Log In

Reset Password

There is such a thing as a good divorce

Few areas of our lives have been unaffected by the ripple effects of the pandemic, and relationships are no exception. Health and financial worries are well-known stressors on any marriage, but Covid restrictions also forced many couples into unusually close proximity. While the extra time together was no doubt welcomed by some, for many it may have forced existing cracks in the relationship to breaking point.

The idea of divorce often still conjures images of warring spouses and courtroom showdowns. However, although almost all separations will be emotional, bitter fights over finances and access to children are not the inevitable outcome of a separation — and there is a growing trend for parties to turn to services that offer a less combative approach to separations. Bill and Melinda Gates are the latest celebrity couple to divorce with seemingly minimal fallout, reflecting this trend.

No doubt the Gateses’ divorce saw a great amount of negotiations behind the scenes — it would be difficult to avoid, given the magnitude of their assets. But whatever disagreements did take place didn’t spill on to the public stage and the relationship has remained sufficiently cordial that they have been able to continue working in their foundation — a prospect that would fill many ex-partners with dread.

So what is the best advice for those who want to follow in their footsteps and achieve a “good divorce”?

1, Get advice early

People often delay speaking to lawyers, possibly out of a fear that once the word “divorce” has been uttered, there is no turning back. However, early advice is invaluable in ensuring that you know what a divorce might mean in practical terms. It is easy to think that the grass is greener, and it may well be, but having an idea of what your life would look like on the other side in terms of finances and child-contact arrangements is essential information you should acquire and consider before you decide to divorce, not after.

Under Bermudian law, marital assets will be usually divided equally and, although the courts are slow to interfere with non-marital assets, such as inheritance, they do have the power to do so where necessary. Understanding how these rules will be likely applied to your family will ensure you go into proceedings with your eyes open.

2, Prioritise effective communication

The pain of separation — especially one that one party didn’t see coming — can make it tempting to cut off communication with an ex altogether. Making space to deal with any emotional fallout is obviously beneficial in the immediate aftermath of separation. But couples who are able to keep the lines of communication open — and respectful — will often find the process of untangling their lives easier.

Communicating via lawyers can help ensure that more complex matters are explained accurately and effectively, but this need not be the only method of communication.

Where children are involved, some level of direct communication will almost always be needed.

3, Be flexible

A good divorce, much like a good marriage, requires compromise. Early advice enables you to consider what you would like out of a divorce and what is legally possible. Clear objectives will ensure you focus your energy — and money — on the things that matter to you. However, it is important that your ideal outcome does not become the only outcome you will consider if you wish to reach an agreement amicably.

Prioritise your goals and be prepared to be flexible. If you really cannot imagine life without your favourite rug or the wedding china, consider whether you can buy a replacement for less than you are paying your lawyer.

4, Litigate only the issues that matter

Litigation will be sometimes necessary, but the courtroom is not the arena to sift through the emotional history of the relationship. To have a judge confirm that you were treated terribly by your ex may be very attractive, but it is unlikely to happen and it is even less likely to affect the orders made about your finances or children.

Remember that every battle you choose to fight comes with a financial and emotional cost, and makes agreement on all issues harder to achieve. Save your money for the issues that are worth winning.

5, Don’t forget the kids

Sarah Bailey-Munroe is an associate in the litigation department of the Bermuda office of Conyers. She was called to the London bar in 2012 and is a specialist family law practitioner

Children often have their own views about how they want family life to look moving forward — not just hoping that Mum and Dad get back together — and it’s important that these are not simply ignored. The importance of staying in the family home can be over or underestimated by parents without any consultation with the children whatsoever, with significant impact on their settlement proposals.

Similarly, a strong desire as to where they wish to be schooled or how much they wish to see each parent can also impact plans. Children’s views are not always realistic and they certainly should not be treated as determinative. But they should be considered.

Sarah Bailey-Munroe is an associate in the litigation department of the Bermuda office of Conyers. She was called to the London bar in 2012 and is a specialist family law practitioner

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published August 27, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated August 26, 2021 at 4:57 pm)

There is such a thing as a good divorce

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon