At first glance, you may think the words “amicable” and “divorce” don’t belong in the same sentence. By its very nature, a divorce means that two people no longer want to be together and have decided to go their separate ways. If everything was fine between them, this would not be the case.
However, moving through the legal process of dissolving a marriage should always be approached in a pragmatic and conciliatory fashion. Knowing how to divorce amicably will save you time, money and more heartache.
Yes, I know it is easier said than done. Any family breakdown will be a time of emotional upheaval. Tensions and emotions will be running in the red – but you need to do everything you can to move forward, sort what needs to be sorted, and move on to the next phase of your life. In this blog, we cover key questions about amicable divorce and 6 steps to an amicable divorce.
What is an amicable divorce?
Different people may have different ideas about what it means to have an amicable divorce, but generally we are talking about one that avoids unnecessary conflict and contentious court proceedings.
Divorcing amicably will generally involve the separating couple working together to agree how issues such as the division of finances and arrangements for children will be dealt with. It may use methods such as private negotiation and mediation to agree these issues, rather than relying on a court to make these decisions.
Is it possible to have an amicable divorce?
Yes, it is perfectly possible to have an amicable divorce and, increasingly, this is the norm. Relatively few couples now need to rely on contentious court proceedings for divorce.
Avoiding unnecessary conflict in divorce was made easier recently with the introduction of no-fault divorce in England and Wales. This means there is no longer any need for one spouse to “take the blame” for the end of the marriage. It also removes the ability for someone to contest a divorce started by their spouse in almost all cases. The spouses can even apply for the divorce together if they wish to do so.
Working with the right lawyer can make it much easier to achieve an amicable divorce, so it is important to pick a legal adviser who has the necessary skills and experience to minimise conflict while ensuring your best interests stay protected.
What is the process of an amicable divorce?
There are two main aspects to getting divorced – firstly, the application to a family court to end your marriage and, secondly, deciding how your finances will be split and what will happen to any children you have. Both parts of the process can be navigated amicably with the right legal support.
The introduction of no-fault divorce has made applying to a court to end your marriage much more straightforward. There is now much less chance of conflict, but one area that it is important to consider is how you communicate with your spouse about what is happening.
If you are starting a divorce application, you are much more likely to avoid conflict if you speak to your spouse about this first, rather than surprising them with an application they were not expecting. You should also consider whether you want to make a joint application with your spouse, so you are both involved in the process from the start.
Deciding how to divide your finances and what should happen to any children you have is an area where conflict can be more likely. That said, negotiating with your spouse over how these issues should be resolved is usually possible, with some couples reaching agreement via mediation.
Mediation involves you and your spouse meeting with a trained mediator, who will help you to talk through the issues you need to make decisions about. The mediator acts as a neutral third party to facilitate productive discussions and defuse any potential points of conflict. This can keep things much more friendly and avoid the need for court proceedings.
While mediation is a very popular choice for divorce, it is not the only option for achieving an amicable separation, so this is something we recommend discussing with your divorce lawyer early on.
6 steps to an amicable divorce
There are some tips we have picked up over the years that can help you if you are struggling with how to divorce amicably. Of course, it takes two, and it may even be useful to share the points we have posted below with your soon-to-be ex. What’s the worst that could happen?
Step 1: Don’t try to get revenge
Trying to get one over on your spouse, or “take them for all they are worth”, is not a useful approach. It is ultimately unlikely to get you the result you want, will cause more bad feeling and lengthen the time and cost to sort your divorce. Let bygones be bygones. Get on and sort it!
Step 2: Keep talking
You do need to speak to your other half to get things sorted out. Refusing to talk to them does not help this. It will lead to higher costs if all communication has to go through solicitors. If there are any children involved you will still need to co-parent, so make sure you have up-to-date contact details and keep the communication channels open.
Step 3: Leave the children out of it
Never use children as pawns or to score points. It is not fair on them. You could risk alienating the child, sooner or later. It is not worth it. They deserve an ongoing relationship with both parents. Don’t try to turn them against the other parent.
Step 4: Be understanding
There are lot of different emotional stages a person will go through in a divorce, including anger, denial and shock. Your ex-spouse may be at a different stage from you, particularly if you are the one who instigated proceedings. Accept this and be sympathetic to their position. Listen to their concerns and suggest ways to move things forward where appropriate.
Step 5: Phone a friend
Don’t be afraid to ask friends, family, doctors, etc. for support. Even if they are mutual friends, they will not want to take sides but should support you both if they are true friends. They can be a pressure valve for you. Alternatively, you can call on the help of a divorce coach.
Step 6: Rise above it
If your ex is being completely unreasonable, show you are the better person and rise above it. Maintain your calm and resist the temptation to stoop to their level. If you are suffering threatening or abusive behaviour, your lawyer will be able to offer extra support and advice and point you at additional agencies who can help.
How do I navigate an amicable divorce?
Having the right legal support can make divorcing amicably much easier, helping to avoid unnecessary conflict. It also ensures that you fully understand your rights, what you are entitled to, and all of the ways divorce will impact your life.
All family law specialists should advise an amicable approach to divorce and the related issues of sorting finances and any arrangements for children. It is the approach promoted by Resolution, the national body for family lawyers. Members sign up to commit to a Code of Practice that promotes a non-confrontational approach to resolving family problems. All Woolley & Co lawyers are members of Resolution and very much committed to offering an amicable divorce service.
Aggressive and combative negotiations between estranged couples are not constructive for anyone, particularly if children are involved. A confrontational approach means it all takes longer to sort out the issues and costs more money.
Choosing a family lawyer who is a member of Resolution provides reassurance that you have chosen someone who just wants the best outcome for the family and who is not going to string out proceedings or cause additional heartache to those involved. At Woolley & Co, we estimate that around 75% of our cases are now dealt with amicably, and I think there is a momentum to that number increasing further.
The number of Resolution members is growing at a healthy rate, which I think reflects a growing desire in the profession to do away with the “Rottweiler” style solicitors, so stereotypical of some television soaps, where they are urged to “take them for all we can get” and go about this in an aggressive and abrasive fashion. An amicable divorce service is much more likely if you work with a Resolution member.
Our advice? Choose a lawyer who is a member of Resolution and follow these steps. If you are able to stick to these guidelines, you are more likely to manage an amicable separation. This will help you keep a lid on costs, leaving more to split with you and your ex and allowing both of you to start your new lives.
Talk to Woolley & Co Solicitors about achieving an amicable divorce
At Woolley & Co Solicitors, our expert divorce lawyers can offer specialist legal advice to guide you through a quick and stress-free divorce process. We can provide tailored amicable divorce advice, as well as advice for situations where a tougher approach is needed.
Family Solicitor Coventry