Can Brangelina find a way to an amicable divorce?
The announcement that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are to divorce has caused headlines across the world. For many years they seemed the perfect couple but now they’re preparing to do battle over custody of their children and possibly several other matters as they strive to reach a settlement that is fair to both of them.
Some couples descend into bitterness and recrimination at this time while others manage to remain on good terms as they disentangle their lives.
A civilised divorce is possible, as long as both parties can put aside their emotions and behave rationally. Here are some key points.
Communication is obviously difficult for all couples who are splitting up, especially if one partner has had an affair or there are arguments over the children. Eventually, however, no matter how bitter the arguments, you are going to have to talk. The sooner both sides accept this, the better the chances of reaching a quick and relatively painless settlement.
Be realistic about money
Some men resent paying maintenance, even if they have been married for 30 years and their wife has stayed at home to look after the children. In these circumstances, men need to accept that their wives are likely to get a large share of their assets as well as maintenance to compensate for the fact that their earning power diminished while they stayed home to care for their family. By the same token, women divorcing after a short marriage that hasn’t produced children and hasn’t interrupted their careers or earning capacity may have to accept they’ll get no or very little maintenance.
Think of the children
All couples love their children but don’t always act in their best interests. Sometimes the children are used as weapons in the heat of the battle with one parent trying to deny the other access. Otherwise rational people will tell themselves they are doing it for the good of the child when really they are punishing their partner. Couples must realise that nearly all divorce settlements will result in both sides being granted some form of contact so it is better to accept that right at the outset and try to reach agreement as soon as possible.
Think ahead and realise how much better it will be for the children if they have regular contact with both parents, particularly if those parents can put their differences aside and bear to face each other for landmark events such as birthdays, engagement parties, weddings and so on.
That is what is best for the child. Deep down people know that but sometimes they have to be reminded.
Put some couples in the same room and they’ll tear each other apart so mediation may not be for everyone. Nevertheless, mediation doesn’t have to be face to face across the table. It’s possible to use separate rooms or even just professional go-betweens to iron out differences.
It is better to avoid court if possible because a judge may reach a decision that upsets one side or another, and in some cases, upsets both sides.
Negotiated settlements in which couples are prepared to be reasonable are nearly always better. Couples who reach agreement in this way are more likely to form a civilised relationship for the future. That is better for them and their children.
Please contact Richard Phillips if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of mediation or family law.