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The Money and Divorce blog is brought to you by Intelligent Divorce, the new way to get fixed-fee specialist legal advice on splitting your money when you divorce.

Our blog provides illustrated practical guides for those going through the divorce process, plus news on divorce, money and family breakdown.

"I would like to let you know that I found your website so invaluable in my divorce process. I am having to represent myself due to lack of finances and I know for a fact I wouldn't have been able to do it had it not been for your fantastic website. I would recommend it to anyone who find themselves in a similar situation to me." Madeleine


27 January 2012

Can you divorce politely?


Mahie Abey

I have just come across an unusual new book published by, of all people, Debretts and  entitled Debrett's Guide to Civilised Separation.

The idea behind the book is to advise people how they should behave when going through a divorce and the etiquette of divorce generally. Presumably it stresses the need for politeness and courtesy at all times.

Is this really as outlandish and frankly crazy as it sounds? Who is going to buy the book except family lawyers as a novelty item for their boring bookshelves?

Whilst I do not know the answer to that question this book does capture a very real trend in family law at the moment: an increasingly co-operative attitude to separation, driven partly by financial necessity, partly by the desire for a ‘good divorce’ and partly by the desire to make things as easy for the children as possible.

Contrary to public perception the vast majority of family lawyers genuinely want to help their clients to resolve their disputes as amicably and as cost effectively as possible. The main bar to that is the tremendous emotional strain being faced by the clients, which leads some to behave irrationally and occasionally aggressively where otherwise they might not

To assist clients undergoing such emotional strain modern divorce lawyers work to try to deal with the whole person rather than simply the situation they are in. They will often refer their clients to counsellors and divorce help groups, so they can understand and normalise the feelings they are experiencing and realise they are not alone.

Divorce lawyers will also advise their clients to try to negotiate a settlement outside of the court process if at all possible,  and to avoid almost inevitably damaging court proceedings unless they are absolutely necessary. At the forefront of this approach is collaborative law – which I have written about before – which involves instructing collaboratively trained lawyers who will take a non-confrontational approach, an agreement not to go to court and to have all negotiations around a table, and with the lawyers’ job being to help both of the couple, not just their client, come to an agreement that works for them.

There is also a significant government campaign to push mediation – a great idea- and a good vehicle for resolution of conflict where the parties use a mediator to broker and agreement between them.

What each of these two methods requires, of course, is the capacity for the parties to talk to each other. This requires civility on the part of the couple.

There is also a trend in the divorce world towards people representing themselves (‘litigants in person’) – a trend largely caused by the inability to afford legal fees, which can often be very high. If one or both clients are self representing it is vital that the parties act respectfully towards each other otherwise the case will fall into chaos – which too many sadly do.

Without lawyers to help people through a difficult and new process, and to exercise a degree of control over their clients (which they invariably do to some extent or other), the clients need to provide that control for themselves. Given the necessarily heightened emotions involved, this is not always possible.

What those self-representing need is low cost good quality legal advice to help them reach agreement, minimising the need to interact with each other but that will get them to a resolution of at least their financial minefield.

That is where, and partly why, Intelligent Divorce comes is. We have created a system where the clients can attempt to resolve their finances online. They don’t have to talk to each other if they don’t want to but can instead use the in-built messaging system. Once the couple have agreed what all their assets are, a barrister will provide an advice on outcome and the parties then use that advice to reach settlement.