How to have a happy divorce according to the UK’s top lawyers – Connie Atkinson shares her advice in The Sunday Times

7 January 2019

Connie Atkinson, a Senior Associate in Kingsley Napley's family & divorce team, shares her advice on divorce in an interview with The Sunday Times' Style Magazine.

"Give mediation a fair chance - “Done properly, you can resolve matters in a more flexible, less adversarial way,” says Connie Atkinson, who also mediates. “Rather than have a court impose decisions on you, you can agree on things together, which means you are more likely to stick to the agreement in the future. It’s also shorter and less expensive — if it works.” It’s a big if, often depending on “one or both parties’ emotional states” (see the need for therapy) “or their personalities” (tricky for the less malleable; don’t even bother with narcissists). The cases where exes survive through it are “when they are willing to listen to each other, and even if they don’t agree, to view it from the other’s point of view”, says Atkinson."

"Ditch the amicable dream “We try our best to do this amicably,” Atkinson says, “but if there needs to be a fight, you absolutely have to have it.” The kind of cases that are unlikely to be settled easily are those in which “people know what presses each other’s buttons, which they use to try and achieve what they want, or to ensure the other person doesn’t”."

"A good lawyer will try to ensure that the examples of unreasonable behaviour are those that “everyone can stomach, and agreed before the divorce petition is submitted”, says Atkinson. Otherwise, it will amount to a lot of “incredibly expensive correspondence” back and forth, with accusations and counter-accusations."

"To keep focused on the future, it can be useful to project how things might play out 10 years down the line, says Atkinson, “when you’re both going to be at your child’s graduation or wedding. Giving clients that perspective helps to preserve their relationship now.”"

"Give yourself time to decide - All those negative emotions flying around will have an affect on your decision-making ability. Unfaithful partners have been known to hand over entire fortunes to assuage their conscience. “But don’t accept something that will make you wake up in the middle of the night full of regret in two years’ time,” says Atkinson. Also common is rushing into accepting the other side’s offer just to get it over with. “I always suggest to clients that they take a few more days to consider their options,” Atkinson says. “If a realistic offer is there today, it will be there in two days’ time.” Sleep on those decisions and try not to be guided by guilt, impatience or despair."

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