Tips for a Better Outcome in Divorce this New Year 2016

T’is the time for New Year resolutions. Our perennial attempt to lose weight at a gym, pay off debt, quit smoking, become organised and spend less time at work. For some, the resolution is a major change in their life and who they live it with.


Contemplating another year in a difficult or bad marriage can prove too much for many. The consequence is that more applications or petitions for divorce are reportedly filed in the Family Court during the month of January than in any other month of the year.


But the resolve to end a personal relationship can be the beginning of traumatic and unfamiliar emotional feelings, parenting challenges, financial challenges and legal processes. Below are tips for managing the difficult transition of divorce. 


1. Put your children first


Children’s needs can often get lost in the web of complicated emotions triggered by a broken relationship. But parents who put their children first can minimise the effect of separation and divorce on them.


Research has shown that it is not the divorce but the way you divorce that impacts children. Resolve not to argue in front of children, use them as a sounding board, bad-mouth to them about the other parent, or make them in any way part of the divorce. Endeavor to do what it takes to improve the quality of your parenting relationship by communicating and interacting as best as you can with your ex. 


2. Find financial solutions that work for you and your family 


You and your family are unique and require an individualised solution to your financial issues. Therefore, resolve to apply energy toward creative problem-solving rather than toward recriminations or revenge – seek to fix the problem rather than apportion blame. Take control over all financial decisions, how fast they happen, and who is involved—and ensure that those who are, including solicitors, work towards a long-term sustainable financial settlement 


3. Find ways to work with, rather than apart from, your ex


Choose a resolution method that minimises disruption to your life and helps you to maintain control over the outcome of your divorce. We recommend an out of court settlement wherever possible. However, in some cases court litigation could be the only option. No matter which option you choose, clarify upfront the most important priorities for both you and your ex. Select a family law solicitor who will help you to achieve a settlement that is aligned with both your short and long term goals.  


4. And take care of yourself

Separation and divorce are very stressful experiences that affect you physically as well as mentally and emotionally. That New Year gym membership may still prove beneficial in the months ahead. Take the class or enjoy the hobby, whatever works to relieve that stress. Nothing helps our emotions bounce back better than physical activity

If it is your resolve in this New Year to end a relationship, the above tips will help you move forward with hopefulness and integrity.

Four Strategies for a Smart Divorce

The decision to separate and divorce is nearly always distressing, challenging and sad.  Difficult transitions must be made, emotions managed, children co-parented and financial realities addressed. All happening at a time when couples are not at their best. Rational thought and common sense are frequent casualties. As a result, mistakes can be made that can later turn into regrets.

During my 30 years of practice as a divorce solicitor and family mediator in Bath and Bristol, I have educated my clients on the following strategies to help them cope more effectively with divorce and move forward with hopefulness and integrity.

1.       Learn about the different options for divorce so you can make informed and good decisions. Divorce Court litigation is not inevitable. There are a range of process methods that can help you to maintain control throughout the process and minimise conflict, expense and time.


2.       Do not position your divorce as an end to your family. Divorce does not end a family it merely changes it. It’s important for children to know they still have a family. They need and have a right to love both parents. Research on the effects of divorce on children has shown that it is not the divorce but the way you divorce that impacts children. Parents who learn how to work together for the sake of their children have a better outcome.

3.       Understand that divorce will affect your emotions. Many divorcing couples feel hurt, anxious, fearful, depressed and more, these emotions are normal in divorce and can affect behaviour. You may become pettier, meaner and angrier than you ever imagined. Support from professionals, including divorce coaches is available to help you manage your emotions.

4.       Focus on your future. Divorce is not a transactional event, it will affect the rest of your life. A settlement given careful consideration will be more satisfactory and last longer. Actions taken and the decisions made will define your future for years to come. Focus on what you want the future to look like and take actions to move you toward that vision. It may not seem like it today, however with the right mind set and support team, you will experience new joys in life.

The family solicitors at Sharp Family Law represents many separating and divorcing clients who want to protect important relationships after divorce and avoid prolonged conflict. Senior Partner Richard Sharp focuses his counsel on helping clients regain confidence to move forward from divorce with hopefulness and integrity.

Expanding our reach in family law services from Bath

Sharp Family Law is pleased to announce the addition of a new Partner, and the expansion of our offices. 

