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We are divorcing, what next?

It is usually a distressing and depressing time for couples who are experiencing the breakdown of their marriages. Not only do they need to deal with their own emotions, they also need to deal with all the practical issues arising from the divorce, including financial and children matters. They might need to look for new accommodation, adjusting their lifestyle and living standard due to the increase in expenses resulting from having two households, or their daily routine due to the change in the childcare arrangements.

Different people have different mechanisms in dealing with situation like this. Some choose to live in denial and refuse to admit the reality; some choose to fight for what they believe they deserve. In any event most of them are highly charged with emotions with the usual logics and reasons buried underneath layers and layers of emotions. They are usually in a state where people around them could easily fuel the fire and encourage them to fight the other spouse in court acrimoniously, deepening their negative emotions towards the other spouse.

The problem with fighting on is that the longer the fight lasts, the more acrimonious it will become, and the more difficult it is for the parties to recover and move on, both financially and emotionally. This is especially undesirable in cases with children. In some of the cases, the fight could go on until the children have reached their adulthood. As with all litigations, there are always uncertainties. Divorce proceedings are no different. It is also costly and emotionally draining to fight it out in court. Therefore, it should only be used as a last resort.

It is therefore important that divorcing parties should, for their own and their children’s interests, try to isolate the issues and narrow down their differences in order to reach an amicable solution tailor-made by them to suit the needs of their own family. For example, the court might simply order for a landed property to be sold with the sale proceeds to be split between the parties, whereas the parties could, upon their own agreement, agree that one party is to buy out the other party’s shares in the property so that the property can be kept within the family.

Understandably, it is not easy for the parties in this situation to sit down and talk to each other calmly. If it is too difficult for them to do so, suitable help offered to them is very important. To start with, they should look for an experienced family practitioner to advise them on their rights and options. Once they understand what to expect from the divorce, they should try to reach a fair and reasonable settlement with the other spouse. They could try to negotiate with each other either by themselves, with the help of someone they can trust, or through their respective lawyers.

There are also different kinds of alternative dispute resolution methods that they could use. They could try mediation where a trained mediator would act as a facilitator to help them communicate, find their common goal, narrow down their issues with a view to reaching an amicable agreement. They could also consider engaging in a Collaborative Practice process, which is a combination of litigation and mediation that requires a high degree of commitment from the parties to resolve their differences. The process is aimed to be amicable and transparent where the parties will be represented by their own solicitors and other professionals, with confidential legal, financial and other advice accessible by the parties during the Collaborative Process.

The benefit of reaching an amicable settlement versus resolving the disputes through litigation is not only on saving legal cost, but also on emotional costs. This is especially important for families with children in which the parents will still need to maintain a relationship for their children. There is also a certain degree of flexibility in terms of children and financial arrangements reached in their own agreement instead of in a Court Order, which in general is more beneficial to the family as a whole.

In Charles Russell Speechlys, we have experienced family law practitioner, trained collaborative practitioner as well as qualified mediator who are able to assist in the distressing time of divorce.

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