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Tackle a Christmas break up with talking and teamwork - advice from Ashtons Legal

Joanna Cotgrove, Ashtons Legal (43624071)
Joanna Cotgrove, Ashtons Legal (43624071)

Divorce rates have been creeping up this year due to the pressure that Covid-19 has had on relationships. Prior to this, divorce rates were at their lowest level since the 1970s. However, with the lockdown arrangements varying dramatically over the course of the last few months and into the festive season, it is important that couples with rocky relationships focus on talking to each other in the run up to Christmas.

“There is pressure this year on parents to create a ‘special Christmas’ in a bubble of three. We’d normally be seeing lots of family and friends which can be a welcome distraction for many whose relationships are suffering”, says Joanna Cotgrove, associate in the Cambridge Family Team at Ashtons Legal.

At present, the only grounds for divorce are that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, through adultery, unreasonable behaviour, the rarely-used ground of desertion, two years of separation where both parties agree to divorce, or five years’ separation in which case the consent of the other party is not required.

Jo says: “There has been much discussion about changing the law to allow for no-fault divorce, without the need for a long separation, but we are still waiting for the practical effects of the recent changes in law to make their way through the system. It is hoped that we will see ‘no-fault’ divorce later on in 2021 although a timescale has not been put in place. In the meantime, we need to support couples in navigating the process and help them avoid a recriminatory approach, which is even more important when children are involved.”

This echoes guidance from support organisations such as the NSPCC and Resolution which encourage parents to talk to their children and prepare the ground for separation and divorce, by avoiding accusations and blaming or asking children to take sides.

Jo adds: “Talking things through is always best, and you don’t have to do it all on your own, as someone can sit in to help focus those conversations on positive negotiation, whether it’s just between the two of you, or with the assistance of another person.

“It doesn’t have to be a professional at this stage, although it’s a good idea to get some expert input before you make any agreement over asset sharing or child arrangements, to be sure it is fair for both sides and in the case of the children, child focused.

“Approaching separation on the basis of collaboration and mediation may ease things and make this very difficult phase of life just a little less tough.”

Jo’s last bit of advice is: “People considering separation and/or divorce can obtain free initial advice so that their queries and concerns about the future legal process can be answered at an early stage. It is vital that they do not commit themselves to a financial arrangement that they later regret or agree to a parenting arrangement which later proves unworkable, or unsuitable for the children.”

Jo is a member of Resolution, and a Legal 500 Recommended Lawyer.

Ashtons offers some fixed-fee payment schemes for divorce, separation and dissolution of civil partnerships, along with other family law issues such as disputes about children and pre and post nuptial agreements and agreements for unmarried couples.

Contact the Family Team at Ashtons on enquiry@ashtonslegal.co.uk or call 01223 363111.

For more information, visit ashtonslegal.co.uk.

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