Better to be prepared

To some, news of the breakdown of their personal relationship comes as a “bolt out of the blue”.  To others it does not.  Often they have formulated the view that the relationship has broken down over a period of time.  There can be many reasons for this.  However, the advantage that provides is the ability to be prepared for a divorce.  The greater prepared you are the easier it can be.  Certainly preparation will assist your legal adviser and therefore reduce the work and costs that may be incurred at the initial stages.

Here is a guide to steps you can take so as to be better prepared:

1. Organise your Financial Information

Keep a full and detailed record of your financial position.  A summary of assets, liabilities and pensions is helpful, together with documentary evidence in support. Ideally that summary is of all assets including those of your partner. You can take notes of your spouses financial information if documentation is open or in communal filing/storage (but you should not open their post or remove their documents). It is not unusual for there to be a division of labour within a household including allowing one party to have control of the finances.  If you want to be prepared then ensure that you have access to your own financial information.

2. Locate all Important Legal Documents

If there are any pre or post nuptial agreements they will be important. Your Marriage Certificate will be required to issue a divorce.  Evidence of ownership of specific assets will also be helpful.

3. Inventory of Assets

If it is likely to be the case that contents or chattels of considerable value will be relevant, if it is possible that these “may disappear”, secure them or obtain evidence of their existence (such as photographs).  It is all very well arguing that your spouse has a collection of watches worth £100,000 but without evidence the Court may be reluctant to do anything.

4. Emotional Material

During the relationship you will only have one set of personal photographs, for example of the children.  Often there may be digital versions of them. Ahead of separation copy the photographs that you may want to retain. 

5. Start Thinking About Child Arrangements

It would be far better for parents to agree between themselves the future arrangements for the children – in other words with which parent they reside and how often they see the other parent.  Some form of shared care arrangement, whether equal or otherwise, can be advantageous.  Think ahead – make enquiries of your employer to see the flexibility that may be required.

6. Social Media

Social media can be an excellent source of information to assist you, but similarly a source to assist your spouse’s legal representative.  Be aware who follows you and may see your social media profile.  Set social media account settings to private.  Similarly if the information is posted on your spouse’s social media accounts, save or print off any information before you are blocked.  However do not hack into your spouse’s accounts.  This could leave you subject to criminal sanctions.

And finally…………….

7. Consult a Family Lawyer

It is important to know where you stand.  There is no reason why you cannot have a preliminary discussion with your solicitor ahead of time.  Forewarned is forearmed.  We are here to help.

Peter Dadswell is a partner in the Family Department at Smith Partnership, recognised by a leading legal directory “Legal 500” as a “top tier family team”.  He can be contacted on 01332 225354