As you enter your late 20s, social media feeds become full of engagements, wedding pictures and baby announcements. It seems like every day someone new is engaged or has something exciting to announce. But what happens if you’ve had the whirlwind romance, big white wedding, moved into your dream home and the realisation dawns that Mr. Right isn’t quite right? You might be able to work through it, or you might choose to separate. Getting divorced is never an easy time, but for young couples this can be particularly difficult.
Inevitably, a young couple going through a divorce hasn’t been married for very long. Unhelpful (and, in my view, undeserved) feelings of failure and embarrassment can surface, particularly if family and friends have recently forked out for your wedding. This, coupled with daily reminders on social media that everyone else is getting engaged, the financial pressure of getting divorced, finding a new place to live and working out how to split your financial affairs, can make you feel completely overwhelmed. It is no surprise that separating couples’ mental health will suffer during this time – depression, heavy drinking and anxiety are just some of the issues which can arise as a result of a divorce. The Shaw Mind Foundation published in its study that on average it takes a year to recover from a close bereavement but two years to recover from a divorce.
My first advice is to ignore the image portrayed by Instagram and other social media platforms. You are not alone in needing to end a failing marriage: 42% of married couples find themselves divorcing. It is healthy to end an unhappy relationship, and you are doing the right thing. But what can be done to try and make the process less stressful and expensive? It’s no secret that a protracted and messy divorce battle is costly and means that neither spouse can move on with their lives for quite some time.
The ‘usual’ divorce process leads the separating couple down an adversarial road straight away, with both parties consulting different solicitors from day one. This framework creates an element of conflict which can have a damaging impact on the whole process and the couple’s mental health – much more than people realise.
There is another aspect which can exacerbate an already emotional situation, and that is the cost of divorce. The average divorce now costs £17,000- £30,000 – an amount which can seem insurmountable to a young couple. And if cases end up in court they can cost much, much more.
Whilst a stress-free divorce is near impossible, it is worth looking into your options to find a process that is less combative – from both a legal and financial perspective.
1. Mediation – since 2013, couples have been actively encouraged to consider this as a viable alternative. If you are a separating couple you must each now attend a mediation information meeting before you can make a court application. For many couples who engage in mediation, the process can be effective in reaching a quick settlement. The only disadvantage is that mediators cannot offer legal advice.
2. Another option is the service we offer at The Divorce Surgery, which short circuits the traditional route. Instead of appointing your own lawyers, one impartial and experienced family law barrister advises you both as to the way a court would view your case. This process takes around 6-8 weeks and the couple knows the total fee up front before they commit. The couple can then come to an agreement which is fair, armed with an understanding of what their legal rights are and what a court would consider is fair in their situation.
Ignore Instagram and Facebook. The healthiest response to an unhealthy relationship is to address what is wrong rather than putting on a brave face. Do what is right for you, and choose the way to divorce that works for you. One of these less adversarial routes might leave you in a much better position, emotionally and financially, to rebuild on the other side.
Samantha Woodham, Barrister and Co-Founder of The Divorce Surgery – helping separating couples cut straight to the answer so they can minimise the conflict, as well as save time and money.
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