This document goes to the court alongside your consent order and is a snapshot of your current finances (immediately before you divorce). Even if you split up a while ago, this form documents what you have immediately prior to the divorce, not at the point of separation. The judge needs to see what you have now, as well as what you want to happen to your finances when you divorce so they can decide whether this is fair under the law. You will both need to disclose your current finances, including your assets, debts, pension values and income. You need to do this even if you are leaving these things as they are.
Notice of [intention to proceed with] an application for a financial order (Form A)
This is an administrative form that you will need to complete in order to file your consent order. There is a lot of confusion (even amongst professionals) on how you should complete this form so its best to get advice if you are not sure.
Pension Sharing Annex (P1):
If you are sharing a pension you will also need to have a pension sharing annex. This lets the pension company know what percentage of a pension is being shared. If you are leaving your pensions as-is then you won’t need to bother with this document.
Provide an explanation for the judge
It’s always helpful to let the judge know how you have come to your agreement and to demonstrate that all the families housing needs are met and that you can each afford to live under the agreements you have made. The older you are, the more concerned the judge will be to see that you have adequate pension provision.
Clean break consent order
If you’re divorcing and have no assets to split, then you might get a clean break consent order. The primary reason couples usually get a clean break consent order is to end future claims against each other for things like pensions, inheritance or lottery wins.
If you’re unsure about how to apply for a financial order, please book a call here with a divorce expert (our 15 minutes advice calls are free).
You’ve probably seen the coverage regarding Tini Owens in the news recently. This story has sparked debate over the last few years for a number of reasons. If you’d like a better understanding of the background, here’s a recap on the story and why it’s important.
Who is Tini Owens?
Tini Owens is well known because her application to divorce her husband of 40 years was refused by not only the High Court and but also the Court of Appeal. The case is now being reviewed by the Supreme Court who also rejected the divorce application.
Why was the divorce application rejected?
Tini used ‘unreasonable behaviour’ as the reason for the breakdown of the marriage. Her husband, Hugh Owens, contested the divorce as he didn’t agree that the examples of his behaviour satisfied the requirements of the law. In 2016, the High Court refused her petition, stating that her husband’s behaviour had not been unreasonable.
What happens now?
You can expect to see a lot of coverage in July about this case as on Wednesday 25th July 2018, the Supreme Court also rejected the divorce petition. This means Tini must stay married to her husband until 2020.
Why is it important?
There are divided opinions on this case. Some are outraged that Tini has been refused a divorce and therefore is being forced to stay unhappily married. Some believe that the behaviour examples were not sufficient enough for a judge to agree to the divorce. And some believe it is high profile example of why we should have no-fault divorce in England and Wales.
What is ‘unreasonable behaviour’?
Unreasonable behaviour is one of the five reasons that can be used in English and Welsh law to prove that your marriage has broken down past the point of repair. It is the most common reason used to get divorced.
What is no-fault divorce?
No fault divorce refers to divorcing your partner without the need to blame one person for the breakdown of the marriage. No-fault divorce currently does not exist in England and Wales so in most cases, couples are forced to enter a blame game to get divorced. A YouGov survey revealed that 69% people agree that people should be able to divorce without having to blame their spouse. So, why hasn’t the law caught up with the majority?
All too often we hear about separated parents arranging to meet at petrol stations or train stations for ‘handovers’, which sounds very bleak and perfunctory for children. Here are some tips to help you make ‘handovers’ more pleasant for you and your child/ren.
From a child’s perspective, experiencing their parents’ separation is such an emotional journey in itself so we don’t want to create further trauma during handovers. And things are already strained at best if parents cannot comfortably meet at each other’s homes.
There are so many child-friendly handover settings that can make it easier for them and detract from all the parental tensions. Your child’s favourite shop would be a much better place to arrange to meet. Or a play area or park that they like could help make them more relaxed.
Try to choose a handover location that they associate with happy, positive thoughts and feelings.
As parents, you can also focus on the activity at hand which provides a good distraction for you both. Meeting at someone’s house that you both trust is a good idea. Perhaps a friend of the family or a relative, like a grandparent, could be the helpful, friendly face for facilitating handovers? Choose someone impartial who is not fuelling any fires between you as separated parents.
