It’s not uncommon for one spouse to behave badly during the divorce process. The end of a marriage awakens all kinds of emotions and can lead to unreasonable behavior that makes finding a solution more difficult.

The imminent arrival of no-fault divorce in England and Wales is likely to reduce acrimony in many cases. But there’s certainly no guarantee that it will put an end to the type of obstructive and ill-tempered behaviour of aggrieved spouses that we unfortunately sometimes encounter in our work as specialist divorce lawyers in London. In this article we will look at some of ways to counteract negative attitudes your spouse might display during the divorce process. We won’t examine the implications of domestic abuse here but if your spouse behaves violently towards you or you believe his or her conduct amounts to another type of domestic abuse you should seek urgent advice on ways to keep you and your children safe. We discuss the resources available to you in more detail here.

Using A Solicitor

When both sides each engage an experienced solicitor difficult behaviour by one side will often become less of an issue. This isn’t because the solicitors are there to offer relationship advice (for that you need a specialist marriage counselor) but it’s because couples tend to listen to the advice of two arm’s length professionals – particularly when they are paying for that advice. And family lawyers will usually highlight the need for their clients to engage with the divorce process in as constructive process as possible.

As we know many people now represent themselves during the divorce process, and it may be that your spouse decides to do this. It’s worth remembering that when you instruct a divorce lawyer you are not just getting someone with the expertise to advise you on your case – you are engaging someone to communicate with your spouse on your behalf, reducing the occasions in which you might be affected by difficult behaviour.

There Are Alternatives To Court

It may be that your spouse’s unhelpful conduct is driven by the idea that he or she is being forced to ‘go to court’. You – or your solicitor – should highlight the alternatives to letting a judge decide the outcome of your divorce. Family mediation and informal negotiation can often take some of the heat from the whole divorce process and help you and your spouse find an agreement. At Brookman we actively encourage these less formal methods of dealing with family law disputes. Like many family law firms we are members of the industry body Resolution, committed to resolving divorce in non-confrontational ways.

Don’t Let Your Spouse’s Behaviour Dictate Events

You can minimise the impact of obstructive behaviour by acting proactively. This means having all your financial details and information on your children to hand so that your solicitor can run the case as efficiently as possible. It also means concentrating on other matters, including childcare and day-to-day matters instead of allowing your spouse’s behaviour to overwhelm you and cloud your judgment.

Do You Have To Meet Your Spouse In Person?

Your divorce may take many months to resolve, and it’s inevitable that you will have to communicate with your spouse about issues regarding the children, household bills and other financial matters. Meeting face-to-face won’t always be a good idea. We often advise clients to adopt other methods of communication, including email and text early in in the process so that it becomes the default method of interacting with your spouse and reduces the opportunity for conflict.

Can Spouse’s Conduct Affect The Financial Settlement?

‘Conduct’ is one of the factors taken into account when deciding on how to divide marital assets. The relevant legislation states that the court must consider:

 “the conduct of each of the parties… if that conduct is such that it would in the opinion of the court be inequitable to disregard it…”

In practice however courts will only reduce one party’s financial simply settlement because of their conduct in limited circumstances. For example:

  • A spouse’s conduct is particularly extreme (in one historical case the wife’s settlement was reduced because it was found that she had incited others to murder her estranged husband)
  • One spouse injures the other in such a way as to reduce his or her earning capacity
  • The conduct has direct financial consequences for the other spouse. This could be as a result of one spouse hiding assets from the other or because one spouse begins to overspend in an attempt to reduce the amount available to the other in any settlement

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