If you’re currently going through a divorce, you’re not alone.
The entire population of the UK and the rest of the EU are going through the same thing. With a divorce bill and even divorce papers, Brexit is often talked about in terms of divorce. As such, it’s worth asking what the split between the UK and the EU can teach us about the dissolution of marriages.
1. The Decision Can Be Sudden, But The Process Can Take Years
The UK has always had something of an internal conflict about whether or not it wants to be part of the EU. However, on 24th June 2016, a slim enough majority of the voting public decided that the relationship had run its course, and that was that.
The decision came out of nowhere, leaving the rest of the EU “stunned”, but the process of actually handling the divorce has been a long and drawn out affair. Even with the agreement to “accelerate” Brexit talks, it’ll still be 2019 before the UK leaves the EU — almost three years after it voted to do so.
The decision to get divorced can also come out of nowhere, leaving many people as “stunned” as the EU were, but the process can also be convoluted. Between getting your decree nisi and your decree absolute, a divorce can take a whole year to fully complete.
Of course, the decision only appears “sudden” from the side that’s not expecting it. From the other side, it’s a decision which has had a lot of thought put into it…
2. Only One Half of the Relationship Needs to Be Unhappy
Divorce isn’t always a mutual decision. It’s perfectly possible for one person to be happily married while their partner is thinking of whether or not to leave them. This is why people can be surprised by a divorce, even if the signs have been there for years.
Brexit is also a perfect example of this. The EU had no intentions of kicking the UK out, but the UK has been considering leaving the EU for a long, long time.
3. Divorce Doesn’t Need to Be Expensive
The negotiations between the UK and the EU came to a standstill when the issue of the “divorce bill” stopped both sides from reaching an agreement on anything. On the one hand, there is the reported €75 billion the UK owes the EU once it leaves. On the other hand, there is the apparent €10 billion the EU owes the UK once it leaves.
While no divorce in the history of divorces has ever been that expensive, some famous settlements have been pretty eye-watering. Of course, a divorce doesn’t need to cost that much. If the EU and the UK could settle their differences, the figure could be a lot smaller. In much the same way, joint asset valuations are a great way of coming to a compromise both ex-partners can agree on.
4. Public Divorces Are Messy
For the UK and the EU, a public divorce is the only option. The results are not pretty.
The news media is constantly churning out stories about how Brexit negotiations are going. The worse it looks, and the more disputes each side have, the more news it generates.
However, all of this is a necessary evil in the name of free speech. The public doesn’t want to be shielded from the ugliness of the negotiations. They want to know every detail and it is the duty of the news media to tell them about every detail.
By contrast, if you have children, the last thing you want is a messy, public divorce.
For most parents, the ideal way to handle the situation is to keep it out of the courts and to keep everything private. In short, you do want to shield your children from the ugliness of it all. So, be civil, be discreet, and remember: once upon a time, you both loved each other.
Natalie Jenner is the Head of Divorce and Family Law at Parslows. She specialises in dealing with civil partnership dissolutions, financial settlements, child issues, wills, and divorces as well as many other family legal matters.