Sharon Giles has joined the Firm and is providing family law services at our new office premises at 5, Gay Street, Bath. With an approach that is both positive and practical, Sharon encourages divorcing clients to look beyond their present situation to visualise life after divorce, and make informed decisions to shape it. Sharon actively promotes constructive communication and negotiation, and works collaboratively with other professionals, such as financial and mental health counsellors.

Sharon strives to create a balanced solution that maximizes available resources for the whole family. When children are involved, she helps couples preserve family continuity and support each other as parents. Overall, Sharon’s commitment to minimising conflict allows clients to maintain dignity and respect at a very difficult time and move forward with confidence.

Sharon's constructive approach to divorce strengthens our Firm's commitment to helping Bath and Bristol divorcing couples reach agreeable financial settlements and child centred family solutions

Sharp Family Law expands into New Bath Offices

We are excited to announce that our team of divorce solicitors, family mediators and collaborative practitioners have moved to a new location in the centre of Bath. Our old office in Miles’s Buildings served us well, but we couldn't be more excited about our new space at 5 Gay Street, Bath, BA1 2PH.

Inside, the conference rooms offer great facilities to hold individual as well as mediation and collaborative meetings with clients. We also have increased office space for our growing team. The new location puts us right on the street and looks out onto the intersection between Gay Street and George Street, Bath. 

Thanks for everyone's support through the years and with this move.  We want to give a special thanks to our office manager Chrissy Wilson, who did a phenomenal job organising everything and to the men at Thomas Firbanks who man-handled and walked each and every box the short distance between the old and new office.

It has been an exciting first five years for Sharp Family Law in Bath, and we look at this new location as the start of another chapter in our history.  If you're in the area, feel free to stop in and say hi to us at 5, Gay Street, Bath, BA1 2PH. Out telephone number remains 01225 448955


"Time to Talk this Bank Holiday Weekend"

After a busy week, a Bank Holiday Weekend provides a good opportunity for couples and families to get away and spend time together. But motorists stuck in traffic and miserable weather is the prediction in most newspapers for this Bank Holiday weekend.

With over 22.3 million motorists expected to hit the roads, an RAC spokesman has summed it up by stating “Despite more downpours on the way, this weekend looks set to be one of the busiest of the summer with extra traffic on the roads."

Although, more than 3.6m motorists will take a trip involving at least one night away, many will spend an average of 2 hours 35 minutes in their vehicles over the Bank Holiday weekend – with almost a quarter of drivers set to spend over four hours in their car.

With these dreary statistics ringing in my head, I read with interest an article in the United Airlines Inflight Magazine brought back by my son from his summer break in the USA, that measured topics explored during a two-day road trip. The article “Chat-O-Meter” reported that of the topics explored:

·         15% were on careers,

·         10% on music/tv/movies/books,

·         10% on gossip

·         5% on observations from the car

·         5% on the future

·         5% on the family

·         2% on current events

·         1% asking “what song is this”

·         7% other topics

Quickly adding together the above percentages, I realised that 40% of the topics had been left unaccounted for. They turned out to be topics on relationships (15%) and silence (25%). Unfortunately, the article didn’t state whether the one followed the other. If they do, then perhaps it’s the couples and families this Bank Holiday weekend who stay, enjoy the comforts of home and take time to talk with each other that will benefit from it the most.

"More Legal Resources for Bath & Bradford Families Facing Divorce"

I am excited to be able to announce that Tina Marshall-Kelliher has joined Sharp Family Law expanding its professional legal services in Bath, Bradford-on-Avon and its surroundings

Tina, a specialist family lawyer, helps families that do not want their divorce to have destructive consequences for their family. She skilfully and sympathetically guides clients in looking beyond the here-and-now to make informed decisions for the future, especially when young children are involved who will be affected for many years to come.

Combining years of legal expertise in family law with her perspective as a mother, Tina takes the time to get to know her clients and understand their objectives. Whilst her experience includes all facets of family law, both in and out of court, an area of strength for Tina is helping clients to settle financial matters, including the division of money, housing, pensions and maintenance.

Tina’s personal compassion and legal knowledge give clients a sense of security to help them successfully move forward with their lives.

