Walking Through The Door: Coming To Terms With Divorce
Published on 12 April, 2021 | Alice Rogers
It is a myth that family lawyers like myself derive some pleasure from dealing with divorce.
The idea that we might revel in often lengthy marriages falling apart is utterly incorrect.
I would suggest that the reality is, in fact, the opposite. Given how stressful divorce can be, those who make it as simple as possible are usually the ones asked for assistance.
This isn’t be being defensive but advancing a position based on many years’ experience of helping men and women come to terms with the process.
Divorce is never easy. Regardless of how amicable it may be, something which involves such a radical shift in someone’s circumstances – whether they’re a parent or not – always has some sort of consequence.
It’s a fact that came to mind when reading an article by the journalist and broadcaster Aasmah Mir in The Times about her own divorce and all the emotions or uncertainties which it stirred up (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/5b54c1c8-97eb-11eb-929e-8d73842419de?shareToken=d2a9305d487460567db6d39fb9e513bb).
The article was very open and very honest but I was also struck by how very similar her feelings were to the clients whom I have dealt with.
Aasmah’s anxieties are shared by many men and women who approach us to at least enquire about divorce.
One question which we always begin by asking is whether they are sure that their marriage has irretrievably broken down. It’s necessary to reflect on whether someone really does believe that their relationship can go no further or might be saved by marriage guidance counselling, family therapy or another type of support.
After all, divorce is a momentous step and not one which should be taken lightly.
It is one reason why we also suggest that individuals committed to the process equip themselves as early as possible with advisors – emotional, legal and financial – who can help them adjust to a life which may suddenly seem very new and very strange.
Questions are a natural part of the process. It is true that, as colleagues have said: “No-one knows for sure what’s on the other side of the door”.
A family lawyer plays one essential role in removing the sense of mystery or fear, guiding participants on a step-by-step basis.
Without our detailed understanding of the law and the other specialists, there exists the potential for leaving loose ends which might prove costly in the future.
In my experience, the knowledge which advisors can impart often also provides much necessary reassurance, not just about the various stages of the current process but what it may mean for their life after marriage.
It’s worth remembering that the circumstances of each divorce are very particular. No two spouses or marital breakdowns are ever identical.
Even so, appreciating that those involved are not alone in going through it can be useful perspective.
A large number of marriages end in divorce each year in England and Wales: 107,599 in 2019, to be precise (https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/divorce/bulletins/divorcesinenglandandwales/2019).
Furthermore, 42 per cent of all those men and women who married in 1996 had divorced by the time their contemporaries were celebrating their silver wedding anniversaries.
However, it’s because divorce is so very personal – with most people experiencing it just once in their lives – that there’s a premium to be placed on doing it right, not just for each other but any children they may have.
Entering into a divorce from a position of knowledge of what’s entailed can defuse tensions and avoid hostility or unpleasantness, both immediately and in the future.
As Aasmah Mir acknowledges, “I will land somewhere, one day, quietly and softly”.
Family lawyers might not be able to predict what happens once you’ve landed but we can at least try to ensure that the landing itself is as soft as possible.