For most people the summer holiday season is a time to reflect on the past year as well as planning for the next. For some people reflection results in the difficult decision to end their relationship. Consequently, family lawyers usually receive an influx of inquiries from people seeking advice, particularly after the holidays have come to an end and the children have returned to school.
Most people ending their relationship start with a goal of having an amicable divorce. While this is usually the best approach to take in some cases these intentions cannot be realised. This article shares some tips that can assist with achieving an amicable divorce.
How to Separate Amicably
Tip 1 – Be Realistic
Some people with amicable intentions start their divorce journey with a degree of blind optimism, sometimes forgetting the reasons why their relationship has come to an end. Even in the most cooperative relationships unkind words will be exchanged when emotions are running high and this can often trigger a change in attitude, in worst cases undermining the mostly cooperative approach taken by the couple.
Sometimes we are consulted by clients who have had friendly negotiations with their former partner, only to be disappointed when they find out that their in principle agreement is unrealistic or unlikely to be supported by the Court. For instance, some couples reach an agreement about keeping their jointly owned house as a “joint investment”. We caution our clients about the risk of this approach having regard to one of the parties changing their mind further down the track or not contributing to the costs of keeping the property.
In parenting matters we sometimes see clients who have decided to alternate spending time with the children in the former matrimonial home.This concept known as “bird nesting” usually loses its attraction because the parents increasingly feel uncomfortable about sharing the home with their former spouse. It may be more realistic and ultimately better for the children for the parents to establish two homes early in the separation.
Tip 2 – Be cautious of well-meaning supporters
Your circumstances are unique to you and your former spouse. What occurred in someone else’s separation can be helpful to know however it is important not to make decisions based on the advice or insights of well-meaning support of family and friends. While others have experienced separation, each family circumstance is different and you should act based on your particular situation.
Ensure that you receive advice from professionals who have a broad experience and specialist expertise in assisting families through separation rather than taking advice from well-meaning but perhaps ill-informed supporters.
Tip 3 – Read with a critical eye
There is no end of advice available online about separation and divorce. Much of it is helpful and is designed to support people like you going through the separation and divorce journey. However, content written for example, an American audience will not always be relevant in terms of the law. For instance, there is no 50/50 rule of dividing assets here in Australia. We have a far more involved process that takes into account a number of factors including homemaking and parenting considerations.
Tip 4 – Be informed
Many people who are separating believe that seeking legal advice will generate a “high conflict” divorce, resulting in costly court proceedings.
We have seen many people whose decision to avoid seeing a lawyer has resulted in irreversible financial consequences and suboptimal parenting arrangements.
A family law specialist will help you become informed about the law and the process and it is best to seek advice early or even prior to separating.
Tip 5 – Go to the right person for you
Find a lawyer who is supportive of your intentions to remain amicable. They will help you determine what is fair for both of you not only now, but in the long term as well. We recommend you choose someone who will ask you questions about what you are looking to achieve and is supportive of helping you negotiate a settlement in a way that you want it to unfold.
If you need to, speak with a few family lawyers to see who you feel most comfortable with and who you know is going to work with you towards your goals rather than an adversarial lawyer.
This year I have been practicing as a family lawyer for over 28 years helping people through the separation and divorce process and supporting them in their goal to achieve an amicable divorce. Along with my colleagues we have helped many people feel confident and well informed about their decision making as part of their amicable approach to settlement.
DDCS Lawyers specialise in all aspects of family law and can help guide you through the difficult process of separation. If you need assistance, contact our team on (02) 6212 7600 to book a consultation.