Remaining amicable during a break-up

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What should a divorcing couple do when wishing to remain on good terms after it all? A couple might decide to opt for dealing with the divorce themselves, without the input of a solicitor – for example, we have seen in today's news that Gary and Danielle Lineker have decided to take this approach in what the media has deemed a "quickie divorce", and we discussed what these actually entail in more detail in a recent blog post. It would be fair to say that, whilst a cheap option, the lack of legal advice regarding the parties' finances and arrangements for any children are likely to make this a dangerous option, even in the most amicable of circumstances. It is always worth having the benefit of legal advice to inform the process so that no seemingly innocuous aspects of the divorce can be overlooked.

A better alternative is for the couple to consider the various alternative dispute resolution (ADR) options available to them. These are wide-ranging and can be hugely flexible, from the parties' solicitors analysing the matrimonial pot of assets then negotiating a favourable settlement for both parties, to attending arbitration where an experienced practitioner can provide a binding adjudication. Once an agreement is reached through ADR, it can then be drawn up into a Consent Order and submitted to the Court for approval.

However, it being Family Mediation Week, it is worth mentioning the merits of mediation in particular. As both my colleagues Christine Plews and Sarah French have highlighted in their blog posts, mediation is a brilliant way of allowing individuals to discuss their circumstances and the ways in which they might arrange their finances with the input of an impartial third party supporting this process. It is a cost-effective and highly flexible option, which provides a divorcing couple the benefit of reaching a decision between themselves and preserving their friendship in the process.

ADR is therefore a constructive way of approaching a divorce, which can accommodate the parties' particular circumstances in order to bring their relationship to an end on amicable terms. As members of Resolution, Blake Morgan's Family Law team are keen advocates of ADR and are able to advise upon and assist with the full host of ADR options available.

The most important thing is to keep the matter out of the Courts. With litigation come increased costs, increased stress, and the possibility of the Court eventually deciding an outcome which neither party is particularly happy with – all of which would likely have been avoided if the parties had managed to agree upon an out-of-Court settlement. All in all, Court proceedings should be considered as the last option for a divorcing couple, to be resorted to when all else fails.

It would be fair to presume that, where individuals have decided to end things on an amicable note (and, indeed, even where they have not), they started the relationship in the same way. The division of matrimonial assets can be made a great deal easier where a couple has a nuptial agreement in place, whether this has been drawn up and entered into before the marriage takes place, or once the parties have started their married life together. These agreements outline the details of the pot of matrimonial assets and provide terms as to a settlement in the event of a divorce and, whilst such agreements are yet to be given statutory backing, the Courts have generally allowed them to have binding effect. They also have the benefit of protecting and ring-fencing each spouse's individual assets, safeguarding their respective positions should they decide to divorce. In this way, having such an agreement in place can avoid the need to enter into discussions as to who should take what when the couple separates, and can greatly assist in keeping things on a friendly footing. Indeed, it remains to be seen in cases such as the reportedly harmonious divorce of Jean-Bernard and Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, where Cheryl has a veritable fortune which has purportedly not been safeguarded under the terms of a nuptial agreement, whether they can remain amicable during the process of deciding upon a financial settlement.

Yes, it is January, and yes, it is not fun to contemplate the breakdown of a relationship. However, it is not all doom and gloom where a divorce is on the horizon, the English system providing a whole host of options for a divorcing couple so that, when the dust settles, you may no longer have a spouse but you will at least keep a friend.