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How do I communicate with my partner during a separation or divorce?

Communicating with your partner can be difficult during a separation or divorce.

Generally, however, the ‘angrier’ the process, the higher the cost and the longer it will take. That’s why all the experts in our network — from Lawyers to Accountants — believe in de-escalation.

As Lawyer Anna Cruckshank says, communication is ‘the number one element that drives whether a separation is dealt with in a sensible way that gets the best outcome for the parties or whether it goes off the rails.’

So, how can you communicate more effectively? Below are some tips to help you navigate this process.

But before we start… your safety is paramount. If you are concerned about your partner’s potential reaction during and after a conversation, seek professional help first.

Have a plan for how the issue of separation or divorce is raised. The bottom line is that it’s a difficult conversation to have. Think about how both you and your partner would want to be communicated with and what support you will both need after the conversation.

If you have children, put their interests first. That means both parents are modelling good behaviour by being respectful, calm and positive about each other. How should you discuss a separation with your kids? We chat with a senior psychologist in this podcast.

Meet in public places. This could help you both control emotions and maintain an amicable conversation.

Try to keep an open mind when you’re having a conversation and actively listen to your partner’s concerns and thoughts. That means asking questions rather than making judgements. Davide Di Pietro, Clinical Social Worker at the Resilience Centre Family Clinic, explains receptive thinking ‘can really turn things around, even in cases where there has been high conflict in the past.

Be willing to hear ‘no’. It is reasonable to expect that you will not agree on everything during the separation. This is a long process that requires a lot of negotiation to come to a fair and equitable agreement. ‘Maintaining an element of respect for each other’ and a realistic understanding can help you move forward, says Anna Cruckshank, Managing Director at Aubrey Brown.

Think before you respond. Avoid responding to messages or emails when you’re feeling emotional because this will tend to push you into an escalation cycle. And in a legal sense, when matters escalate they tend to cost time, money and stress.

Look after yourself. Take care of your mental health and if you need to speak with someone independent, reach out to a counsellor or psychologist in your area. We can help connect you with experts in our network — just contact us for their details.

Find someone to communicate for you. If communication with your partner is just not possible, then use a representative to communicate for you. Depending on the stage you are at, this could be a trusted family member, friend, Mediator or Lawyer.

A separation guide character parent with their child

Start the Q&A

This 5-minute Q&A can help you better understand how separation and divorce work.

Start the Q&A


Video: Divorce surge during COVID-19 – Channel 9 News Feature

If COVID-19 has impacted your relationship — you’re not alone.

In Victoria, we’ve seen an “85% increase in people wanting to speak to either a marriage counsellor or a psychologist,” our Co-founder Angela Harbinson told Channel 9.

The Separation Guide has brought together a network of specialists who can guide you through the entire separation and divorce process. We connect you with the right people for your situation.


Video: What is mediation?

  • Video
  • Transcript

Co-founder Jack Whelan explains how mediation allows both parties to make decisions about their own futures and come to an agreement.

Video Transcript: What is mediation?


Good day. It’s Jack from the Separation Guide here. One of the questions which people often ask is, “How does mediation work? How does the Separation Guide work?” The biggest difference between the courtroom and mediation is that in a courtroom, the judge tells you what your future is going to be. And often, that is the best outcome for couples who just cannot see eye to eye, who are not amicable, and cannot reach their own outcome.

Mediation is different. Mediation requires the parties to make decisions about their own futures, and to come to an agreement. Separation Guide specialises in that. We call it a Guided Separation, whereby we work with both parties independently, and impartially, to give them advice on what they need, to try and resolve a dispute, and to do so in a way which would be fair in the eyes of the law.

Now, the Separation Guide can do that because the Mediators who we use are also legally qualified. This really matters. What it means is that you get the benefit of someone who has experience and great trade-craft in keeping everybody calm, and getting everybody on the same page, to try and reach an agreement, but also someone who has those skills and that expertise in family law.

So mediation works by the parties trying to reach an agreement. And often that’s done in a room by speaking together. But sometimes the parties can find that difficult. In those circumstances, we do what’s called a shuttle mediation whereby the Mediator shuttles between the parties, to try and reach an agreement. Often that’s done online, or via teleconferences, or even just on papers, or via email. Both, if they’re successful, will keep you out of the courtroom, saving you an awful lot of money, and an awful lot of time, and stress.

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Talk to us about mediation

If you would like to speak to one of our qualified Mediators about your separation, please submit an enquiry below.

Talk to us about mediation


Video: Mistakes that cost people a lot of money


In this video, Co-founder Jack Whelan discusses how couples can prevent making common mistakes when they are separating and divorcing.

Often couples do not understand their own legal rights and this confusion can cause costly stress and conflict.

The Separation Guide’s Q&A and experienced Mediators and Lawyers can help you understand the separation and divorce process.

Fighting in Family Law costs a lot of money.