Archive for April, 2013

How Do I get Divorced now I can’t get Legal Aid?

Good interview on the Today programme with Mark Harper at Withers and Christine Blacklaws from the Co-op debating the effect of the removal of legal aid from divorce cases except where there is proof of domestic violence.  There are alternatives to a litigious costly divorce, such as mediation – where with the help of a mediator, you can decide together the outcome of your divorce and get it drawn up into an order.  You can also get an online divorce, if you both agree on what should happen and avoid court altogether.  You can also get a cut rate fixed price divorce from the Co-Op (currently £200) where someone does all the paper work for you. The issue really is what happens when one of you simply won’t agree on any terms and you need to fight to get what is rightfully yours.  You may be happy to mediate, or to have a fixed fee divorce from the Co-op but if your ex partner won’t play ball, you have very little option left, but to litigate.  In those circumstances, in the absence of money to fund it, you will simply have to represent yourself in court and learn as you go along.  There are difficulties with this.  There are many cases which need the expertise of a good lawyer, advising you on pension rights, maintenance, your home and many other worrying and pressing issues.  What if you think your partner is hiding his or her true income, or  that he or she simply won’t come to the table to negotiate – mediation won’t be able to help with that and I suspect a fixed rate divorce won’t budget for something that might take months to uncover and require on-going legal advice.   There are some brilliant mediators out there – and I recommend many regularly and there are other methods of doing things more cheaply, but if your ex won’t play ball – then the full effect of the removal of legal aid, will start to weigh heavily by clogging up the courts with people representing themselves and by justice not being done because proper advice isn’t able to be given.

Baby Boomer Divorce – loneliness or freedom?

Research published today in the Telegraph highlights the percentage of people in their 50’s and 60’s who are lonely and that divorce contributes to that statistic.  Being married for 20 or 30 years and being unhappy for a large part of that, leaves someone in their 50’s or 60’s with a seemingly impossible choice.  Stay married, with years stretching out ahead with the same frustrations and unhappiness, or take a chance at something different – maybe meeting someone else, or just being free to pursue life unencumbered.  It can feel like the judgement of Solomon and takes a lot of courage to choose the separation route.  Many people who come to our groups talk about how lonely they felt in their marriages. You don’t have to live on your own to feel lonely, you can be surrounded by people and still feel it.  Perhaps one feels more lonely in a marriage where you might feel invisible and unappreciated.  Loneliness can be a sad fact of life – and all sorts of people in all sorts of circumstances can feel lonely.  Divorce is just one of those circumstances, and managed right, it is possible to move from being in a state of bereavement, loneliness and bewilderment, to leading a fulfilled life.

Divorce in the over 50’s.

Vanessa Feltz, poses a very interesting question today in the Express.  about whether you stay loyal to ‘the marriage’, friends and family, or break for the border and take a risk of finding happiness. She talks particularly about the age group of people in their 60’s, when it would seem safer to stay married rather than be on your own, and she quotes Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne as an example of this.  I do think the decision is helped a little by having access to funds and a lifestyle that takes away the financial stress that most people have when they separate. 

However, the question of staying or going when you are over 60, doesn’t have an easy or a right answer.These are deeply personal decisions rarely taken lightly, although friends will often think they are. Staying in an unhappy marriage is debilitating, making you think, that, as you say in your article, where there is breath there is hope. We are all living and working for longer, so in our 50’s and 60’s there is a feeling that life isn’t over and there is a chance to get it right. Separating is devastating and has a ripple effect way beyond the couple, but sometimes its more devastating to stay together in a relationship sapped of joy. None of us knows what goes on behind closed doors and its easy to stand in judgement when the door closes on a marriage. Marriage isn’t easy, but nor is divorce, but one thing is true, there is life after divorce and it is also a new beginning.

Put a spring in your step and say goodbye to your divorce.

We have had a very long and cold winter. All most of us hope for are some rays of sun and some warmth. Seeing spring flowers, trees in bud and a hint of sunshine is usually enough to renew hope and faith in life and lift the spirits. However, that isn’t always so especially when divorce and separation has been part of the story. Even the most joyful external events do little to dent a mood of anxiety, grief and stress. It may feel that life and spring is happening without us and despite us. Perhaps though, this is the time to do something about the feelings that divorce and separation engender in us. Perhaps, spring is the time to stop hiding away from others, our life or even ourselves. Whatever part of the spectrum of separation you are on, there is always an opportunity to move forward and begin to let go of something which by definition belongs to the past. By not letting go, we are desperately holding on to what we had. If we do that – hold onto our story of divorce, however much upset it causes, it somehow feels better than thinking about the future and redefining life. Letting go, would mean facing a very painful loss – but it would also mean a spring clean, out of which could come a new you. With help, spring can take you with it, perhaps tentatively at first, perhaps even without much enthusiasm on your part, but one small step at a time towards recovery will create a distance between you and your history and make it part of who you are, part of your experience, but one that doesn’t dominate your life. One small step will bring you nearer to your future than your past and will enable you to inhabit your present, without your divorce crowding in on your every thought and move.