There are all sorts of myths about when’s best to divorce. Most of them are rubbish – you need to divorce when you need to divorce! But, this September has a lot going for it, even taking into account the cost of living crisis. In this blog I explain why, and how you can make the most of this window of opportunity to plan for divorce.
The September new year
The media likes to run a story each year about how the first Monday of the year is ‘Divorce Monday’: when disgruntled couples file for divorce having scraped through Christmas. But, as I explained in more detail on last week’s blog, September is even more popular.
And it makes sense: for many, the summer months expose marital cracks. And rather than have to summon energy to take action in the depths of winter, September is more naturally a time for taking action. It’s a time for new starts and new projects, once the children are into their new school routines. Offices (including solicitor’s offices) are usually back to working at full speed, and we can crack on and get things done.
Under the terms of the recent ‘no fault’ divorce legislation, which I’ll get to in a moment, the process will take a minimum of around six months. So if you make a start in autumn, you’ll make good headway by Christmas, and could be on the other side by the end of spring 2023. Doesn’t that feel good?
The benefits of no fault divorce
Maybe you’ve been teetering on the brink of divorce for some time, but not quite crossed the threshold. And there can be so many reasons for this. For some, it will be because you genuinely aren’t sure. And if this is you, ask yourself this question: how many years can you spend in uncertainty?
I’m not saying get divorced just to take some action, but you do need to do something to get unstuck. Dedicate the next few weeks to understanding what you want and need going forward.
If you’ve known you want to divorce for the past few Septembers but never taken action, then there’s good news. The ‘no fault divorce’ legislation that came into effect in April 2022 made the process a lot simpler. No longer do you have to wait two years, or provide a legally sanctioned reason for your divorce application.
You can simply submit it. Your spouse doesn’t have to agree, though if they do, you can apply together if you want to. The ‘no fault’ approach doesn’t change the fact that you’ll still have to come to arrangements about finances and any children. It is just the legal process of ending your marriage. So there is plenty of work still to do, and discussions to be had. But the system does set you and your spouse up for a better chance of collaboration and amicable divorce. One of you doesn’t have to take the blame.
If you’ve felt trapped in an unhealthy and controlling marriage, ‘no fault divorce’ is good news for you. It turns the heat down, legally. You don’t need to get into conversations about who is at fault. You can simply put in your application.
Of course, if your soon-to-be-ex is a high conflict type, they will continue to be demanding and argumentative. They will most likely create obstacles. They will most likely contest or quibble every step of the way as far as financial and children arrangements go. No fault divorce won’t change any of this. But it does at least mean you don’t have to accuse your volatile ex-spouse of unreasonable behaviour, or wait until five years living separately have passed if they don’t agree with your desire to divorce.
What about the cost of living crisis?
There’s evidence that some unhappy couples are delaying divorce proceedings for financial reasons. With the cost of living rising, and uncertainty about what will happen in the future, it’s understandable to be cautious about paying out for divorce costs and budgeting for separate households.
If money worries are on your mind, here’s are some things to consider:
Know your numbers
‘Know your numbers before you agree to anything’ is one of my mantras! What do I mean? I mean before you agree to any financial arrangement, know exactly what your financial position is, and that of your soon-to-be-ex. What money and assets do you have to your name? What do you owe? What are you likely to need to live on in the future?
This mantra is even more important during a cost of living crisis. Of course, no-one has a crystal ball – I don’t know the details of what will happen with energy prices in the future any more than you do. But you can certainly review everything you do know: what your bank balance is, any savings, the value of your house etc. By getting into the details of what your financial picture is, you’ll be clearer on whether uncertainty about the cost of living is a real blocker, or something that can be overcome with some planning.
Consider the state of your relationship
If you are not in an unsafe or highly acrimonious situation, is there scope to plan and process your divorce while co-habiting? It’s not ideal, I get it. It will require work and boundary-setting.
But no-fault divorce does set the system up to be more collaborative. It’s likely to cost less than the previous system (read about why here). If you can find a way, ideally with the help of a mediator, to come to an agreement about finances and any children, could you continue to live together for the time being?
What options do you have?
If it’s not possible to stay under one roof, do you have family or friends who could help? Could you move in with a loved one for a while, until your financial situation stabilises?
Is it possible to move to a cheaper area, and pay less on housing costs? Are there other ways to be creative with your situation to free up the necessary funds for divorce costs, and the cost of maintaining a household on your own?
Believe me, I don’t ask these questions flippantly. I know that money is one of life’s biggest stresses, on marriage, and on mental health. I am not pretending all financial worries can be dealt with simply with careful budgeting and a dash of creative thinking or entrepreneurial spirit. But, if you know that divorce is the right thing for you, and you’re feeling stuck, I do urge you to look at all the solutions you have available.
Know what you want and need
Do you know what one of the biggest costs is in divorce? Faffing around.
Sometimes the faffing around is not your fault – you might have a soon-to-be-ex who loves to play games, or is simply feeling wounded and wanting to act up. (I have some advice on communicating with narcissistic spouses here).
Quite often, though, people make the mistake of engaging a solicitor before they know what they want and need from divorce. They just want to make progress and they think the solicitor will do that for them. And, in part, they are right. Experienced solicitors will have worked on many cases, and, if asked, can offer thoughts on what to include in a financial settlement.
But they don’t know you, or your ex-spouse. There is no blueprint for the perfect financial agreement, because every single marriage is different. Think about it:
- Your income and your soon-to-be-ex’s
- Your financial needs
- Your family
- The length of your marriage
- Your lifestyle
- Your age and future earning potential
All of these things combined will affect what financial agreement you seek. And it’s highly unlikely there’s another couple in the world with exactly the same circumstances as yours.
So, a way to save a fortune on legal fees is to get thinking. To know what you want and need. To take control and become CEO of your own life and divorce
I can help you with this. I am running a FREE challenge, ‘How to divorce like a CEO’ to help you understand what you need to get divorce ready. You’ll learn:
- How to TAME™ your divorce so you make good decisions for yourself – the TAME™ method will also give you the skills to work on your marriage if you choose to.
- The important information about how the divorce process works in all areas: your marriage, your children and your money.
- Why a divorce plan is so important and the skills you need to implement a good plan
And not only that, you’ll get:
- A 30 minute group zoom with me each day of the challenge
- Workbooks to take you through things step by step
- Me on hand to answer any questions
- A Masterclass on Monday 19 September bringing it all together with details of how you can continue your journey
Like I said, this September is an opportune time to get started on divorce, or move things along if you’re already on your journey.
Let me help you with this free challenge. I’ll see you there!
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