Five ways the no fault system will help you make the most of your money in divorce

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date published

24th January 2022

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Emma Heptonstall

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date published

24th January 2022

Money is a contentious issue in all divorces. For some, the issue is that there’s not enough. Not enough for each party to maintain the lifestyles they had during marriage. For others, there’s plenty of money but a whole heap of controversy and management issues that go with it. Whatever the issue, money worries can be one of the biggest barriers to divorce, with many of my clients telling me they wanted out years ago, but put it off because of the financial consequences. As we await the introduction of no fault divorce in April 2022, here are five ways the no fault system will help you make the most of your money in divorce.

1. The divorce can’t be contested

Under the current system one person applies for divorce. The other can contest the divorce petition – and this does happen, if the respondent either does not want to divorce or does not agree with the reasons cited. Contested divorces obviously raise the drama level and the cost, as you, your spouse and your legal teams get into rights and wrongs of whether and how your marriage has broken down. And your alternative is to wait five long years.

Under the no fault system your spouse cannot contest the grounds for the divorce. They can, as now, contest the arrangements you make with regards to finances, children etc. You will still need to agree on these, ideally with the help of a mediator, or through court order.

But removing the ability to contest the divorce application itself may help you financially or emotionally. If you suspect that your spouse will contest your divorce, either because they don’t want to divorce or because of the grounds cited, you may well save money by waiting for the no fault system to come into effect.

2. It encourages a collaborative approach

You can apply for divorce alongside your spouse. You don’t have to – but it’s now possible, which replaces the petitioner vs respondent approach in place at the moment. Why is this important? Mostly because of the culture it engenders: that divorce doesn’t have to be a battleground, legal or otherwise. It creates a culture of collaboration and focus on the divorce and future rather than the rights and wrongs of the marriage.

Collaborative approaches put you and your spouse on the same side. The side that wants your divorce completed as efficiently and effectively as possible. Does this mean there won’t be any difficult negotiations or emotional clashes. No. Divorce is hard work, and there’s a reason why you’re pursuing it. The process won’t be a bed of roses.

But it does mean you go into this on a different footing. This isn’t about fighting with your soon-to-be-ex. This is about working together, as much as possible, to get your divorce done. And that has a ripple effect in terms of the approach. You both want the same thing. Yes, you need to look out for your individual interests, so you are financially and practically equipped for post-divorce life. But it makes no sense to run-down the financial pot on legal bickering if you can avoid it.

3. It demystifies what actually happens with financial remedy orders

One of the big myths of the divorce system, amplified by Hollywood storylines, is that divorce is about getting your day in court. About your ex-spouse getting what’s coming to them.

In truth, financial remedy isn’t about retribution or paying damages for harm done. There are other legal avenues for that, if needed.

When a judge gets involved their job is simply to ensure fairness. Not to punish wrongdoing. Behaviour may be taken into account in a judge’s decision-making. But this is not to strip an adulterer or abuser of their assets as retribution. It may be that a judge rules that one party has greater need of certain finances than another based on family history and future plans – this can happen in the case of parenting arrangements, for example.

Taking blame out of the equation puts this myth firmly to bed. Which means you can focus all your attention on getting your divorce done, so you can get on with your life. Not playing emotional games about who’s in the right or not. Which will cut out a lot of the expensive back and forth between legal teams that happens when divorce gets acrimonious.

4. You can make good use of the period of reflection

Once you have applied for your divorce there will be a minimum period of 20 weeks before the divorce can be finalised. This is to ensure people don’t rush into divorce on a whim, and have time to think through the consequences.

You can certainly use this time in therapy and mediation to confirm that divorce is the right decision, and that your marriage definitely is over. Being clear on your emotions is an important part of the divorce process.

And you can also use it to ensure you are organised. You know that one of my mantras is ‘know your numbers’. It’s so important to know your financial assets and liabilities in detail before you agree to anything. And this remains the case in no fault divorce.

Hopefully, removing blame will remove some of the heat out of negotiations. But you still need to agree finances and arrangements for the children, and there are plenty of decisions to be made and potential confrontations to be had there!

So don’t go in blind. Get to grips with your finances – both your situation now and your future financial needs. Don’t waste this period of reflection. Put it to use so you make wise financial choices.

5. You only need to use a lawyer when you need one

Let’s be completely clear: this last point is already the case. You do not need a solicitor to divorce. You can self represent and still get a settlement you are happy with. In fact, one of my main messages in all my years as The Divorce Alchemist has been ‘don’t instruct a solicitor straight away’ (in fact, here’s a blog from over five years ago that covers exactly this topic!)

But no fault divorce brings both the language and the process of divorce into the 21st century. Archaic terms such as ‘decree nisi’ and ‘decree absolute’ will be replaced with altogether more understandable language: ‘conditional order of divorce’ and ‘final order of divorce’. And, as we’ve seen in the points above, changing to a no fault system will, over time, engender a culture change in divorce norms. Resolution, an organisation of family lawyers advocating constructive rather than combative divorce, hopes that the new system will reduce costs and stress by encouraging a more collaborative approach.

All of this reinforces the message that you can handle much of the divorce planning yourself. Yes, solicitors are experienced with the paperwork, and know the process inside out. But they don’t know you. They don’t know your preferences or needs. So do some of the legwork yourself. You will save a fortune.

I recently recorded a series of videos with Herrington-Carmichael Solicitors – you can watch them here. These videos cover everything from deciding to divorce and self-care to making financial decisions on your divorce. And they are well worth a watch to get you set for divorce in 2022.

If you’d like to get clear on your priorities and avoid so many of the financial and emotional pitfalls divorce can bring, I can help. Book in a strategy call and we’ll get your divorce on track together.

 

About Emma

Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the author of the Amazon best-selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. Emma is also the host of  The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com

 

 

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