Anna had been married for over 30 years when her marriage came to an end. She and her husband had three adult/teenage children. Anna and her husband used mediation followed by out of court negotiations to agree the terms of their divorce.

Overall experience:

By chance I spoke with a friend just after we announced we were separating. Her advice, based on the fallout from her own acrimonious divorce, was to attempt to reach a fair legal settlement and avoid acrimony for the sake of our children and wider family. Her own story was chilling, horrible. Both myself, and my now ex-husband took her advice on board. The route we chose to go down was mediation, followed by a mediation friendly legal service. Family Law in Partnership was one of the names offered by the mediator.

Whilst I held my friend’s advice as an ideal, something to strive for, at the same time I also wanted to feel confident that someone would fight my corner, hold me in mind and help me achieve a fair settlement.

My first experience of Family Law in Partnership was through Gillian Bishop’s PA. She was calm, clear and welcoming on the telephone. My earliest sense was that I was in the hands of highly trained professionals. The office environment was relaxed, a library of useful books and a real sense that they could hold the needs of the family in mind. It was summer, the dress code was casual, and I felt more at ease.

Achieving a settlement wasn’t as straightforward as I’d wished. I found the experience of sitting in meetings with my husband quite daunting and unnerving (and I’ll comment on that separately). But I stand by the decision we took to keep the divorce process as fair and as ‘friendly’ as possible. Now, 15 months after the Decree Absolute I value that we were not rash, we did not destroy relationships built over decades. The end of a marriage affects everyone, and my children have been affected too. But I believe the fall out could have been far worse had we not been in a family friendly environment.

Practical, useful bits:

Gillian mailed me information on the divorce process, what I should expect at each stage. Personally, I found that when I felt emotional in meetings I was unable to retain much information and having this resource meant that I could go back, and re-read information that for others may have been obvious, but for me had been quite bewildering.

The parts I had not anticipated, and wish I’d been better prepared for:

As much as I believed in trying to keep the divorce process as amicable as possible, I found it unnerving to be in meetings with my husband. I wish that I had anticipated what I would need in terms of emotional support. Maybe a friend to have waited in reception for me and accompanied me home? Maybe a space to debrief after a meeting? I raise the emotional aspects of being in the room discussing the formalities of ending a marriage, because it is impossible for strong feelings not to be stirred. My sense was of heightened fears, some of it rational and some irrational. I’m not sure what Family Law in Partnership could have provided in terms of emotional hand holding.