January is a time for making resolutions. It might be deciding it’s time to kick a bad habit or get fit. But sometimes the beginning of a new year will be a point when you consider a change that will have a big impact on your life.
What if that change is ending your marriage? Here are a few things to think about if divorce is on your mind in the New Year.
Is Your Marriage Really Over?
If you decide to go ahead with a divorce, you need to be sure that there is definitely no chance that the marriage can be saved.
The Christmas period can be both a joyful and difficult time of year. It may have been challenging for you if you have been on duty and this has caused a strain between you and your spouse.
A tough Christmas does not have to spell the end of a marriage and you and your spouse may be able to work through this together, or with the support of family and friends, or counselling services, such as Relate.
When Can I Get a divorce?
Some people assume that they will not be able to divorce immediately, as there has been no particular reason for the breakdown of the marriage. Some people think that there has to have been an affair, or particular incident, to be able to start a divorce straight away, but this isn't the case.
If you have felt unsupported by your spouse, or feel that the two of you no longer make the effort to spend time together around your shifts, you could rely on this to prove to a court that the marriage is over.
When Should I Make The Decision to Divorce?
If you have decided that you do want to go ahead with a divorce, we generally advise that you speak to a family lawyer sooner rather than later to ensure you are as informed as possible. Often the first question we are asked is how an officer can try and protect their police pension and taking action at the earliest opportunity can be very important.
A spouse has a claim to an ex-partner’s income, capital and pensions on divorce and these will be based on their financial situation at the time of divorce and not necessarily at the time of separation.
Your spouse is likely to be successful in claiming against the value of your pension at the time of divorce, rather than its value at the time of your separation, i.e. a claim to more of your pension. For example, we acted for an officer who separated from his wife, but waited 13 years before dealing with his finances on separation. His wife might have achieved a 14 per cent share of his pension 13 years ago, but had an argument for an increased share of some 32 per cent, 13 years later.
What About The Children?
If you have children, you will need to try and agree an arrangement for them with your spouse, if you separate. The Court is concerned with arrangements which are in child’s welfare. Parents are encouraged to agree a routine of care which is in a child’s best interests.
You may find it difficult to reach an agreement with your spouse, or perhaps your complicated shift pattern is making it difficult to set out a regular routine. If this is the case, then you should seek legal advice from a children law expert and a referral to mediation can be considered.
For an initial consultation please call the police family law solicitors at Slater and Gordon Lawyers on freephone 0808 175 7710 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help. Alternatively you can contact us via your local federation.
Amanda McAlister is the head of family law at Slater and Gordon.