When meeting up in a child-centered, public place or other neutral space, you are less likely to start raising any contentious or pressing issues that have the potential to lead to an argument in front of children. These matters should be discussed together in a more adult setting. Try to smile and greet one another in a civil, courteous manner. Remember that your children are observing your reaction to the other parent and will sense an awkward atmosphere!
Be mindful that your child is likely to be experiencing a lot of mixed emotions…
…feeling sad as they leave one of you; happy to see the other; worrying about adjusting to contact arrangements and overall confusion as to why they are having to go through this. It’s good to prep them with plenty of reassurance before they leave for handovers. Understand that it is an emotional upheaval for them to adjust and adapt to being in different homes. It means getting used to your routine and parenting style and it can feel like a kind of emotional ‘jet lag’ as they need time to get into your parental rhythm. Making the emotional journey between you as pleasant as possible for your child will smooth out the transitional wrinkles and any ‘jet lags’ for your child.
Handover practices should be all about children and their welfare, it’s important to do everything you can to make them feel safe, secure, relaxed and confident as they move between you.
Kids Come First® is a separated parent support forum & teaching workshop that focuses on the needs of children.
Read our negotiation tips to help you settle your divorce yourselves. We’ve also included some things to watch out for that might mean you’re better off getting some negotiation support from one of our divorce coaches.
Court costs have risen and it’s no longer possible to get legal aid in divorce cases (except in exceptional circumstances). This means a growing number of people find themselves negotiating their divorce settlement themselves. It’s often assumed that everyone can negotiate, but successfully negotiating a divorce settlement can be tricky. Not only do you need to understand what the law says about dividing your finances, but you also need to keep your emotions in check.
Make sure you’re ‘divorce ready’
This means dealing with the raw emotions and being in a place where you’re calm enough to think strategically and not focus on revenge, retaliation or making your partner pay for ‘wrongs’ of the past. You can check your divorce-readiness here.
Practice staying calm and in control of your emotions
Learn what triggers negative reactions in you – is there a specific point of disagreement that you and your ex have or is it something they say or do that winds you up. Whatever it is, identify it and practice staying calm when thinking about it or experiencing it. You could get a friend to role-play talking about the issue.
Negotiate from a position of knowledge
Do you know what the law says about splitting assets? Don’t guess, don’t rely on what happened in your friend’s divorce – find out. You can use our divorce tips page for general legal information or book a free 15-minute divorce advice call with one of our expert divorce coaches.
Be clear on what you want
…but accept you won’t get everything. Work out what you need. Think about what this leaves your partner with – a successful settlement has to work for both of you. Brainstorm or generate ideas and options before being too narrowly focused on one thing or becoming emtrenched.
Become an effective communicator
Everybody knows that its as much about how you say something as what the message contains that makes it successful. Use simple language, short sentences. Don’t tell someone what you’re not going to do or not going to accept… talk about what’s possible, what’s acceptable. Buy yourself time with the phrase ‘I’ll need some time to consider your proposal properly’. ‘What if’ is a great opener, and ‘what else’ (are you prepered to consider/offer) a great follow-up.
There may be some times when the negotiation playing field is too uneven for you to effectively mange a divorce setttlement yourselves. Maybe one of you is a much stronger negotatior because of their job. Or maybe one of you is in a more powerful position. In these circumstances, we recomend getting negotiation support. This ensures the person in the weaker position is protected. Here are some signs you need supported negotiation:
You or your partner cirtisise each other (rather than cirtique ideas)
There is contempt, personal attacks, sarcasum, body language such as eye rolling
You feel rail roaded by your partner and unable to get your point across
Your partner talks over you and never gives you space to say what you want
There is frequent outward hostility or anger from one or both of you
Entrenchemnt – one or both of you is/are not willing to see other’s point of view
One of you has narcissistic tendencies – e.g.excessively hauty, arrogant or manipulative
All or nothing thinking – extreme views are held and total disaster is predicted if things don’t go your/their way
Discussions centre on blaming each other rather than finding solutions
Things rapidly descend into an argument
If this all looks familiar then we can help you find a peacefully negotiated solution to your divorce. Talk to us, and we’ll help you assess what way forward is best for you.
