There might be no such thing as a happy separation. But the difference between separating well and fighting things out in court can be tens of thousands of dollars, not to mention the heavy emotional toll.
Our Mediators believe in keeping separation costs as low as possible and maintaining amicable, workable relationships between ex partners, which is especially important where co-parenting is involved.
Jack Whelan, Mediator and Co-founder of The Separation Guide, chatted with family lawyers Anna Cruckshank and Kate O’Grady of Aubrey Brown, about separating well.
Here are five of their key tips for a good separation:
1. Focus on getting the communication right
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,’ says Anna.
If communication isn’t a couple’s strong point, which is often the case, our legally trained Mediators can help neutralise points of contention or advise when access to a counsellor or psychologist might be useful before going any further with a separation process.
2. Keep the fight out of it
We know this can be easier said than done. Emotions often run high and hot during separation. But going into a separation with an adversarial mindset simply isn’t in anyone’s best interest, including yours. It will make reaching a separation outcome more expensive and protracted.
Often people ‘don’t have a lot of money in the pool to be arguing, and to be arguing and spending it on legal fees is not in the best interests of either of them or their family’, says Anna.
This is why we advocate for Guided Separation, where legally trained Mediators work with both partners to come to a mutually agreed approach to separation.
3. Know that your friends and family might be escalating things (from a place of love)
While a separation is ultimately between two people, we often see it’s friends or family pushing people to fight their ex-partner, says Kate, or encouraging unrealistic expectations of what they might receive in a settlement:. ‘You know, “she cheated” or “he cheated, so you should go for everything”.
Mediators play a key role here to help ‘separate people from those myths and from the external pressures…to try and get them to focus on a realistic approach to it.’
4. See court as a last resort option
Some Lawyers will file an application for separation with the court as the first action. Our Mediators believe that every other option should be exhausted first. Once a matter is in court, a Judge’s order will define how the separation works. This takes all control away from the separating couple.
‘The Judge doesn’t know you and your family, the Judge doesn’t know the intricacies of the way that your family works, your routine, even in the way that your Lawyer does,’ says Kate. ‘Often parties end up with orders that are completely unworkable.’
When parties can come to an agreement themselves, says Anna, ‘I feel that they walk away with a bit more acceptance of the outcome.’
5. Be honest
When you’re worried about what a separation outcome might be, it can be tempting to withhold information. That will always backfire, says Kate. ‘If you try and hide assets, if you try and hide money or if you try and cover up things that have happened with the kids, it will come out eventually, and it will impact your credibility.’
It also draws the matter out, adds to the cost and ‘will create a level of mistrust that makes it hard for the other person to then engage in the negotiation’.
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