The first Monday of the year – when divorce enquiries peak – is dubbed “Divorce Day” and there is often much ‘hype’ around the number of couples deciding to separate or divorce following the festive season.

Much is made in the media about couples being forced to spend extended periods of time together and with wider family members – resulting in arguments and decisions to ‘call it a day’.

As a family lawyer with some 25 years experience, I do not consider this to be an accurate reflection. Very few couples make lightly the decision to separate. Often, they have been very unhappy for many years but decide, with the passing of a new year, to take steps to do something about it.

The repercussions of separation and divorce are significant and far reaching. Often the family home will have to be sold. Children may have to move schools. Both parties must provide full and frank disclosure of their overall financial position – including pension valuations, bank statements, life insurance details, evidence of savings, investments, business and property assets. The gathering of all relevant data is time consuming and requires a great deal of input from both parties, whilst they continue to work and care for their children in what are often very strained circumstances.

In many cases, expert evidence needs to be obtained – possibly in connection with the valuation of the home or investment properties. Sometimes a farm or other businesses are involved and a full valuation of all of the business assets is required including land, property, machinery, crops, stock, development potential etc. Tax calculations need to be prepared. Pensions need to be valued. A full analysis of the income of the parties from all sources needs to be undertaken and a clear understanding of the income needs of the parties and the children need to be understood.

The practical and emotional consequences of separation and divorce are often underestimated. Even if matters are resolved by negotiation and formalised in a court order by consent within the divorce, the process can take many, many months.

The decision to separate and divorce is a serious one. In my experience, the final decision to separate usually comes after a long period of consideration and reflection. I am currently acting for an 80 year old who has had 58 ‘miserable years of marriage’. She feels liberated at her decision to leave an unhappy relationship but it is certainly not a decision she has rushed into.

After the decision to separate or divorce has been made it is absolutely vital that the practical and financial issues are addressed promptly and thoroughly. It is important that expert professional advice is obtained to ensure that the best outcome is obtained as people move forward with their independent lives.

This article was written by founding partner Margaret Simpson and was first published in The Yorkshire Post (January 2020). Margaret has significant expertise in dealing with all aspects of family law. Contact her online or call 01748 900 888.