I find that divorce is a taboo word for most mamas. I’m often nervous to say that I’m a divorce lawyer because for many people, divorce is associated with anger, hurt and acrimony. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Separation can be straightforward. With careful advice and guidance, it is possible and now increasingly common for couples to separate amicably and remain on good terms for the sake of their children.
Here are tips for any mamas feeling uncertain about their marriage, and who don’t know where to turn:
1. Firstly before considering divorce or separation, try counselling. The years of motherhood are beyond exhausting and put a strain on the most stable of marriages. You may not think it, but everyone’s trying it, whether they are having marriage problems or just need help with communication. It works. Life coaching is a form of counselling that can be helpful for troubled marriages; it seeks to improve communication and plan for the future rather than dwelling on the past.
2. ‘Jurisdiction’ – this means which courts where would accept an application for divorce. Many expat mums may not know that they can divorce quickly and easily in their home country whilst living abroad. For example, we’ve assisted thousands of British expats divorce through the English courts. The financial outcome in the courts of your home country may be better than in the courts where you live.
3. Make a plan – think about the practical implications of separating. Where would you live? If you are an expat, would you move home with the children? Consider that you may not be legally allowed to relocate with the children without your partner’s consent.
4. Consider your financial needs – start writing down your day to day spending on yourself and the children so you know what your income needs are. Keep receipts for larger items. This is important as often your income needs will form the basis of any financial settlement you reach with your partner.
5. Be financially savvy – think whether you are aware of your family finances. Consider whether you may want to protect jointly owned assets; banks will often make a jointly owned account a ‘joint signatory’ account if there is a risk one party will remove all funds. Try to ensure you have some emergency funds set aside. Ask your lawyer how property in your partner’s name may be protected.
6. Get informed – seek advice from a family lawyer not only in your home country, or your partner’s home country, but also in the country in which you now live if you are an expat. This is important so that you can weigh up the pros and cons of divorcing in each jurisdiction. Outcomes can be vastly different. Take a good friend with you to take notes; the volume of advice can be overwhelming, especially at a time when emotions are running high. Meet one or more lawyers until you feel comfortable with who you have chosen; research their expertise and qualifications to ensure that you choose a lawyer that suits you and your situation.
7. Be reassured that court proceedings are usually the last resort; your lawyer will advise you of the numerous ways to settle matters amicably outside the courts. This will not only reduce costs hugely but ensure that you and your partner reach a fair and amicable settlement. Options range from mediation to arbitration, collaborative settlement and negotiation through solicitors. An agreement reached with your partner through discussion and compromise is much more likely to be long lasting and a workable solution.
Alexandra Tribe is a solicitor and Resolution accredited specialist in international family law. She is the founder of Expatriate Law, and specialises in advising British expatriates on family law matters. Email Alexandra on [email protected] or visit her website at www.expatriatelaw.com.