Our advice to clients going through a divorce is always to try and remain calm in the face of adversity, remain polite to your soon-to-be ex and try not to enflame an emotional situation as it could end up costing more time and more money. We know this is a tall order. It is what people should aim for but in the face of extreme provocation from estranged partners who may be getting quite the opposite advice from their Rottweiler divorce lawyer, it can be a nigh-on impossible task. We ask a lot.
However, if an individual can maintain their dignity and decorum in divorce, it can have tangible benefits. Having a useful discourse with the other half can keep financial settlements out of court and so save on fees. Not aggravating the other party may have a similar outcome. Staying calm may also cause you personally less stress and so intrude less into other parts of your life as you start again. This is common sense.
Divorce does not have to be a battle. Divorce doesn’t have to be expensive. Divorce doesn’t have to take over every part of your life. These messages are not ones heard very often unfortunately.
I was therefore tickled to see Debretts, whose guide to the peerage has been an essential tool for journalists, schoolchildren, the BBC and others for years, teaming up with a high-powered law firm to produce an etiquette guide for divorce: Debretts Guide to Civilised Separation (published in February priced £12.99 – it’s only fair I mention that).
Now, from what I can gather (having read this story), there is a certain amount of the content that is stating the obvious at best, or more likely should be taken in a light-hearted manner. For instance: “Throwing your husband's vintage wine collection down the loo or cutting his suits to shreds might seem like a therapeutic gesture when you're in the throes of rage and despair, but it can rebound on you and undermine your case.” I don’t think most people really need to be told that and I would question how many people have a vintage wine cellar to attack.
It also suggests measures like family-friendly Christmas cards – presumably ignoring the fact you have split – and warns about not becoming a divorce bore by talking about it all the time, rendering you a social outcast when invites to parties are going out.
It has to be said though that, however much certain areas may state the obvious, the intention is good (setting aside the obvious other intentions of making a bit of money and gaining publicity for the legal firm). Anything out there to remind people that divorce doesn’t have to be “all EastEnders” with shouting, backstabbing and points-scoring, is a good thing. If the parties involved act with decorum, while it will never be a nice experience, it can be one that doesn’t leave you too deeply scarred.