The Guide to an Amicable Separation or Divorce

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Separating amicably, isn’t easy but it is possible. There are a series of steps you can take to help the process run more smoothly and avoid some of the more dramatic outcomes you may have read about or seen on television.

The shift of emphasis could be neatly summed up as going from making small compromises for a harmonious life to an ongoing negotiation, hurdling points of principle and, sometimes, the feeling that the other parent is getting their own way.

It’s quite the adjustment – but defining a new way of communicating with your ex and talking to your children is crucial in giving them stability and maintaining a close relationship.

Here are some pointers for successful co-parenting:

1. Make sure it’s over

According to renowned therapist Dr John Gottman, there are four communication problems that signal if a relationship is failing – criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stone walling. An unpleasant cocktail of all of these suggests that it is over. A combination of the first two might be broken down by individual counselling, while the latter two could benefit from couples counselling. However, couples counselling only works if you both recognise that there are problems in the relationship and that there’s some hope or reconciliation. If there’s no hope of this, counselling may have a role in an amicable parting – but you have to be clear that’s what it’s for.

2. Breaking the news

Plan what you’re going to tell your partner and tell them at a time when you’re unlikely to be distracted by anything else, e.g. children, mealtimes, etc. Essentially, you are there to say: ‘it’s over, I’m sorry this is so hurtful, but I’m decided, and I won’t change my mind.’ Explain that you hope to discuss, as soon as is next convenient, how best to make arrangements as amicably as possible.

3. Allow a period of adjustment

Rushing things could cost you both time and money. Just because you are ready to move on, that doesn’t mean you partner will be. The person who didn’t make the initial decision to divorce is in a different place. They are still feeling raw emotions like shock, denial and anger. The more the person who started the separation gets impatient, the more their partner digs their heels in, and things grind to a halt.

4. Don’t assume you need a lawyer

One way that people try and rush things is to immediately hire a solicitor. While you will need to be aware of legal procedure (see below), amicable believe that most people can and should do much of their divorce themselves. A solicitor’s advice tends to focus on what’s best for the individual who is seeking it. This can lead to unrealistic expectations, a lengthy and expensive court process and a toxic atmosphere.

5. Do your homework

Negotiating an amicable divorce or separation is best done from a position of knowledge than one of emotion. Understanding basic legal information (often, as with amicable, freely available) gives you every chance of coming to fair financial split, and also dramatically reduces the possibility that you’ll have to spend thousands of pounds in legal fees.

6. Prepare for the asset split

The legal starting point for dividing assets is 50/50. This is then adjusted by taking into account a number of factors, including: children’s welfare; earning ability; financial needs; contributions made (both in terms of childcare and finances); marriage length and age and health.

You’ll need to list and agree the value of all the items you own, and you’ll also need to provide any financial commitments you each have. You can do this yourself – or use a tool such as amicable’s app.

If you or your partner can’t agree a split the court will order you to fill in a long and complicated document known as a Form E.

7. Create a timeframe

amicable’s divorce coaches often tell us that the longer a divorce goes on the harder it becomes to reach an agreement. The person who asked for the divorce gets frustrated and angry, their ex is left feeling bullied and confused. It’s really important to try and control these strong emotions as they can very quickly derail an otherwise amicable process. An agreed timeline covering emotional, practical and legal tasks will help keep up the momentum.

8. Look to the future

Don’t spend your time, energy or money arguing over the past; look forward to enjoying positive futures apart. Change the conversation from ‘How do we split our stuff?’ to ‘What do we need to do to be happy in future?’ and ‘What we need to do to ensure our kids are happy?’. You can read the Frolo guide to co-parenting amicably here.

Final thoughts

When you prepare you feel happier and more confident about the way forward. This knowledge helps you manage your fear, uncertainty and emotions, as well as those of your partner and kids.


This blog post was created for the Frolo Community by amicable.

amicable offer a straightforward, cost-effective and fair service to couples who are separating or divorcing.

If you’d like to learn more about amicable and what they could do for you, head to their website where they are offering frolos an exclusive 20 minutes of free advice over the phone.

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