14th Mar 2019

Do I Need a Divorce?

By Pamela Collis

In this blog Family Law in Partnership senior consultant Pamela Collis examines whether you need a divorce and what help is out there to guide you through your relationship difficulties.

In the midst of all the heartache, upset and recriminations surrounding a relationship breakdown it may be hard to know whether what is happening is fatal and final or whether you ought to be thinking about a divorce. Set out below are some useful tips and thoughts to bear in mind at this difficult time.

1.My relationship is faltering – what can I do? Should I get a divorce?

Most people have heard of Relate  (who do excellent work but are often overbooked) but are not aware of other similar services.

Couple therapy and/or couple counselling can help to resolve the issues that may have arisen in a marriage and might help to save it altogether. Properly trained couple counsellors and therapists have additional specific training which enables them to “treat the relationship” rather than the individuals in the couple. Couple therapists may identify that individual therapy would help. This can be very useful where one partner is pretty sure that their spouse needs therapeutic help but the spouse cannot be approached about it effectively. That other spouse will, in all probability, listen to a couple therapist’s recommendation, however. At Family Law in Partnership our in-house counsellor and family consultant Joanna Harrison works with individuals and couples in a therapeutic capacity and can refer clients to other specialists, where appropriate.

A huge number of other resources requiring less financial and time input than therapy are also available. These include, for instance, the Marriage Course which can be helpful where the issues are reasonably straightforward but need attention. The Marriage Course is a series of seven sessions designed to help couples invest in their relationship and build a strong marriage. Meanwhile Marriage Care offers relationship counselling and support in times of relationship difficulty. You might also find it helpful to read this personal letter from Harry Benson of the Marriage Foundation about his own experiences of marital difficulties.

Those who work with couples witness the enormous satisfaction when the partners respectively realise what is needed to improve the relationship. Often what is needed is nothing too complicated or difficult, and the relationship may well be better than it ever has been at the end of the work.

2. I feel financially insecure in my relationship – what can I do?

Some people feel very financially insecure in their relationships. Ideally they would like the relationship to endure but money may prove to be a constant trigger for relationship difficulties. This may happen because all the assets are concentrated in one person’s hands or because one person takes complete control of the purse strings. In other cases, one partner may have a gambling or other addiction which puts pressure on the family finances. It is relatively easy to address this relationship problem. The parties could enter into a postnuptial agreement (formerly known as a Deed of Reconciliation), which makes specific financial provision for the insecure party and gives them the confidence to go ahead with the relationship without so much worry. Occasionally references are made in the media to these arrangements which are known in the US as “relationship contracts”. For more information on postnuptial agreements and other relationship agreements, visit our dedicated website page.

3. Am I being gas-lighted? Is gas-lighting domestic abuse?

Gas-lighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in the mind of a spouse or partner, often making them question their own memory, perception and sanity. Gas-lighting tends to be employed by those with psychological disorders and/or by those with narcissistic tendencies (see below). Over a period of time the impact of the abuse on the victim is considerable. If you think you are being gas-lighted it would be sensible to see a psychologist as soon as possible in order to analyse what is happening and then decide what to do regarding the relationship. You might also want to take a look at our dedicated page on Abuse in Relationships and consider consulting one of our family lawyers.

4. Narcissists

Narcissists can similarly have a very bad effect on their spouse or partner. People with narcissistic traits tend to have a lack of empathy, a need for admiration and are likely to have troubled relationships with others. Both therapeutic and legal help may be useful. Consider consulting a therapist like Joanna Harrison of Family Law in Partnership or seek the advice of one of our family lawyers. You might also find it helpful to read our blog on Narcissists and Divorce.

5. Do I need to take legal advice?

Whilst many people view taking legal advice from a family lawyer as a death knell to their relationship, actually it can be very positive. Some people go away feeling very reassured that they know what the financial and other outcomes would be if they divorced. It allows them to move forward with a renewed intention to work at their relationship as much as possible. Others realise that their financial future as a single person after the termination of the relationship will be very difficult and restricted. Similarly they are incentivised to save their relationship. After a detailed discussion with a well-informed family lawyer, most people are glad that they have had the benefit of legal advice and are reassured or at least knowledgeable about what might happen. They can put their fears behind them whilst they either concentrate on the relationship itself or move into their future as a single person with confidence. However it is not worthwhile taking legal advice if the relationship is simply “wobbling” rather than in significant trouble.

6. Should I prepare for divorce?

In short, yes. In conjunction with a one-off meeting with a family lawyer, it is worth taking preparatory steps to put your affairs in order. This might include:

  • Making a chronology or history of past events
  • Taking more interest in the other parties’ financial affairs, if appropriate
  • Thinking about your own future needs and expenses
  • Thinking about your own future earning capacity and that of your partner
  • Cancelling joint overdraft or other similar arrangements
  • Review your will.

7. But surely divorce is devastating for children? Should I stay in my marriage for the sake of the children?

People often say that they have stayed married “for the sake of the children”, but it is actually very likely that it would have been better for the children had the relationship ended sooner. Research shows that one of the most distressing and negative situations for children is to have their parents arguing, or to be brought up in a “toxic” atmosphere. Children have a sixth sense and feel the tension between their parents. Most children are hugely relieved when that situation ends as a result of one parent moving out.

The best outcome for the children is co-parenting on a cooperative basis and they will fare much better without their parents under the same roof if their parents are arguing. Take a look at our dedicated website page on Children and Parenting for information on the pathways available should you decide to move towards a divorce or separation.

8. What does the future hold post-divorce?

Anecdotally we find that some clients report that the divorce was:

  • The best thing that happened to them
  • Sad but the right thing to have happened
  • It was frightening but I learnt a lot and am a more competent / confident person

Our Divorce Diaries website has the real life experiences of divorce of over 20 of our clients who have shared their insights, both emotional and practical, in the hope of helping others.

So, do you need a divorce? Every situation is different as is every relationship. At Family Law in Partnership we offer some of the best family and divorce lawyers in London supported by the best family mediators in London and a highly experienced team of counsellors. If you would like to discuss your options, please contact us at E: hello@flip.co.uk or call us on T: 020 7420 5000.