Senior associate at Ashford LLP, Samantha Newton, spoke last week with Ian Collins on Talk Radio, to answer this very question in the wake of the split of billionaire couple Bill and Melinda Gates announced last week following a 27 year marriage.
The short answer is absolutely, and most cases can be resolved without fighting it out in court. To give the best chance of success of keeping a separation amicable, there are lots of things that individuals can do early in the process.
Samantha touches on some of those in her interview with Ian Collins, the link to which can be found at 21.40 minutes here.
Expanding on the points touched on, Samantha confirms the following top tips:
- Protect your children from the break-up and avoid involving the children in any discussions or in front of them (arguably the most important).
- Keep direct lines of communication open – this will help maintain a relationship in the future and keep overall legal costs down.
- Be respectful and honest to each other – a break-up is one of life’s most difficult events, it will be an emotional process and so adding further upset to the mix will only add fuel to the fire.
- Disclose assets openly – it is important you both have a clear understanding of all the assets you own both jointly and individually – start by writing a list detailing the property you own, cash and investments, business interests, debts, pensions and details of income and bonus.
- Lead discussion with knowledge not emotion – take early advice from a Resolution solicitor to manage realistic expectations and for a steer on options for an amicable separation. A Resolution solicitor is committed to helping you resolve your separation in a non-confrontational way and will signpost you to the process most suited to your circumstances.
- Take your time – understand that you are both likely to be at different stages emotionally. If you have known you wanted to separate for a while, be prepared for the fact that your partner may be in shock or denial, if you try to rush the process they may react more defensively.
- Know your options – there are lots of options to help navigate the discussions without ending up in court. Mediation, collaborative law, solicitor-led negotiation, round table meetings are just a handful of the options which usually lead to an agreement which you are both equally comfortable with.
- Take early financial and tax advice – a financial adviser is an invaluable person to have in your trusted team. Steps such as moving out of the family home or agreeing to separate can trigger tax considerations you need to be aware of. Your solicitor will usually be able to recommend such advisers if you have not previously had the need to use one.
- Document your agreement – having an informal agreement reached directly between you or in mediation is not legally binding even if it is written down. It is important to ensure you are both protected in the future. A solicitor will be able to help you prepare a document which records what you have both agreed, and once approved by the court this will become legally binding.
- Be kind to yourself – a relationship break-up is a major life event. Surround yourself with positive people, don’t listen to all the advice you will inevitably get from family and friends and speak to a coach or therapist to help navigate the emotional elements of your separation.
Samantha is a specialist family solicitor working out of Bristol and London. Samantha is a Resolution solicitor and collaborative lawyer, and would be delighted to discuss the above with you in more detail.