If you have made the decision to divorce, or if your cohabitation relationship ends, not only do emotions come into play but there are usually many practical, financial and legal aspects that also need to be resolved properly. With their extensive experience of and focus on family law Groendijk & Kloppenburg's lawyers and mediators will select a strategy that best suits the type of case and people involved.
There are two ways to deal with the consequences of a divorce or the end of a cohabitation relationship. You can choose to settle matters jointly using a mediator or you can individually or jointly approach a lawyer specialised in family law.
Mediation means that a mediator will offer you guidance in settling the issues arising from your divorce. A mediator is not a couples counsellor, but essentially will initially look at the divorce announcement and whether the parties have agreed to divorce. Experience has shown that if the divorce has not been announced or if the parties do not agree to divorce, ultimately an agreement will often not be reached either. The divorce announcement and whether the parties have agreed to divorce will also help when transforming the spousal relationship into a parent relationship if children are involved in the divorce. In this case the spousal relationship will be terminated but the parent relationship will continue. Noise in terminating the spousal relationship will often create noise in the parent relationship. It is the mediator's task to bring this to light and to examine how the spousal relationship can be terminated properly and the parent relationship can be continued on good terms. Some couples need time for this. Where necessary, a couples counsellor will be called in to assist, not to restore but to conclude the relationship properly. The mediator may advise this, if necessary.
The mediator will ensure that you have sufficient relevant legal information to be able to negotiate with each other and will also monitor the process of negotiating on equal footing. In some cases either spouse, or both spouses, may need assistance from a lawyer in the form of a type of second opinion. This is customary in mediation cases and therefore is no problem. It also is the mediator's task to point out the options that may be in the interests of both parties. If you are seeking a divorce with the assistance of a mediator, this is known as a 'collaborative divorce', which means that the court will not examine the substantive aspects of the case. If the mediation process is successfully concluded you will, after all, have reached agreement together with your ex-partner. A condition for mediation is that both parties are willing to settle matters properly, both in financial terms and for the children's sake. In this light it is essential that both parties continue to communicate with each other.
You are welcome to approach one of our lawyers specialised in family law. Your lawyer will defend your interests and will endeavour to arrange your divorce settlement if this is possible. Should this not be possible, your lawyer will defend your interests and those of any children you may have in court. Our lawyers are accustomed to conducting legal proceedings expeditiously. What matters should you arrange in the event of divorce?
Attention must be paid to the following legal consequences:
The mediator or the lawyer will let you know what your rights and obligations are. If you do not wish to claim those rights, it is important to understand what rights you are relinquishing, and that is where the mediator and/or lawyer specialised in family law will be able to assist you.
If an agreement is reached on the financial aspects of the divorce (a divorce agreement) through the mediator or lawyer and a parenting plan has been agreed, the divorce agreement and the parenting plan will be submitted to the court. There is no need for you to go to court personally in this case. Any children you may have above the age of 12 will, however, receive a letter from the court offering them an opportunity to give their opinion.
If both parties have their own lawyer in legal proceedings, a divorce agreement and a parenting plan continue to be options following consultations with the lawyer of your future ex-spouse. Should this not be possible or not desirable, an application may be filed for a provisional disciplinary measure (this is called interim relief). This deals with the question of who may temporarily continue to live in the house and whether maintenance should already be paid temporarily. This can usually be determined within two months. The definitive divorce proceedings, in which the court makes an assessment of the merits of the petitions and defences submitted, have an average duration of 6 – 12 months.
A divorce costs money and if the parties become entangled in a messy divorce, there is a risk that this will take up a considerable amount of time and it will be a costly affair for you. Regrettably this may mean that you could be confronted with high costs by a litigious ex-spouse or ex-partner. We make no bones about the fact that we have experienced this in some cases, but we fortunately also have the experience that, in many cases, we can generally keep the costs within limits. We also discuss with you which route will have the best results in relation to the time we need to spend on it.