The journey through a divorce or separation brings a range of emotions from shock, fear, anger relief and eventual acceptance. Combine the early emotions of anger and fear with the need to communicate and sort things out with your soon to be ex…and you’re plunged into a fragile situation where one emotionally charged message can cause chaos.
Before you respond – wait – never fire back in anger – ask yourself if you really need to respond. If you do need to respond, keep it brief. You may have a lot to say but long-winded emails and texts are not always helpful especially when emotions are running high. The less you write, the less there is to misunderstand. Your aim is to state a fact, not ignite or become embroiled in a personal attack.
2. Be informative
Write a draft and then read back over, have you included information that just isn’t needed at this stage? It’s normal to feel overwhelmed with all the ‘stuff’ you need to sort out but trying to tackle too many things at once will only add stress and confusion. So, only leave in information that is needed to sort out this particular issue/situation.
3. Be friendly
Would you send this email to a friend? If not, rise above the emotions and take out any negative, passive-aggressive, sarcastic tonality or language. It can help to share it with someone neutral, as it can be difficult to gage yourself.
4. Be firm
What do you want to get out of sending the message? It might be clarity on how you’re going to pay the court fees. It might be confirmation on when you’ll each have the kids over the holidays. Whatever it is, be clear on what you’re expecting and when.
If you all else fails, walk away and revisit it later. It’s far too easy to send a message that might plunge you into conflict, so save yourself from the unnecessary drama by following the above tips.
A consent order is a legally binding document that sets out the financial arrangements you and your ex have come to. It details how you’re going to split any assets, debts, pension, and income you have once you’re divorced. It is legally binding which means it will protect you both if anyone tries to change their minds in future. It often has what is called a ‘clean break clause’ in it which protects the money or assets that you may earn or receive in the future (for example, pensions, inheritance, lottery wins or future earnings) from being claimed by your ex.
Most people are surprised to learn that a divorce doesn’t end the financial relationship with your ex. So, if you get divorced and don’t get a consent order your ex can still make financial claims against you in the future (even after many years have passed).
Here’s how consent orders work:
What information is needed to complete a consent order?
There are two parts to a consent order – First you will need to complete a Statement of Information or D81 – this is a snapshot of your current financial position. You will need to give the court a summary of the value of:
your assets (e.g. properties, vehicles, business assets and bank accounts)
your debts (loans, credit cards etc),
your pension (even if you have agreed to leave each other’s pensions you will need to provide a CETV – Cash Equivalent Transfer Value for each pension you hold)
your income from all sources (including any maintenance, benefits or rental income you receive)
The other document you will need to submit is the consent order itself. This is not normally a document you can draft yourself instead it should be properly drafted by a trained person as it will need to include certain legal clauses. You and your ex will have to decide how you will split your finances in a fair way. You can get advice on how to do this in this blog or by speaking to an amicable Divorce Coach.
The consent order sets out what you would like to happen to the assets you’ve listed in the D81. It may include what will happen to property, assets, debts, and pensions. Things like child and spousal maintenance and lump sums that’ll be transferred between you will also need to be recorded. It will also set out a timetable for when payments will be made, or assets transferred.
It’s always a good idea to include the rationale for how you’ve decided to split things so that the judge understands what you are seeking to achieve and can check that is fair and achievable from what is set out in the order.
You will also need for fill out a Form A (an administrative document that allows you to apply for the consent order) and if you are sharing a pension, then you will also need to complete a pension sharing annex or P1 form.
Who decides whether our consent order is fair?
The law does not have a defined formula for dividing assets. To make fair agreements between you, you must think about what the courts in England & Wales take into consideration: income, earning capacity and property needs as well as financial needs, obligations, and responsibilities. The starting pointing is a 50/50 split. But if one of you has a greater need, for example, because you are housing the children or earn a lot less, then the split may differ. You can make any agreement you like between yourselves (an informal arrangement) but if you want the court to seal a consent order and make it legally binding then a judge will have the final say on whether your agreement is fair in the eyes of the law. Our divorce coaches are specially trained to help you make a fair agreement
How long does it take?
This really depends on how organised you both are in gathering your financial information e.g. your pension CETV (which can take up t 12 weeks) and negotiating a settlement. Let’s say you’re completely agreed upon how you want to split things and have all the right information, you should allow six months at minimum for the consent order to be sealed by a judge.
