Divorce is not your only option
Louise Redknapp has been reported this weekend as saying she has regrets about divorcing her husband Jamie: “I should have paused for a minute and thought about other people and had just a bit more time to work out why I felt I couldn’t do it anymore. All I know is, I wish I’d tried [to save the marriage].”
She added: “I want to say to anybody who is thinking of running: ‘Just slow down. Don’t run.’ Because once you run too fast, you can’t make up the ground you’ve lost.”
People make decisions that they believe are right at the time, and nobody is criticising Ms Redknapp for taking the path she did. However, it is sobering to think that perhaps the Redknapp’s marriage might still be going strong today had decisions not been made so quickly. Divorce is not your only option.
Amanda McAlister, managing partner of the Group’s specialist family law firm McAlister Family Law, explains there is another option available to those unsure as to whether or not they want press the divorce button.
“As a family lawyer of many years’ experience, and someone who has herself been divorced, I can say with certainty that although you will have heard stories of acrimony and bitterness, it doesn’t have to be that way. Being transparent about your emotions, and managing your expectations are two key areas to focus on.
“But for those couples not ready to bring an end to their marriage through a divorce or dissolution of their civil partnership, or who want to allow a period of reflection, there is the option of a Legal Separation.”
What is a Separation Agreement?
A separation agreement, entered into by both parties, is an agreement setting out how the couple’s assets should be divided and whether there should be any ongoing financial support – it can be tailor-made to the couple’s individual circumstances. Within the document the parties commit to commencing divorce proceedings after they have been separated for two years.
Is a Separation Agreement legally binding?
In a word, no. But if it has been properly drawn up with full financial disclosure, and various safeguards have been met, then the court could hold the parties to it, unless their circumstances have changed substantially since the agreement was signed.
What are the advantages?
It can provide a sound basis for the ultimate financial consent order that should be presented to the court once the divorce or dissolution has reached the appropriate stage. And entering into a separation agreement is far less uncertain that simply deferring the question of the financial settlement until the divorce proceedings are initiated.
And the disadvantages?
In brief, a divorce brings closure, a separation agreement doesn’t. And closure can be extremely important, particularly for children who need certainty, and for the wider family who will then be able to accept that the marriage ending is final.
Remember that although the No-Fault Divorce Act received Royal Assent in June 2020, the reforms have not yet come into force. This means that your divorce petition must prove the marriage has irretrievably broken down by evidencing one of five, specific, statutory facts:
- unreasonable behaviour
- desertion (in practice, this is rare, and difficult to prove)
- two years’ separation, with agreement by both that there should be a divorce (and it’s worth considering that this two years of separation in itself provides a “cooling-off” period – a time for reflection)
- five years’ separation (the consent of the Respondent is not needed)
“To summarise, whist the prospect of commencing a divorce is incredibly stressful and upsetting, it does provide closure not only to the adults but also children, allowing the whole family to move on. A divorce also allows a binding financial settlement to be achieved ensuring that both parties are provided with financial certainty and security for the future.”
We are here to support families, whether they are making up, or breaking up. Nobody knows what the future holds, but we want to assure you that you are not alone. Come to us with your questions and our expert team of family lawyers are on hand to give you the assistance you need. We’re here to help.