7 Tips For Starting A Healthy Separation

Separation and divorce can be a very difficult time for the whole family, especially when there’s conflict and controversy.

While no-one goes into a marriage expecting to part ways with their partner, ‘happy ever afters’ seem to be rare in Australia.  Approximately one in three marriages ends in divorce and although fewer people are tying the knot and legal unions are lasting longer (the average length of a marriage in 2019 was just over 12 years), there are predictions that the rate of divorce will rise.*

An adversarial separation may be divisive and can have a negative financial, emotional and physical toll on the whole family; in those circumstances, it is not usual that people agree that the outcome was worth all the pain and destruction.

On a positive note however, there are many couples who manage to end their relationship in a healthy way.   It is possible when both parties commit to the end goal and make de-escalation of conflict an ongoing priority.  So even if your circumstances are very difficult and a healthy separation feels totally counter-intuitive, remember that it is achievable and it will be worth the effort in the long-term.   

Here are 7 tips for starting a healthy separation:

Tip # 1: Treat your partner as a work colleague or business partner

Separation can be a time of intense and extreme emotions, but there is much to be gained by digging deep to manage your emotions constructively and with restraint.  Imagine that your former partner is a work colleague, and it will be easier to set your emotions aside and deal with situations in a respectful and courteous way.

Respond to any communications timeously.  Answer any queries and provide any information that is requested.  Lead by example and handle yourself as you would in a business environment.  Instead of allowing your separation to bring out the worst in you – use it to showcase your best qualities. 

Tip # 2: Research various pathways open to separating couples

Going to court is not the best option to resolve separation issues.  There are other options for an amicable divorce such as mediation and dispute resolution.

It is worthwhile doing some research on the various pathways before discussing a way forward with your former partner.    Things to consider include the complexity of your situation and your ability or willingness to communicate with one another.  Both of you should try to find a mutually acceptable way forward, and remember that mediation and dispute resolution processes are always preferable to court intervention.

You might find our article “Where Do I Start With Separating?” useful.

Tip #3:  Talk to a family lawyer

Getting legal advice does not mean that your divorce will end up in the courts.  On the contrary, speaking to an experienced family lawyer in the early stages of a separation is usually the best way of avoiding unnecessary conflict and avoiding going to court. 

A family lawyer will help you understand your rights and obligations and assist with managing your expectations.   Knowledge is power and even a single consultation with a lawyer can help you resolve your issues faster, more efficiently and amicably.

Tip #4:  Don’t make any significant changes or rash decisions in the early stages of separation

When you have made the decision to separate, be smart and sensible about money matters and your domestic arrangements.

Don’t make any significant changes to your financial affairs until the two of you have reached an agreement as to how expenses will be handled.  Bills should continue to be paid as usual. No major withdrawals should be made and extravagant spending sprees should be avoided.

If children are involved, their safety and their best interests are paramount.  Try and work out a parenting plan with your former partner and get legal advice if necessary.

You want to avoid doing anything in the heat of the moment that you may regret down the line.

Tip # 5: Seek professional help

Separation is a tumultuous time and most people aren’t equipped to handle the emotional upheaval.  It is obviously beneficial to tap into your support network of family and friends and even structured support groups, but there is significant merit in seeking professional help.

In order to achieve a healthy separation, you need tools and techniques to help you cope with the stressful situation and move forward.  A counsellor or medical professional can be of significant benefit, giving you practical and pragmatic assistance to help you deal with your emotions, adjust to the changes, navigate the unknown and face the future.

Tip # 6: Exercise restraint when it comes to starting a new relationships

The presence of a new partner is almost always a highly emotive issue. 

There is no moral judgement involved in the recommendation not to embark on a new relationship until a separation agreement has been reached.  It is entirely a strategic matter.  The introduction of of a new partner can (but not always) disrupt and complicate proceedings and can be an obstacle to a healthy separation, so it is always best to wait if you can.

Tip # 7:  Get going with dispute resolution as early as possible

It can be difficult to make decisions in times of extreme change like a separation, but protracted uncertainty breeds tension and anxiety.   If you drag your heels and don’t act in a timely manner to resolve your disputes, you may compromise any goodwill that exists.

If you are serious about achieving a healthy separation, don’t put off making a decision about mediation and dispute resolution, start the process as soon as possible.  Mediation is a generally beneficial process after the breakdown of a spousal relationship.

In conclusion

No-one expects their marriage to fail, but it is a growing reality.  However, as difficult as separation and divorce are, it is possible to have a healthy break-up if you approach it with the right attitude.

These tips for starting a healthy separation come from the experienced team at West Family Lawyers in Perth, but are intended for information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice.

If you wish to talk to a family lawyer, you can get in touch with West Family Lawyers by phoning 08 9380 9111 or through their website, www.westfamilylawyers.com.au.  Their legal team is practical and approachable and will advise you in a non-legal and direct manner with a view to achieving a fair outcome, preferably by way of settlement.

* COVID Impact to Send Divorce Rate Soaring as Google Searches Reach Peak

* Number of Divorces

* Marriages and Divorces Australia

Natalie Dimmock

Natalie has worked in family law for 18 years, with skills and qualifications in law, mediation, psychology, management, and company directorship.

Natalie is equally comfortable at mediation negotiating a settlement and in the Family Court advocating for clients. She has experience in all areas of family law, including child support, financial settlements, and parenting issues. She is part of a small team of trusted family lawyers in Perth practising in the Family Court of Western Australia.

Find out more about Natalie here.

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