Can you get a consent order without being divorced?
No. You will need to be a Decree Nisi stage of the divorce process before you can submit a consent order to the courts. It usually takes about 12 weeks to get to Nisi stage, so its worth considering getting started on the divorce and using the time it takes the court to process your petition to collect your financial information and negotiate a settlement.
Do I need a lawyer to do a consent order?
No, but you will need someone who understands the legal process and has experience in drafting orders as there are certain legal clauses that need to be included.
When you physically separate and go to living in a one adult household, it’s helpful to maximise any benefits post-divorce that you might be entitled to and take advantage of any additional help that is out there. It can be daunting when you think about splitting one household into two, but with forward thinking, you can make this transition easier.
First things first, if you already receive tax credits, you need to let the HM Revenue and Customs know as soon as possiblethat you are now single. You can do this online or by post, full details of how to do this are on the government’s website.
Most people don’t know that If you live alone when you separate (i.e. you’re the only adult), you can apply for a single person discount which is 25% off your Council Tax bill. Every little saving helps so do the admin and get the discounts you’re entitled to. To apply for this discount, go to the government website.
If you are responsible for any children under the age of 16 or any children under 20 who are still in full-time education (A-levels, higher education, undertaking an ‘approved’ training course or an equivalent of the previous) then you can claim child benefit.
Only one parent can receive the child benefit so if your ex was the person receiving these benefits, your ex will need to contact the Child Benefit Office and let them know they no longer need this benefit. You’ll then have to wait until this change is processed to set yourself up as the new claimant.
You can really supplement your income with benefits. The main ones are income support, Child Tax Credit, and Working Tax Credit. Universal credit is replacing these benefits, and this is currently being rolled out over the UK.
What benefits you will get will depend on where you live. Whilst this transition of benefits is ongoing the best thing to do is to go to your local CAB or job center and they will be able to let you know which application to make. As a starting point and to see how much you may be entitled to, the charity Gingerbread has a useful summary of benefits.
It is worth making inquiries at your child’s school to see if they offer any extra help. You may get help with school dinners, free after-school clubs and help with school trips. This can all add up so can be very helpful when you are managing your finances.
Hopefully, this blog will save you and your family some money and help to set you up in your new life. As always, if you’d like support and advice on divorce and separation, please get in touch.
Telling friends and family you’re getting divorced for most people, is a frightening prospect. Being worried about people’s reactions is completely normal and totally understandable. Being prepared for tricky questions and negative reactions can make it much easier.
People breaking up commonly feel a sense of shame, as if they have ‘failed’. It is one of the most difficult experiences we can go through, a type of bereavement, and what you need most, is kindness and support.
When it comes to breaking the news, the most important people, because they are the most affected, are the children. It is vital that they hear it from you, and ideally before anyone else. Read our blog on telling the kids if you’d like some support. on this .
The next stage is family, then friends. If you and your ex can decide together who will tell which friends and family members, and if you can agree on what you’re going to say, it will help enormously.
You need to be aware that people have an unfortunate habit of saying inappropriate things, and often focus on how your breakup effects them or your children. Classic remarks such as ‘Have you really thought about it?’ or ‘But what about the children?’ are not uncommon. The best way to manage this is to be prepared. Be prepared to point out to them that your children are always your first consideration, and that what you need from them is to be supported, not undermined or judged.
Don’t agonise over other people’s reactions
You can never predict how people will behave. You can feel let-down by people you thought would understand, and surprised by those you thoughtless understanding. Remember that you can’t control how other people behave. You have your own emotions to deal with and you don’t need to take on their issues. People who react badly often do so because the thought of divorce frightens them, especially if they themselves are going through a difficult patch in their own relationship.
Be prepared for gossip, and be careful who you confide in
You may also find that some people feel embarrassed and don’t want to know too much, whilst others seem to relish the detail. Be prepared for gossip, and be careful who you confide in. If you feel that someone is pushing for too much information, you can politely tell them that you don’t feel ready to talk at the moment. A good friend is one who’s there to listen, but doesn’t pry.
Hold your head high
Finally, remember that you have nothing to feel embarrassed about. You have made a very difficult and brave decision that others may be too afraid to make. Hold your head high and don’t ever feel you have to apologise.