I am going to briefly share my journey over the past couple of years. This article is not an opportunity to gain sympathy or raise eyebrows, it is purely to help others who may be feeling emotionally stuck in a marriage and about some of the processes and procedures to expect – it still feels strange for me to talk about divorce because I never thought it would happen to me. For the purpose of this article, I have used a pen name.
On a warm and sunny day in August 2018, I recall sitting outside Preston Redman Solicitors office in Bournemouth. I had arrived two hours before my appointment and sat in my car questioning the actions I was about to take and knowing that once I had taken this step, there would be no turning back. I was trying to talk myself out of it, or hoping that a call from the father of my children would assist me in changing my mind. I didn’t know if I was ready or not because I didn’t know what to expect. I never got that call or an attempt for him to change my mind. He knew I was there, in fact, it was him that told me that I could go ahead and divorce, along with a warning that I would end up homeless and penniless.
The issue for me was the control element in the marriage. I later found out that financial control to the level I had encountered throughout my entire marriage was actually a form of domestic abuse. More recently, this has been made into an act of law. So where I had helped my husband over the years accumulate businesses and properties, and while I ran the home and looked after our children I was exempt from even a look-in as to what was owned. I certainly was kept out from being included in any of these too. Without going into too much detail about my personal situation, I was not only made to feel like an outsider, I actually believed that I had no entitlement to anything. After being constantly reminded of who the breadwinner was and that if I decided to take things further, with the help of his friends who are members of the legal profession but also business partners, he warned that he had cleared things up with so much precision and tied his assets so firmly and in such a way that for it to be discovered would take hundreds and thousands of pounds.
So, I decided to go ahead with divorce proceedings believing that I could and most probably would end up homeless, penniless… topped with a stigma attached to me for getting divorced, and a seal to assure me that with four kids in tow, no one would ever want to be with me again, so whatever future I may have ahead of me looked very bleak, very lonely and extremely depressing. What I did know for sure is that I wasn’t happy and the more I started to think about my future and my own wellbeing, the closer I was getting to making my decision.
On the outside it looked as though I was living a happy and successful life but on the inside, it was very different. It was not a loving, supportive or fulfilling marriage that I had hoped for when I took my wedding vows eighteen years previous. In fact, it had never been, not for me anyway. There were so many expectations that by far overlooked whatever my needs as an individual were. I found myself feeling scared, overwhelmed and slightly terrified while waiting to be called into the office.
It’s difficult to know who is good and who is incredible out there when it comes to finding a suitable divorce solicitor. I looked for good technical skills – those investing in good websites, good PR and marketing, and I checked those who came out at the top of Google. This is why I believe this article is going to be valuable for many people out there.
When you make a decision like I did, and when you’re dealing with complex situations like I was, you must ensure you have the people who have the right skills to deal with the situation.
I was invited into my solicitor’s office, who asked some questions and listened intently to what my issues were. He explained everything that he felt was important for me to know from the outset. There were no false expectations, no glossing it over to make it simpler or easier. Plain facts as to what the worst case scenario could be and the risks involved for me and my family. I won’t go into the finer details because it is still very raw and extremely painful. A few of the things that really stood out to me was that throughout the process, it became much clearer that regardless of the outcome, I would still be better off alone. So, in the back of my mind I set myself for the bare minimum. A clean break. A fresh start and a new beginning.
During the divorce process, and after a few months of instructing my solicitor to act on my behalf, I went through what many people go through when they are in a situation like me: I called the divorce to a halt. I had the belief that things might change at home following a plea from my husband to let it go and that he would make amendments to suit me accordingly so that we could all be happy. The constant reminders that I was breaking up a ‘happy family’ didn’t help.
Lots of love bombing, acts of kindness and skilful strategy made me go back and tell my solicitor that I wanted to give the marriage another chance, After so many years, perhaps I was rushing in too soon… And so my solicitor, after advising me against this with everything in his power, agreed that if that is what I wanted to do, then it was my choice.
So, I put the divorce on hold and hoped for the best.
A year later I went back to pick up from where I left off because during that time the only thing that changed was that things went from bad to worse. It became unbearable so I booked in to see my solicitor again who was happy to get the process going but explained what could now happen and what to expect moving forward having taken the steps I did.
