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Helen Ward and Emma Hatley spoke to the Sunday Times Style Magazine about the best way to navigate a divorce, on what is widely thought to be the busiest time of the year for family lawyers.
In the article, Helen and Emma offer their thoughts to people who may be embarking on the divorce process, based on their experiences with clients. These include the following:
Choose a divorce lawyer with emotional intelligence:
“A divorce lawyer needs a high degree of emotional intelligence,” says Emma. “You know as much about a client’s finances as their accountant, but also as much about their emotional turmoil as a therapist. One of the hallmarks of a good lawyer is being a good listener.”
See a therapist
“I send almost all my clients to some kind of therapy,” says Helen Ward. She thinks it helps to manage what is “probably one of the most emotionally traumatic experiences of their lives”. Emma recommends therapy as it can help with “extracting a lot of the bad feeling”.
Ditch the amicable dream
“People’s personalities are stretched to their extreme in divorce,” Helen says. “Somebody who might be very calm normally will become emotionally out of control. This is not uncommon.”
Emma says: “The person who instigated [the divorce] will be further down the path mentally, so it can be difficult to end without acrimony.” But, she adds, “in a constructive environment, it can be done with dignity”.
Helen says she recommends clients find, “an equitable solution that both parties are able to live with”.
Emma adds that a lawyer will “quite often have to give advice that clients don’t want to hear”.
Think of the kids
“Everybody understands that divorce carries a health warning for children,” says Helen, “The pain and grief that children suffer when their parents divorce is an experience that may compel the children to mature and find resilience.”
Avoid the mudslinging
Helen advises clients to avoid mudslinging in the divorce proceedings. “It’s very unsophisticated,” she says. “Judges do not find it helpful to be confronted with a whole raft of allegations. They accept that it takes two to tango.”
Emma suggests that clients look ahead. “There can be a strong tendency to look back and apportion blame, but the courts will not indulge people in the act of rummaging through the attic of a marriage,” Emma says. “We try to encourage clients to look forward.”
“Unpleasant allegations carry no weight at all in the context of settling financial cases,” says Helen.
Helen recommends honesty. “You know, ‘I haven’t committed adultery,’ then you find out they have.” She also says there are lies about the children, about “how they’ve managed the children between them, what the children say”. The article continues, ‘And of course there are lies about money, usually around “how much, how it was made and its value”, Helen continues. “Lying is partly to do with guilt and not wanting to hurt anybody, and sometimes shame and sometimes pride.”’
Manage the money
“If there is significant wealth, then there is the ability to spend significant money engaged in a contest,” says Helen.
Work harder on your marriage
“Inevitably, you can learn from other people’s mistakes,” says Emma.” The key areas she tries to apply to her own life are “communication, respecting your partner’s individuality, and allowing for people to change. You’ve got to grow together but independently.”
And Emma advises that, before you even embark on marriage “you really explore whether you share enough common values. You’d be amazed how many people don’t even talk about whether or not they want to have children.”
To read the full article in the Sunday Times Style Magazine, click here.
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