21st September 2023
Philippa Cunniff is Head of Family Law at Gilson Gray (Photo: contributed)

Philippa Cunniff is Head of Family Law at Gilson Gray (Photo: contributed)

For the majority, divorce is seldom something people want or expect to deal with, but it is possible to navigate the process in a fair and amicable way that allows both parties to maintain a level of civility, particularly when children are involved.

Choosing the right lawyer is crucial. While some may be tempted by those that employ more aggressive tactics, the best lawyers will offer counsel to find a fair resolution in a way that minimises conflict. Recommendations from friends and online sources like The Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners can be helpful in finding the right fit, but building good chemistry and a personal connection are essential for a successful working relationship.

At the heart of any good divorce lies openness, honesty and a willingness to be fair. Pursuing a ‘win-at-all-costs’ mindset will only lead to more hurt, so emphasis should be placed on reaching a fair resolution that both parties can accept. Some may have a clear idea of what they consider fair, but others might require more information and a more forensic approach. The key is trying to get everyone on the same page so that both parties can walk away feeling they have been treated fairly.

We have also seen a rise in prenuptial agreements, partly because people generally marry later in life than would have been the case with previous generations, and are more likely to have built up wealth before they marry. These contracts serve to protect the interests of both parties by providing clarity and preventing future disputes over entitlements, such as property or future inheritance, in the event of divorce.

Prenups are not just for Hollywood stars, but there are some high-profile celebrity cases we can learn from. Recently, the actor Kevin Costner and his soon-to-be ex-wife Christine Baumgartner’s ongoing divorce has been under the spotlight, with questions as to whether their prenup was being properly complied with.

Such arrangements are not uncommon when one, or both, partners enters a marriage with substantial wealth and assets. For many, the discussion of prenups can be a daunting prospect, but it should instead be viewed as an opportunity to have a broader conversation about money with your future spouse.

Shielding children from the intimate details and emotional complexities of a divorce is essential. For decisions that directly affect them – such as arrangements for their care – their input should be sought if it is age-appropriate but, ultimately, the burden of the decision-making ought to rest with the parents. Picture future family events and milestones like graduation ceremonies or the birth of grandchildren, and consider the impact your decisions might have on these key moments further down the line.

Achieving a good divorce is not about winners and losers, but the key is to focus on fairness and open communication. An amicable and transparent separation eases the emotional burden on all involved, and lays the groundwork for rebuilding family life post-divorce.

​Philippa Cunniff is Head of Family Law at Gilson Gray

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