As the New Year gets underway and we all enter it a little bleary eyed after the festive season, it might be time to tackle those issues that were left unattended in 2019, came out of the festive break, or just get some advice (and peace of mind) about concerns that may be eating away at you.
Unfortunately for some, the festive season can make tensions in a relationship run high (particularly if tensions already existed). This isn’t helped by the hustle and bustle the celebratory season brings, especially the mixture of (unsolicited) advice freely given by family and friends, and alcohol.
The first thing you could try is to have an open discussion with your partner around the kitchen table. Of course, it would be best to wait until things have settled down after the festive season, and family and friends have packed up and gone home. If you attempt to do this, make sure that:
- your partner is willing to have such a discussion as well – it is important that you are both ready and that this isn’t “sprung” on your partner;
- you each take turns to voice your concerns and that you each listen to the other;
- you respect each other’s views – this doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, it just means that you are listening and showing some understanding; and
- you don’t sit around the kitchen table for a whole day thereby getting increasingly frustrated and annoyed – consider setting a time limit of an hour or two.
The important thing is: do not expect to fix the entire problem with just one conversation. It may take several. So give each other space, set time aside, and act respectfully.
The second thing you could do is to try relationship counselling. There are several private practitioners and community organisations that offer this. Relationship counselling involves a neutral third party who helps you and your partner identify the issues that may be underpinning your impasse, and encourages discussion with a goal to resolving them. It is important that you give it your all during these counselling sessions and make the most of them.
In some cases however, despite even the best attempts at counselling or direct discussions, you and your partner may choose to separate. At this juncture you should seek immediate legal advice from a qualified family lawyer as to what your rights and options are.
After receiving the appropriate advice from your family lawyer, and working with them in an attempt to manage your matter to resolution with your partner and/or their lawyer, you may still find it necessary to attend a family dispute resolution (FDR) conference. This can be done through a private mediator or with the assistance of a community organisation that has qualified family dispute resolution practitioners. Similar to counselling, FDR involves an impartial third party who helps you and your former partner identify the issues in dispute and work towards a resolution based on common grounds. It is highly important that you make a genuine effort at FDR to make the most of it!
You may resolve your impasse at the first FDR. However, sometimes this isn’t the case and a further conference or discussions need to take place. Have patience with this process because the next step is going to court, which:
- usually doesn’t end in the desired result and can leave you dissatisfied;
- can necessitate you to spending more money; and
- may leave you waiting about two to three years for a final hearing date and decision.
Once again, it is important that you get legal advice if you and your partner have separated to get a better understanding as to your rights and options moving forward.
Finally, and usually the last thing on everyone’s to-do list, is ensuring that you’ve made the appropriate arrangements for your estate in the event of your untimely passing. That is:
- making sure that you have a will, or updating your will after a change in circumstances;
- making sure that you have an enduring power of attorney, or update it following your change in circumstances;
- reviewing, and if necessary changing, the beneficiaries of your superannuation entitlements and other insurances (it may be appropriate to get financial advice around this);
- making, or updating, a binding death benefit nomination through your superannuation fund.
It is important that you have appropriately arranged your estate following a separation, or even when your circumstances change in any way, to protect your estate and ensure it is dealt with in accordance with your wishes.
If this article raises any questions or concerns, please contact one of our experienced family lawyers.