Tina’s commitment to helping families protect what is important to them and minimize the destruction of divorce strongly reinforces the values of our firm

Contact Tina Marshall- Kelliher at E:, T: 01225 448955 M: 07495 186657

How Collaborative Law helps manage Emotions in Divorce

Many couples who experience the challenge of divorce or separation believe that it’s just the legalities that need to be managed and resolved. Most people going through divorce are aware they are feeling emotionally strained – hurt, angry, fearful and sad - but they try to stifle those feelings in order to get on with the practicalities of ending the relationship.

This does not take into account the profound nature of human emotions, for a divorce is not just legal; it is emotional also. And when the emotions are not managed sensitively and appropriately it can have a very negative impact on the legal actions and decisions needed.

"...for a divorce is not just legal; it is emotional also"

At Sharp Family Law in Bath and Bristol, I see many men and women who are struggling to stay focused at a time when they are being asked to make important decisions about their lives. They need to be understood not judged and they need solutions not increased conflict. As a trained collaborative solicitor, I am encouraged to see that there is an option out there that will tick all of these boxes and many more.

Collaborative Law is designed to help those going through divorce and separation take a positive step towards reaching agreement whilst maintaining relationships. Couples are invited to sit down together with their collaboratively trained lawyers in a safe environment where they will be:

  • Listened to and supported,
  • Encouraged to communicate their priorities and fears.
  • Helped to actively seek creative solutions that work for them and the family.

Lawyers give information and advice in an open and transparent way so the interests of the couple are upheld. Relationship Therapists, Child Specialists and Financial Neutrals help the couple manage the emotional and financial issues that arise. They work as a team with the lawyers, committed to problem solving and achieving unique outcomes for the family as a whole.

There is no doubt that divorce and separation can be a painful experience and one that we would wish to avoid. However, where it is unavoidable then Collaborative Law can be integral in alleviating that pain so that the emotions do not threaten to exacerbate the legal actions that need to be taken.

If you want to learn more about how Collaborative Law may help you handle your divorce contact Clare Webb at Sharp Family Law in Bath & Bristol on 01225 448955

"Minimising the Destruction of Divorce for Children"

Effective Co-Parenting Tips

Co-parenting is often viewed as the most difficult aspect of a divorce or separation. Particularly, if there are still some emotional hurdles to overcome. However, if approached in the right way it can be the most rewarding part of your on-going relationship as parents – after all just because the relationship has broken down it doesn’t mean the family has to also.

As a family solicitor in Bath and Bristol, many of the men and women I see want advice as to how they might address co-parenting issues that inevitably crop up. As the children strive to get used to living in 2 households, their development can be greatly enhanced by following a few golden rules.

Be respectful toward the other parent:

In the children’s eyes you are still their parents whom they love dearly. Don’t let what negative or critical views you might have about the other parent be picked up by them. Instead keep referring to the other as mum and/or dad, it will make the children feel safe and still part of the family.

Don’t talk about anything that might lead to an argument with the children present:

There will be times when you have a difference of opinion. Don’t address these in front of the children. They are already having to get used to mum and dad not being together anymore. Let them remain children and keep the adult talk behind closed doors.

Don’t talk to the other parent through the children

If you need to make alternative arrangements for contact or there is something else you need to say, contact the other parent directly. It’s not the children’s responsibility to be the messenger.

Be flexible and willing to compromise

Not everything in life can go according to plan. Things may crop up when you need to alter arrangements or you will be asked to accommodate a change to schedule. Talk to the other parent about how best to deal with it and accept it. The children are having to learn to be flexible, so should you.

Turn up to events like plays, sports days, graduations together

Show your children that you are still their mum and dad by putting on that united front. They will appreciate being able to share the experience with both of their parents rather than feeling guilty one is not there.

Always put the children first…

As parents you will share an abiding love and concern for your children. Provided you keep their best interest in mind you should both be able to focus on how best to achieve certain objectives as a family despite being in separate households.

For your free copy of the book “The Truth About Children and Divorce” by Robert E. Emery contact Clare Webb at Sharp Family Law on 01225 448 955 or by email on

"Christmas Eve with Dad? Christmas Day with Mum?"

Standing in line at a supermarket checkout in Bath the other day, I overheard two teenage sisters and a friend discuss Christmas. It wasn’t a conversation filled with joy or excitement about the forthcoming festivities but on where and with whom they would be this Christmas holiday.

