What is a good divorce?
A good divorce is where a couple are able to reach a fair and amicable agreement with minimal conflict and emotional distress. It is the commitment to divorce without battles with no winners or losers. It involves being willing to compromise, have open communication, and a resolve to put the welfare of any children first and foremost.
A good divorce does not dwell on the past (good and the bad) or hold grudges. It recognises that sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.
The concept of a ‘good divorce’ is clearly reflected in no fault divorce. The new no fault divorce law introduced in April 2022 ends the need to blame or find fault. The divorce application now simply requires a person to confirm that the marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down. An application for divorce or dissolution can now be made individually or as a joint application with your spouse or civil partner.
Tips to achieve a good divorce.
Put the children first.
Protecting children from the intimate details and emotional complexities of a divorce is essential. Talk to your children and tell them what is happening in an age-appropriate way. Do not let them figure it out for themselves. Even young children will pick up on the fact that something has changed between you and your spouse/partner. It is very important to tell children not to worry and explain to them that while you and your spouse/partner may no longer be in a relationship, your roles as parents will change at all and you both love them.
A good way to provide stability and security for a child’s life post-divorce is to develop a parenting plan. Parenting plans are a useful way to organise care arrangements for a child, clarify parental responsibilities and the new relationship between you and the child’s other parent. The key thing is to ensure that a child can have a safe and healthy relationship with both parents.
A parenting plan should address:
- Contact arrangements to include where the children will be staying at weekends and holidays, handovers, travel arrangements, and exceptions for special occasions.
- Children’s medical needs or concerns.
- Guidelines for decision-making and dispute resolution.
- Guidelines about communication. Should communication be by phone, or via email or text message?
- Back-up arrangements in case your child needs to stay home from childcare or school. That might mean talking to the other parent about how they can help.
- The child’s education and school events.
- Arrangements for special events such as birthdays’, Christmas, and Easter.
- Arrangements for reviewing the parenting plan at intervals as the child grows up.
Decide to divorce amicably and together.
An amicable and good divorce is where a couple agrees to work with one legal professional to end their relationship without conflict, acrimony, or resentment, but in an environment of mutual respect and dignity.
By jointly applying for a divorce you are saying, “We have both decided to end the marriage and want to do so together.” It sets the tone for future discussions on other matters such as children and/or finances.
The benefits of an amicable and joint divorce include:
- It is far more cost effective – You are not each instructing your own lawyers to battle against each other. Instead, you are using one legal professional to help you find solutions you can both live with – meaning only one cost and vastly reduced legal fees.
- It is less stressful as you are deciding to resolve your differences productively and without conflict.
- It is far quicker and flexible.
Try to support each other.
Although your relationship is breaking down or has broken down, remember you are both in the same boat trying to make the most of your situation. Supporting each other is crucial to have a good divorce and get through the tough times.
Be prepared to compromise.
Compromise does not mean giving in or giving up or going without. Compromise means giving up ground to gain ground. Compromise is the ability to identify the outcome you need to be financially independent post-divorce, as opposed to seeking what you want or think you deserve. It requires you to be aware of what you would be prepared to give up to achieve your objective to have a good divorce.
Compromise requires you look at the bigger picture and take the emotion out of negotiations.
When you are arguing about detail, a good question to ask yourself is:
Will it make any difference in 5 years’ time if I “win” this particular point?
If the answer is “no” – let it go.
Focus on effective communication.
Communication can make or break a good divorce. Effective communication is about expressing yourself clearly, but also listening to and understanding the other person. When going through a divorce, try to use plain non-emotive language.
In almost every divorce there is at least some level of emotion tied to the relationship. Even if both parties want the divorce, there can be feelings of regret, failure, sadness. In other divorces, those emotions could be anger, bitterness, and even more intense emotions. If you want a good divorce, focus on the issues, rather than the other person or the emotions.
Have clarity but accept you won’t get everything. Work out what you need. Think about what this leaves your partner with – successful divorce negotiations and communication should work for the both of you. Brainstorm or generate ideas and options before becoming too narrowly focused on one thing or becoming entrenched in your respective positions.
Don’t only focus on your own interests. This is a self-limiting approach and will blind you to a wide range of options. Go beyond adversarial positioning and consider what the other side needs. Work with them to create a solution that satisfies both of your interests. A win-win does not mean giving in to the other side; it means finding ways for both sides to get what they really need from the agreement and walk away satisfied.
Do not blame, and do not take it personally.
Divorce is an emotional process. But if you want to get through it as amicably and swiftly as possible, it’s best to avoid blaming each other. Instead, try to approach divorce as a shared problem and a life change that you have decided to navigate together.
Consider using a divorce coach.
Like a coach for a sports team, divorce coaches don’t do the work for you. Instead, they motivate and arm you with the knowledge, communication and negotiations skills, and strategies to help you handle and navigate the varied challenges of separation and divorce.
Using a Divorce Coach can provide numerous benefits during the separation or divorce process. These include:
- Advising you on how to minimize conflict and on how to have a good divorce. An experienced coach can teach you coping skills and emotional regulation so that your split can stay as amicable as possible.
- Helping you picture your post separation/divorce life.
- A Divorce Coach can provide structure and help you identify first steps.
- Help you build the ability and confidence to manage all the processes and stages involved in separation or divorce.
- Help you develop self-awareness, confidence, and resilience.
- Provide you with a safe space where you will be able to have an open and honest discussion about specific issues that are bothering you.
- Provide you with clarity about your priorities, values, and goals.
- Provide feedback, good and bad, for your specific issues.
- Listen to complaints about your ex and provide tips on how best to respond to triggers to ensure a better outcome.
- Provide you with emotional support when they are not willing to share that burden with family or friends.
- Help you navigate life after divorce and achieve your goals following this life-changing event.
Make interim arrangements for bills.
Even if your divorce is amicable, it will be months before everything is finalised. Do not ignore debts and decisions about who will pay them.
Update your domestic budget if you have one. If you do not, make one.
Be realistic and recognise where costs of living have increased.
Put in the time to research what outgoings are genuinely costing you as opposed to inserting your best guess or what you have been used to paying. Those estimates might now be out of date.
If necessary, talk to your mortgage provider to see if they can assist in delayed or reduced payments until the house is sold.
Do you have a pet together?
If you have a pet together you need to agree the following:
- Who will the pet live with?
- Who will care for it?
- Who will pay the vet bills?
- Who will pay for food and other expenses?
- Who will look after the pet when you go on holiday?
It is important to reflect on what is in the animal’s best interests. If one of you goes out to work all day and the animal is left on its own, then it might be fairer for it to live with the person who is around the home more.
You could adopt a ‘shared care’ approach. For example, a pet dog can regularly be taken for walks by the party with whom the pet no longer lives, or they can provide free pet-care whilst you are on holiday. Make sure that both of you have the time and resources to care for the animal if you decide on shared care.
Getting divorced does not mean that you failed at marriage, it means that as a couple you failed at that marriage. Have a good divorce and move on.
Other helpful resources
The Guardian newspaper – How we break up: an anatomy of divorce