Divorce needn’t be tough or stressful, provided there is an understanding of the process and what to expect. Each divorce is different due to the nature each relationship, the parties’ personalities and how they react during the process.
- First and foremost it is essential to remain child focused– every child has a right to have a relationship with both their parents and it is easy to forget the emotional impact family separation can have on a child. If you have young children then you will be co-parenting with your ex – husband for years to come so it is important to put your child’s needs first as they are bound to find the period confusing and uneasy at first.
- Be calm and patient– the process can be lengthy and it certainly will not be resolved overnight. Divorce can take between 4-6 months. The prompt resolution of separate issues such as the division of matrimonial finances or children arrangements depends upon the cooperation and reasonableness of both parties. If matters cannot be resolved amicably and court proceedings are necessary, this inevitably causes a delay in matters being finalised.
- Where to divorce–An expat will have a choice of pursuing a divorce through their place of domicile, nationality or habitual residence. The choice of where you divorce can have a huge impact on your financial settlement so it is important to obtain legal advice at an early stage to see which country would be most beneficial in your circumstances. Read our guide ‘where to divorce’ at http://localhost/expatriatelaw/where-to-divorce/
- Do not assume your husband will meet your legal fees– Your solicitor will discuss the various ways that your legal fees can be paid, whether by instalments, legal fees loan, through security on a property or other methods. Most solicitors offer a reduced service where you may pay for advice only when you need it, or offer fixed fees. This can keep fees to a minimum. In some circumstances, the court can order a spouse to make a monthly contribution towards your legal fees. It is important to note that legal fees can unnecessarily escalate if the parties are refusing to engage with the process or reasonable negotiations; court proceedings can cause legal fees to escalate greatly and should be used only as a last resort.
- Be reasonable– in terms of what to expect as a settlement. If there is only one income within a long term marriage then inevitably it will have to be stretched over two households. A Judge will expect both parties to make sacrifices concerning their new lifestyles post divorce.
- Disclosure– Within financial negotiations it is common to exchange financial disclosure with your spouse and if you have issued court proceedings then it is obligatory. Although it is helpful to enter in to a divorce with a good knowledge of your husband’s assets, you should be aware of the perils of ‘helping yourself’ to financial documents belonging to your husband. The law in England may prevent you relying on these documents if you obtained them without your husband’s permission. If you show such intercepted documents to your lawyer, your lawyer might be asked to step down from the case. Ask your lawyer about what financial documents you should and should not obtain.
- Be rational– If you are within court proceedings you will be under the scrutiny of the court and anything that you say or do in the heat of the moment could impact on your case. Be wary of sending hasty emails or messages that you may later regret. Your husband or his lawyer may send correspondence to you which causes you frustration or upset. Avoid responding in haste. Your lawyer will advise you which issues are important to address, and which should be ignored. It is important to avoid entering in to tit-for-tat correspondence which serves no purpose but does escalate legal fees unnecessarily. Men can react angrily within the divorce process; your lawyer will advise you how the heat can be taken out of the situation to try and ensure an amicably resolution.
- Fleeing the country with the children– it is common for expat wives to feel trapped in an overseas country with their children when their marriage breaks down; their initial reaction is often to return to their home country to the safety of their family. It is important to note that taking a child from their country of residence without your husband’s consent can constitute child abduction. Many countries, including potentially your own home country, may return abducted children to the place where they have been resident, even just as an expat. Speak to your lawyer about child abduction issues, safeguards and other arrangements that can be put in place.
- Surround yourself with friends and family– divorce can an incredible tough time in your life and you will need a strong support network around you. We can provide you with details of local counsellors and support groups for expats. We assist many hundreds of expats each year so it is important to remember that you are not alone in this process.
- Look after yourself and keep yourself busy and active– It is very easy to get consumed by your divorce and to let the whole process dominate you and your life. People can become physically ill and mentally fragile as the process takes its toll on their mind and body therefore it is important to stay active and to keep positive. We find that the majority of our clients have moved on positively by the end of their divorce, whether in to a new relationship or direction in their lives.
Sophie Capo-Bianco is a solicitor based in the Dubai office. Contact Sophie on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to receive one of our factsheets on divorce and family law matters.