“Maybe we should do Christmas Eve with Dad then go up to Mum’s Christmas Day. That way it would be one day each” suggested one sister to the other. “Ok let’s not talk family stuff right now” was the frustrated response.  

As Constance Ahrons in her book “We’re still family” reminds us, as children get older, they want and need flexibility in their living arrangements. They want to have their needs considered more by their parents and be able to transition between households on their schedules, not their parents. Often they are far less concerned about the specific number of days per week they spend being with one parent or another and more on how their parents relationship will affect the emotional climate during the transitional period between parental households.

These wants and concerns can be particularly evident at family events like Christmas which can sometimes turn a dream into a nightmare. As someone once told me – “what really upset me was how my parents kept fighting about whether I spent more time with one of them than the other. It made me feel that what matter to them was who won that fight not the time with me.”

This Christmas, let’s

·         Put our children first – The Christmas season is centred on children. So focus on them. Ask what you can do to ensure the holidays are happy and productive for them.


·         Share time with children over the Christmas period – Christmas is a time when families can focus on what unites rather than what divides them. Unless parents live miles apart, there is no reason why children cannot see and be with both parents over the Christmas holiday if that is what they want.


·         Help children remain in contact with both parents and extended family – A simple telephone call to say “Happy Christmas” to the other parent maybe all that is needed. Grandparents, Uncles and Aunts etc are also an integral part of a child’s life.

Perhaps the greatest gift you can give your child this Christmas and beyond is to love your children more than you hate your (ex) spouse and work cooperatively with that person to co-parent your children

"In Remembrance of ... Families in Bath & Bristol"

Remembrance Sunday events were held today all over the country to honour the UK's war dead. For some, with past or present personal experience of lost friends or colleagues, it will have been particularly poignant.  Outside Bath Abbey, the personal message on a wooded cross placed in the grass, reminded me that the death of a loved one can affect a family for years.

Divorce can feel like a death. The death of promises given, death of a familiar way of life, death of a parental role, death of a friendship and friends and for some even death of the family.  But does divorce have to be like this?  What might help to keep the family alive and minimise the impact on the current and future families?

In my work as a specialist family lawyer in Bath and Bristol, I see and help separating and divorcing couples who are able to end their marriage and maintain their family. How they achieve that was in part explained by a client during the past week. He wrote -

 “My children are getting settled in to their new life, and when I see them we have good times. I'm sure that part of this is because my wife and I are still able to work together in their best interests. I now recognise that the legal process has a huge role to play in limiting and not escalating the damage that has already occurred in the relationship between ex-husbands and wives, and consequently has a huge bearing on the lives of any children. And I think that your approach, in this regard, was exemplary. So on behalf of my own children - thank you " 

There may not be an alternative to divorce but the way you divorce and react to it may be your choice. By exercising that choice, families can and do survive divorce

"Helpful Information could Save Tax on Divorce"

An inheritance had enabled Karen and Mike to buy a second home – a weekend apartment in Bath. It proved to be a perfect bolt hole for Mike to spend some time after Karen announced she wanted to end their 20 year marriage. But when divorce proceedings were begun a year or more later, both were shocked to discover that special rules could result in a capital gains tax payment arising on the transfer of the apartment.

Karen and Mike are among a growing number of divorcing couples who have been in long term marriages (increasingly know as Grey Divorces), that I have seen in the course of my practice as a family and divorce solicitor in Bath and Bristol. They have either brought more than one property into their marriage, or simply bought additional properties during the course of their marriage. Consequently, the number of properties the divorcing couple own can consist of more than just the matrimonial home.

Dividing these properties up as part of financial settlement may involve the divorcing couple transferring their interest in a property to one another or, alternatively, selling it. The disposal can result in Capital Gains Tax arising.

On their Website and in a Helpsheet, HM Customs and Revenue offer a useful introduction to the situation where there is a need to transfer assets between a separated couple. They explain that it depends on when the transfer takes place and requires the compilation of information about each property to include (but not limited to) the original purchase price and date, any subsequent expenditure, and whether any of the parties lived or elected that property to be their principal primary residence.

Paul Benney, Tax Partner at Haines Watts Forensics Team has helpfully put a Sheet together to assist in compiling the necessary information that you may need to acquire. He and his team are also happy to undertake CGT calculations or to check calculations you have put together. In some situations they are also willing to offer initial advice free of charge.