So the case was now going ahead and during the entire process we were still living under the same roof. So yes, three lockdowns while going through the divorce. Through every lockdown I truly believed that we would be able to ‘fix it’, but it didn’t happen. During the first lockdown I remember feeling as though we really could make it work. When I look back, I really did try my best to make it work, but it was one-sided.
Let’s fast-forward two years later and a week after my outcome from my FDR. For those who have no idea what that is, I can tell you. The purpose of the FDR hearing (Financial Dispute Resolution) is to encourage discussion and negotiation between the spouses. It is an opportunity to settle as reaching a resolution at this stage saves considerable further expenses compared to if matters proceed to a Final Hearing.
My solicitor, Tim Flower, partner of Preston Redman Solicitors and head of Family and Litigation, found a suitable barrister to take the legal proceedings further. Before I knew it, the time came around for us to be in front of the judge.
There was nothing at all that I needed to do other than to be present. These two gentleman took the case from beginning to end without me having to say a single word. And the outcome was not what I expected. I knew what I was dealing with and had warned both my solicitor and barrister. But these guys were experts in their field. When I say experts, I don’t just mean in the sense of knowing the law, but in every single aspect of their dealings. They ensured that I came out of this case with what I had asked for and what I rightfully deserved. Half way through the case I honestly did think I was going to end up homeless. I was told to “hope for the best but prepare for the worst”, which is what I did.
My case was an exceptionally complex one and it took much longer than we had hoped to reach an outcome. But as I sit here writing this article, I honestly couldn’t have asked for more. I had the best legal team fighting my case. I am not homeless, far from it. The lies, deceit, cheating, ring fencing, lack of integrity and lack of honesty levied against me amounted to nothing in respect of my outcome.
So, if you are sitting and reading this and you are in a similar situation and are scared of making the move because you are worried of your outcome, don’t be. Don’t stick with something because you are scared that it could go wrong. If you are truly not happy, you will get the red flags and the signs that you can’t ignore and you will know what you have to do. When you know when enough is enough – that is the time to take action. And when you decide to take action, remember that for an outstanding outcome, do your homework and go to the right people.
One thing I will advise is to really listen, understand and take your solicitor’s advice for the best outcome. Don’t do what I did and stop part way through. This had a hugely negative impact on my case as it was already very complicated. Fortunately for me, they were still able to achieve an outcome that I was pleased with.
There are always two sides to a story. I have shared my side and what I’ve written here might really hit home with many of you especially if you went from being the ‘perfect love of their life’, to feeling as though whatever you do is never good enough. You give everything you can to the marriage and relationship and they will take it all and give you less and less in return. You end up feeling depleted emotionally, mentally, spiritually and probably financially and then you get blamed for all of it.
What I will say though, is that the real shift came when I started to believe in myself. When I closed off that side of my life and focussed on the positive side of things. I focussed on areas that I thought could impact me positively. I created a social media profile for myself, invested myself in a business that I started from scratch. I made connections with business owners where there were collaboration opportunities. I remained open and true to myself and I run my life and dealings with honesty and integrity. Giving to charity, doing meditation and an awful lot of self-help reading has been paramount to me being okay through this process.
A couple of days after my hearing, I was asked to take part in a photo shoot for an award winning art project called ‘Asking For It’ which highlights and changes opinions towards historical and current tendencies toward victim blaming, especially in cases of sexual- and gender-based violence. The image is hardly one of my favourites, but it bore a lot of significance to my case and the timing was really interesting.
Moving on from the case and looking forward to the future, I am delighted to have been able to secure a position as a host with an I:Entrepreneur campaign telling inspiring stories of businesses led by entrepreneurs of diverse backgrounds, to raise their profile, and ensure their successes are celebrated across the economy not as a minority, but for the incredible value they bring in their own right.
I am also delighted to have been offered the position as chair of Food Policy for The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), a judge for the Business Book Awards and finally, I am looking forward to continuing my role as president of Poole Bay Rotary Club.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for reading this article. If you would like to join the I:Entrepreneur community, or want to discuss any element of this article in further detail, please contact me through Dorset View, a local magazine that will give you my contact email address and I thank them for inviting me to be their guest blogger.
Please share post:
Follow us on