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Avoiding a painful divorce: 10 things to do before finding a lawyer

29 May 2014
The number of divorces in Cyprus, as well as worldwide, presents an increasing trend. According to the latest demographic reports, the number of divorces than marriages which take place every year grows dangerous. Yet, why divorce sounds so hard? It is time to find out that it is not all snarling legal terms. Divorces can be issued amicably if at least one of the spouses follows these 10 steps. I will thus advice all of you, irrespective of your marital status, to read carefully.
1. Think of your children

First and best advice: Never involve the children and absolutely never use them (even though your lawyer may advice so) in a divorce game so you can achieve your financial goals. The Family Courts in Cyprus take a very unfavourable view (and this is not wrong actually) of parents who deny contact to their children in return for some financial gain from your soon-to-be ex wife or husband. Don't let your divorce give your children a legacy of unhappiness and difficult relationships of their own. They should be able to see and spend time with each parent as much as they did before the divorce.

2. Keep your dignity at all times

A divorce is not a battle and a court room is not the battlefield. You should not behave as if you and are fighting over an empire. Divorce is a process and during this process communications must be framed. Allowing yourself to become personal or critical or angry at your spouse or their lawyer will not get you anywhere. Try to be calm even when you are feeling really angry – if that does not work then wait a day or two and then contact your lawyer.

3. Be honest

This is an unavoidable principle of life but mostly of Family Courts. If you are not honest to you lawyer and most importantly to the Court, you may find yourself penalised and probably looking for another lawyer. It is an absolute must and the best policy in all matters during the divorce process, even if it hurts. By hiding things or telling lies you are more likely to be discovered during the court proceedings which in turn will allow your spouse to mess up your affairs in such a way as to increase your costs and get you into serious trouble.

4. Collaborate

If you take the time to go find a lawyer to get a divorce, then take the time to work with them. Divorce proceedings require meetings with your lawyer, papers you forgot you had but needed to be found, phone calls or exchange of emails, attending court hearings etc. Be on time, pay on time and collaborate – I can assure you that both will be very much appreciated and reflected by their effort.

5. Be careful with the new ‘amore’ in front of your ‘ex’ or your children

A divorce can bring a new chapter of your life into existence. Finding the love of your life is one of the good things that a failed marriage can make you even more determined to look for. Yet, would you feel better after finding out that your ex is happy and getting on with life? Neither will your spouse. That is because no matter how hard they try, it's more often the case that feelings of hostility and anger increase. No need to say that children should not be introduced to your new love so easily and especially without you being absolutely sure that your new relationship is stable and likely to become official. We often advice that you obtain you ‘ex’’s consent if you divorce amicably. If not, then take it slowly. Your new love will wait if he feels it worth the wait.


6. Avoid aggressive lawyers

Do a favour to yourself and trust tried and tested lawyers that have been recommended by your friends. This tip is quite self-explanatory. It will save you from a lot of trouble.

7. Don’t change your position

Your ex dearest spouse may come back crawling for your forgiveness when things get bad and difficult, but this may not be what you need. You should remember why you started thinking divorce at the first place. If you cannot think of a single reason, then yes, listen to their words and arrange for a marriage counsellor appointment. if you still remember all those hard times, you are still in the middle of the divorce process.

8. Start looking for a new place
The divorce actually means that you can no longer live with your spouse. Consequently one of you (and in most cases the spouse which does not own the property or has not contributed to the increase of its value) will have to “take off”. It is thus best to start looking for a new place and especially when you have children, as at a later stage in order to get custody by the Court or be able to take the children for sleep-overs, holidays or vacations you will need to prove that you have a new home and a new room ready for them. Bear also in mind that the Family Courts have the power to grant exclusive use of the family home and/or exclusive use of chattels to one of the spouses pending divorce.

9. Actual reasons to get the divorce

Last but not least in this list, is what you should really know about getting a divorce. The Family Court will grant a divorce if you or your spouse can show that the marriage no longer exists on a permanent basis. The most common ground to request a divorce is legally called an ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of the marriage. You can prove this by establishing one or more of the following 'facts' for divorce: adultery, explosions of jealousy, continuous use of force or in a single incident, financial extravagance, conflict of personality, long physical separation, difference of interests, resentment, distrust etc. This is good to know, especially since more than 1500 divorces are issued per year on this ground in Cyprus. The other grounds for divorce include: 5- year continuous separation, change of sex, death of one of the spouses and grounds found in Article 111(2) (B) of Cyprus Constitution (infidelity, immoral or disgraceful behaviour, violence, disappearance, change of religion, refusal to have children, inability to have sexual intercourse, inexcusable desertion for two years, imprisonment of one spouse for seven years or more). 

In adding some legalistic information, I must tell you that even if you take the above steps and you both agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken, you still have to go to the court and give agreements or a testimony on dividing property, a parenting plan setting out the details of child custody, support and visitation. This looks easy only when you divorce amicably. However, in both cases only a divorce lawyer can make you understand the available grounds for divorce and its legal consequences. 

Marilena Constantinou