In their divorce proceedings, Karen and Mike adopted the dispute resolution process known as Collaborative Law Practice. By doing so they were able at a face to face meeting between them, myself and another collaborative family solicitor, to discuss how best to secure the necessary tax advice from someone like Paul Benney and then to use it to limit the negative impact that the tax might otherwise have had on their settlement.

"Divorce can Stretch Waistlines as well as Finite Resources"

BBC News reports today that both marriage and divorce can trigger weight gain. This is the finding of research being presented at the American Sociological Association. Their study of 10,071 people from 1986 to 2008 showed that there is an increased risk of piling on the pounds in the two years after a marriage starts or ends.

Newly-divorced women and men had between 21% and 22% increased risk of a small weight gain after divorce. The report concludes: "All marital transitions act as a weight shock, encouraging small weight gains regardless of the destination marital state."

In my practice as a family and divorce solicitor in Bath and Bristol, UK, I witness clients, going through the significant transitions brought about by divorce, including stressing over having to find alternative accommodation, stretching finite finances resources, and strained contact with friends and families. Divorce is one of the most intense stressors and it can lead to disturbed sleep, reduced exercise and poor diet

To try and reduce those personal, financial and legal stresses, I encourage clients to consider choosing a non-adversarial approach to divorce, like Collaborative Practice or Family Mediation. Not only might that approach help them achieve reasoned settlements but it could be healthier for them, than a positional, adversarial Divorce Court hearing.

But away from the Divorce Court clients still need to be good to themselves. In her article Nine Tips for Taking Care of Yourself During and After Divorce, Cathy Meyer relationship coach and divorce mediator encourages clients to see their doctor regularly, take vitamins, get regular exercise and plenty of sleep, let off steam, change the scenery, practice good hygiene as well as eating a good diet. All perhaps obvious actions but quickly and easily forgotten or ignored in times of significant life transitions.

As the research above highlights a divorce can stretch waistlines. But by taking care of oneself, by focusing on keeping active and healthy, by choosing a constructive process like collaborative practice that focuses on settlement and reduces conflict, it is possible to minimise the damaging effects of divorce and move on with life without too many extra pounds.

Helping Families Out in Bath & Bristol

I am excited to be able to announce the expansion of our professional services to clients in Bath and Bristol.

Clare Webb, a specialist family lawyer, has joined the Firm. She will advise and assist those going through the changes brought about by family and relationship breakdowns.

She shares with me the commitment to help clients reach an early resolution of issues and avoid the prolonged conflict of court proceedings.

Clare’s puts great emphasis on providing an exceptional, individually tailored and client-focused service to those experiencing one of the most difficult and emotional times in their lives. Clare believes it is integral that her client feels in control and yet supported by a lawyer who will respect them, listen to what they say and act in their best interest. Above all Clare wants her clients to come out of the process with their heads held high and with a result, both personal and financial, that they and their family as a whole can accept and live with.

To contact Clare email her at or telephone her on 01225 448955

The Royal Wedding: Did they or didn't they sign a Prenup?

As Prince William and Princess Kate bask in the early days of marital bliss we can only wonder what preparatory work was carried out in the run up to what was undoubtedly the wedding of the year if not the decade.

From a specialist family lawyer’s point of view, one can only assume that, at some stage, William and Kate must have considered whether they should enter into a prenuptial agreement. After all, Kate is a 'commoner' marrying into Royalty and the Royals are no strangers to marital breakdowns.

What is a prenup?

A prenuptial agreement is a formal written agreement entered into by an engaged couple prior to their marriage. It commonly records what should happen to the financial affairs of the couple should the marriage breakdown irretrievably.

Are prenups enforceable?

Until recently, under the law of England and Wales, prenups have not been recognised as being enforceable in the courts. However, a year ago, in March 2010, the Supreme Court made a ruling which changed how prenups would be treated.

The landmark court case involved a German heiress, Ms Radmacher and Mr Granatino, a French banker, prior to their marriage in 1998 they entered into a prenuptial agreement. When their marriage broke down in 2006, and divorce proceedings were instigated, Granatino attempted to go behind the financial agreement detailed in the prenup insisting that he was entitled to more than the financial share he had originally agreed to.

