Separating respectfully or “consciously uncoupling” as it has been recently coined, is often more difficult than couples expect and, in reality, keeping things amicable is often easier said than done. The good news is that it is possible and extremely rewarding for all parties involved when done well, particularly in parenting matters where the focus is on co-parenting with your ex-partner, which can be a long-term game.
Below are a few tips that may be helpful for you when considering how to conduct yourself in the process of separating.
- Do focus on the children
It is important to remember that the breakdown of a relationship affects everyone involved, not only you. In particular, the children of a relationship breakdown will be impacted by the change of living arrangements, change of a parent’s career or working hours, and the time spent with each parent moving forward. It is imperative that discussions between parties are guided around how to help the children navigate these changes, and what is in the best interests of the children.
Don’t use time with the children as a pawn for negotiations, which is often common between parties when discussing financial matters. Remember, it is not only you being affected by the separation.
- Do gather a support network
A network of positive people will make all the difference. It is important to accept offers for help, and ask for advice from friends or family who have experienced a divorce or separation before. Surround yourself with people who offer both supportive and balanced opinions. If friends or family are unable to act objectively when offering advice, it may be wise to request that they take a step back until you have reached a stable place.
Don’t play the blame game or point fingers at the other party as usually this will only draw out the conflict and timeline to reach a resolution. Focus on the matter at hand and the people who will help you reach a resolution.
- Do choose your battles
Choosing which battles to fight is often half the issue. Focusing on small wins throughout the process but losing sight of the long term battle is often the trap that separating parties fall into. In parenting matters, parties will need to learn to co-parent with each other until a child reaches the age of 18, and no longer is considered a dependent in the eyes of the law. It is more worthwhile focusing your energy on maintaining a good relationship with your ex-partner and prioritising your children’s happiness over a lifetime of animosity.
Learn to choose which battles are worth fighting instead of being head strong on what you have been told you should expect and are entitled to.
Don’t focus on small wins but lose sight of the long term battle.
- Do write it down; don’t just speak
Communication is key, and communicating with honesty, compassion and clear explanations will be most effective. Provided both parties are not aggressive or hostile in discussions, a kitchen-table negotiation to talk and reach an agreement between you and your ex-partner will be most useful. We do, however, suggest that any agreement reached be written and signed as opposed to verbal, which is hard to prove should communication break down in the future. Parenting plans and signed agreements will show the clear intention of both parties. We also encourage you to communicate in clear terms via text messages or emails so that you are able to produce these if necessary in the future.
Don’t only communicate verbally with your ex-partner. Make sure that you are both level-headed in discussions and cease discussions if things turn nasty or hostile.
- Do be willing to compromise
A good starting place for bringing clarity to decision-making is realising what is important at the end of the day. For most people, this generally includes wanting the children to be happy and being able to move on independently. Remember that in negotiations both parties will need to compromise and give a little to come to an agreement and finalise matters.
Don’t remain stuck to your goal post being unwilling to move in your position. This will only increase the need for legal representation, and therefore legal fees, in the future.
- Do consider your options
Should communication break down altogether, it is important to know what your options are. It may be necessary for both parties to undertake a parenting program for separated parents learning to co-parent together. Consulting a third party professional such as a mediator may be useful in bringing parties to the table to reach a final agreement. Should parties fail to speak to each other altogether, written letters may need to be exchanged between parties to negotiate an agreement. The final option available is to proceed with an application to the Federal Circuit Court or Family Court of Australia for your matter to be determined by a judge or registrar. You should never feel like you have exhausted all options and are coerced into signing an agreement against your will.
Don’t feel like you have to agree without exploring all your legal options first.
We hope these tips help you and your ex-partner amicably communicate and respect each other during the separation process. Should you require assistance in reaching an agreement or negotiating with your ex-partner, please don’t hesitate to contact us.