Info & Advice

How do you make a separation amicable?

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It is hard to disentangle a life when you separate. There are children, the family home, debts, personal possessions, and savings to sort out, not to mention mutual friends and years of shared memories. So, is it even possible to separate amicably? Read on to find out.

What is an amicable separation?

An amicable separation means different things to different people, but typically involves avoiding unnecessary conflict and contentious court proceedings. The separating couple will work together to agree how issues such as the division of the finances and arrangements for children will be settled. It may use methods such as solicitor negotiation, collaborative law, or mediation to agree outstanding issues, as opposed to relying on the court.

Aggressive and combative negotiations between separated couples are deemed to be counter-intuitive in an amicable separation, particularly when a relationship needs to be maintained to deal with any children.

How do you keep a separation amicable?

While mediation and collaborative law are common choices for those who are separating, they are generally not used in isolation. Here are our suggestions for an amicable separation:

  • Avoid trying to get revenge. Vowing to take your ex for all you can get is wholly unhelpful unless you are determined to spend thousands on costs, of course. In any event, this type of attitude is extremely unlikely to elicit the desired result and will probably cause more bad feeling and lengthen the time and cost of separation.
  • You will need to talk to your ex to get things sorted out. All refusing to engage in communication will achieve is higher costs, since discussions will then have to be fed through solicitors. You will still have to co-parent your children, so it is important to keep channels open.
  • Never be tempted to use the children to score points or as pawns. This type of behaviour could risk alienating the child from you or their other parent. The court’s position is that all children, unless there is a risk to their wellbeing, deserve an ongoing relationship with both parents.
  • Separation involves working through many emotional stages, including anger, denial, and shock. Your ex may be at a different stage from you, particularly if you are the instigator of the separation. Try to accept this and be sympathetic to their position, listen to their concerns and suggest ways you can both move forward.
  • Ask friends, family members, or even your GP for support as and when you need it.
  • If your ex is being unreasonable, maintain your calm and resist the temptation to react. If you are suffering abusive or threatening behaviour, you should report this to the police or seek the advice of a solicitor regarding the steps you can take to protect yourself and any children.
  • Place the welfare of the children first. The law views children’s welfare as the paramount consideration, both in terms of resolving disputes over finances or the children themselves. Have their needs and feelings at the forefront of your mind at all times.
  • Think about counselling. This can be a really effective way to deal with negative emotions surrounding separation and keep them in check. Enlisting the help of a therapist of counsellor can rebuild the trust between you and your ex.
  • If you were paying all the family expenses before separation, you should continue to do so until you and your ex have reached a settlement for how these will be handled in the future. Neither party should withdraw or spend significant sums of money without the consent of the other, as this could have negative consequences later on in the process.
  • Openly disclose assets. In divorce and dissolution proceedings, there is a duty of full and frank disclosure, which helps both parties have a clear understanding of all assets, whether these are owned jointly or individually.
  • Only proceed at a pace you can both handle. If either party insists on rushing, the other is more likely to push back, which can lead to animosity and put the brakes on the entire process.

All family solicitors should advise an amicable approach to separation and surrounding issues and is the approach promoted by Resolution. This is a national organisation for family lawyers who commit to a Code of Practice which champions a non-confrontational approach to resolving family matters. By taking early legal advice and understanding what claims you and your partner have against one another, can help ensure what you intend to agree to cover everything it should, and you are not agreeing to something that is not in your best interests.

Having an informal agreement between you, or within mediation, is not legally binding, even if it is written down. Therefore, it is essential you make sure you are protected in the future by getting your solicitor to prepare a consent order, which records what you have agreed. Once this is approved by the court, it becomes legally binding.

What are the benefits of an amicable separation?

Amicable separations often result in less stressful divorce or dissolution proceedings which are less likely to end up in court. Unmarried separating couples will also benefit from being able to agree on how shared assets should be split, and on arrangements for the children. Further benefits of an amicable separation include:

  • Contentious separations are extremely emotionally taxing for all concerned. In contrast, amicable separations cause less conflict and high emotions. This will allow you to conserve energy for other matters and leave the relationship in a more dignified manner.
  • If you have children, amicable separations can provide more consistency and stability and mean they are less likely to be put at the heart of arguments.
  • Legal fees associated with a court case can very quickly mount up with contested proceedings drawing out matters over a much longer period. If you are getting divorced or dissolving a civil partnership, there will always be a degree of associated cost, but by engaging in constructive negotiations, you may prevent excessive costs.

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