By a majority of eight to one, the Supreme Court justices concluded that in the right case such agreements can have decisive or compelling weight and that "it will be natural to infer that parties entering into agreements will intend that effect be given to them".

Who might benefit from a prenup?

Radmacher and Granatino involved a substantial fortune. Prince William is a future King of England and possible heir to the Queen's estate which, according to The Times Rich List 2011, is worth over £300 million. So are prenups only for the rich and famous.
At Sharp Family Law we see prenups being particularly useful to families wanting to pass wealth down the generations. Potential gifts or inheritance received during the marriage can be ring-fenced. Prenups can also be highly appropriate in second marriages where wealth accrued prior to the marriage can be protected.

From our offices in Bristol and Bath, our aim is to limit where possible the negative impact that marital disputes issues can have upon a family. We see clients contemplating marriage for a second time anxious not to repeat the trauma of divorce and financial separation. By entering into a prenuptial agreement, they may be able to protect their future financial wellbeing as well as their children’s inheritance.

When should a prenup be entered into?

Care must be taken not to leave preparation of prenuptial agreements to the last minute. Instead, a couple must ensure that they each receive independent legal advice in good time before the wedding. If left too late then one side could argue that they suffered emotional pressure to enter into the agreement.

Of course there are those who remain sceptical of prenuptial agreements claiming that they take the romance out of what should be an entirely romantic experience and perhaps they are right; prenups are not for everyone. However those who have an eye on the ‘bigger picture’ and who want to avoid prolonged conflict for the family if their marriage should breakdown may wish to consider a prenup. For further information on prenups contact Clare Webb at Sharp Family Law

"New Year Resolution - To Resolve Conflict with Your Ex Spouse"

‘Tis the time for New Year’s resolutions. Our perennial attempt to lose weight, pay off debt, quit smoking, become organised and spend less time at work.

For divorcing and divorced couples, one of the best New Year resolutions you can make is to resolve conflict with your ex-spouse or partner. Dealing with a difficult ex can be very discouraging, frustrating and defeating. Your efforts to minimise conflict may not be returned. Attempts to foster a working relationship with the ex, for “the sake of the children”, may prove a thankless task.

“..the rewards for you ...and your children can be significant”

But the rewards for you and in particular your relationship with your children can be significant. What parents do during and after a separation or divorce – how they parent, how they handle their emotions, how they relate to each other and work together – is the key to their children’s resilience in coping with their parent’s separation or divorce. Research has shown that it is not the divorce but the way you divorce that impacts children

The following five tips may help you to minimise if not resolve that conflict with your ex.

1. Try and respect your ex-spouse/partner and his/her household - find ways of being respectful rather than resentful. Do not personally criticize them, but don’t make excuses for their behavior either.

2. Do not allow financial issues to control your behavior – Live with the agreement reached or the order handed down by a Judge that has addressed financial arrangements. Do not let your attitude towards it, after the fact, taint your relationship with your ex or your children. If you came to an agreement with your ex, live up to that agreement. If you have a court order, follow that order. No amount of anger over financial issues is worth contaminating your relationship with your ex or your children.

3. Work at forgiving - Hurt feelings from the past is the number one reason you and your ex overreact with one another. Do your part by striving to forgive for the offenses of the past and present. This will help you manage your emotions when dealing with your ex in the present. It also helps cut down on the degree of stress you will have during and after the divorce.

4. Find Common Ground - This good business principle applies to parenting as well. Even if you disagree with the main point, find some common ground and work from there. Be willing to see the situation from your ex’s perspective and to give a little instead of taking much. You may no longer be married but the concept of give and take is still very important.

5. Put your children first - You may find it hard to even be around your ex but making the needs of your children your main priority will help establish the kind of relationship that benefits them. And parents who manage to put their children first will minimise the effect of separation and divorce on their children.

Therefore, resolve not to argue in front of children, use them as a sounding board, bad-mouth to them about the other parent, or make them in any way part of the divorce. Resolve to do what it takes to improve the quality of your parenting relationship by communicating and interacting as best as you can with your ex.

And if there is ongoing conflict, be sure to notice your own role in it. Effort on your part to build a new and productive relationship with your ex will help all involved in the healing process and to move forward with their lives.