14th May 2021

How to “Win” At Divorce – Part 1

By James Pirrie

How to “Win” At Divorce


In this blog, FLiP Director James Pirrie explains how to “win” your divorce, with reference to the recent Divorce: A Route Map publication.

You know that separation is on the cards. The question on your mind is “what should I be doing now to help win this difficult battle that lies ahead?”how do I secure the high-ground from which to negotiate and so that I’m better able to protect myself?

We are going to need two blogs to cover this off. That is because we need to go back a few steps to answer the question and, ultimately, realise that this mindset is what is most likely to make the fears that lie behind these questions a reality: what, is generally needed to secure the solutions that we all crave to achieve a good transition is an approach of empathy and respect.

The 7 domains

You can conveniently think of divorce and separation as a problem which has seven parts:

  1. The Relationship
  2. Emergencies
  3. Children
  4. Finances
  5. Separation and divorce
  6. Process and costs
  7. Other issues for some (for example media or immigration)

Expanding that list a little:

  1. The Relationship
    The relationship involves focusing on addressing the storm of emotions and concerns that arise for anyone at the end of a relationship, seeking out the equilibrium you need to be better able to focus uon your options and starting to take the first steps towards the future and recovery. For some it may involve an exploration on rebuilding and finding a new way to go forward together. For the majority who have reached the stage of contacting us, it will be about coming to terms with the past, addressing the trauma of the split and recognising the need to build a positive future relationship: a) to negotiate the various issues you face and; b) to maintain the constructive parenting relationship your children need from you.
  2. Emergencies
    For those in a coercive controlling relationship, there will be a focus on safety for all family members including any children. Other emergencies may be precipitated by unilateral steps taken by one, for example around money or children. Protective injunctions may need to be applied for.
  1. Children
    All children are uniquely attuned to their care-givers: their well-being depends on it. They are usually more aware of what is going on than many parents would ever guess. For most people entering this chapter of their lives, their children are their first concern: how do they support them through the chaos of separation, find a good transition and positive lives for them at the end of it all?
  2. Financial issues
    If you share a home with someone, particularly if you have children together, you are likely to have interwoven your lives in myriad ways. For separation to take place, the resources you have need to be separated to enable each of you to find your independent futures.
  1. Divorce and separation
    The process of ending the marriage is usually simply a long administrative one – but it is usually routine and ought to be managed inexpensively. Separating out may have happened already or may be a co-operative and easy proposition (once structured well for any children). But for others is very complex: pulling away and escaping the control of someone who does not want to let go, will require considerable focus thought and planning.
  1. Process and process costs
    The court structure imposes outcomes. This will be the best route for some.  For others this approach is a slow, intrusive, expensive and crude option for finding an outcome. You will need information about the alternatives and how might these different choices play out for you. Which option suits you best?  A crucial element will be the cost of it: you will need clarity around what must be funded when and choose a path that you are able to see through to the end.

We look at these elements more in our guides which you can access here:

  • Towards the Light
  • Divorce: A Route Map

Separate elements all connected

The benefit of breaking things down in this way is that you are able to really focus on each area and work out how to manage it for the best.

The danger is that these are not isolated compartments and should not be thought of as such. As you burrow into the detail of the options in one domain, you will quickly realise its connectedness to others: strategies that might make sense to manage the problems of one part may generate problems in another. For example, a strategic step that you might use to win the financial dispute, may well have eviscerating impacts on trust and thus your endeavours to build towards the sort of arrangements that you want as regards your children. Indeed more and more you are likely to find that each element has an impact on all the others: a bit like a mobile – twitching one part sends movement shivering into the others.

For example:

  • If the split happens in a chaotic way that projects either side into emergency steps – that is how this journey will start …
  • the impacts on process are obvious: more aspects are more likely to be litigated, with its high cost (in terms of emotion and time as well as spending) of legal process. Experience tells us that this may well be across the gamut of issues, from different aspects of finance to a range of parenting disputes …
  • and this means that options are usually narrowed to the court agenda and of course beyond this the spend on legal fees reduces the resources available for the financial futures sought on each side
  • and then there are the impacts upon the quality of parental co-operation …

So one sees that there is a real risk that the accidents of how things unfolded at the start will set the tone for the entire post separation chapter and the importance of the first steps we will look at in the next part.

What we learn is that we need to have two perspectives in operation: the detailed and focused one on the specific arrangements in each domain but then a more landscape-setting where we are able to hold in mind the wider impact of those detailed choices that could be made. We refine and upgrade our final decision because of the impacts on progress overall.

In part 2 of this blog, we will look at how this structured approach provides a guide as to what next steps to take for the best.

At Family Law in Partnership our aim is to make the experience of family change better so that our clients can successfully move forward with their lives. We are expert family and divorce lawyers but we also make it our job to understand the emotional impact of divorce and separation on you and your family.

For further information on our unique approach to helping couples through family breakdown, contact any of our leading divorce and family lawyers at E: hello@flip.co.uk or T: 020 7420 5000.