As family lawyers, we see first-hand the toll that the separation and divorce process can take on clients. However, it doesn’t have to be the acrimonious, drawn-out and expensive process some people would have you believe. We do see many people who, while still experiencing the grief and significant change that the end of a relationship can bring, manage to separate positively.
If you are looking to manage your separation and divorce as well as possible, there are a few things we see our clients do that help them start and stay amicable as they navigate the end of their relationship as a couple.
1. Talk to each other
If you haven’t yet talked about separation, have the conversation. If the discussion hasn’t been had and then one person is in shock or grief, there can be so much emotion swirling around that makes it harder to work together to end your relationship as positively as you might have otherwise.
In our work as family lawyers, we see that people who plan their separation and talk about how they want to separate, are more likely to have an amicable separation. It is important to bear in mind that if one person has initiated the separation, it may take the other person a little longer to get their head around things. Being conscious that you might be at different stages of the process mentally can help avoid issues arising purely out of lack of communication.
From a financial perspective, sitting down and talking about what your financial position is also helpful. Identifying that it might take you both a little while to work out the final arrangements, and how you are going to get by financially in the meantime, can be very helpful to discuss.
In many relationships, we see that one person may not be as aware of their financial situation as the other. This can cause frustration when people separate and money is stretched when there has not previously been any issue accessing money. When people have some foresight into the divorce process and have conversations early about what may occur with finances during the process, then they can look at these issues through a lens of planning, rather than a lens of hurt, emotion and distrust.
To do this, you may wish to sit down together and write a list of your assets, liabilities and superannuation. Talk about your current levels of debt and repayments. This can help both people get an idea of the reality of their financial situation and enable you to consider if retaining certain assets is something you can do moving forward. If your financial situation is more complex, it is a good idea to meet with your accountant and talk through your financial position.
Many people come to us before they separate to get some preliminary advice about what their likely entitlement in a property settlement might be. Seeking some preliminary advice early is helpful to do so that if you do have conversations about your property settlement with your spouse early on, you are not significantly changing your position once you have obtained legal advice. This ensures that any good communication you are having with your spouse is not jeopardised later on.
3. Question the impact on your children
If you have children together, it is important to keep focused on the impact of your decision making on them. While this might seem straightforward, separation is a huge change. When people are experiencing hurt and grief, it can be easy to overlook that your words, actions, body language and decision-making can contribute to the impacts of separation on children.
In our work, many times we see that people get so caught up in a dispute with their former partner that they won’t agree to things that make sense and could make things so much easier for their children.
It is helpful to remind yourself to check in that regardless of feelings, hurts and betrayals you should always consider the impacts on your children first whether directly or indirectly. Ask yourselves:
Am I getting caught up in the emotion of this?
How are my behaviours affecting my children?
Sitting down and talking about what your goals are, what you think might work and then running it through the filter of how your children might perceive that decision, can prove very helpful.
Another way to monitor this is to ask yourself:
Is this something that makes this process easier for the children?
Or, is this easier for me?
It’s not uncommon for people to hold off on separating because they are worried about how it will affect their children. We see many people who are able to help their children see that their parent’s separation is okay. They show their children that they can attend events with the other parent for their children, be in the same space and be civil to each other. It sends a message that the end of the relationship is not the end of the world and that ‘we’re all going to be okay through this’.
There is sometimes an idea that to be amicable you need to be friends. Instead, it is really that you are able to communicate and have a relationship that doesn’t cause friction or pain in your life or your children’s lives.
People that lose sight of this, can lose a lot of time, money and energy in the process.
4. Get legal representation that is “on the same page” as you
When you first speak with a family lawyer, your first impression will usually help you identify whether they are the right fit for you. It is our role as family lawyers to inform you of your entitlements, it is not our role to tell you what you want to hear.
What is important is to find a lawyer who will be realistic with you about the time and costs involved to reach the outcome you desire. There are a lot of perspectives as to what ‘the best outcome’ is. For example:
- Is the best outcome receiving your maximum financial entitlement in your property settlement?
- Is the best outcome getting through the process as quickly as possible so you can invest your time and finances in other things?
- Is the best outcome that your relationship with your former spouse is intact, and you are able to be around each other and present for your children when needed?
Usually, it is a combination of these and other factors and achieving the right balance between them for you, based on your own needs and goals. Having a lawyer that can assist you in working through what you want to achieve is important.
The key element to effectively work together to plan your life apart is to always come back to the primary goal – to not lose sight of yourself or your children as you go through the separation and divorce process.
Phillips Family Law is an award winning Family Law practice serving clients across Australia and abroad. Regardless of where you are in your decision making process, we can make you aware of your options. To discuss your situation confidentially phone +61730079898 or secure a time by clicking here.
Disclaimer: The content in this article provides general information however it does not substitute legal advice or opinion. Information is best used in conjunction with legal advice from an experienced member of our team.