25 September 2015
Can you have a “good” divorce?
Family lawyer Sue Andrews believes there is such a thing as a “good” divorce. With more than 35 years’ experience of working with divorced and separated couples, Sue has devised her own golden rules to help both parties reach a satisfactory resolution with the minimum of animosity, cost and delay.
Respect and communication - separating couples often get bogged down in considering matters from their own perspective instead of remembering that they were once a loving partnership which involved trust, respect and communication. Retaining this is especially important if there are children involved, because the couple needs to maintain an ongoing relationship for the rest of their lives.
Counselling - it is important to keep feelings of anger, hurt, mistrust, betrayal, frustration and guilt out of the formal process, but that can be difficult. Counselling, either before consulting lawyers or during the process of deciding issues in relation to children and resolving finances, may help.
Choose your lawyer carefully - look for a specialist, experienced family lawyer with whom you have rapport and empathy and one you do not feel intimidated by. Yes, lawyers give advice, but remember it is your divorce and it is you who should give the instructions. Be wary of a lawyer who promises you the earth or who always agrees with what you say, because that is rarely an outcome which can be achieved. While you may need firm guidance, you need to remain true to your own values and principles.
Establishing the facts - one of the first tasks is the fact finding exercise to understand all the issues that might impact upon the resolution of matters, and to ascertain the resources and assets of the relationship. A good lawyer will provide advice about what would be an appropriate settlement based on those facts, taking into account relevant legislation and judicial precedents and guidance.
Be honest - do not play games, unless of course it is really your goal and preference to pay significant amounts in legal fees and delay resolution.
Keep costs down - put your paperwork in good order. If your lawyer has to wade through loose papers in several carrier bags it will increase your costs by the number of hours he or she is required to go through such paperwork.
- Understanding – try to put yourself in the shoes of your spouse. It is very rare that separating parties are in the same emotional place at the same time. One person may have been thinking about it for some time, while the news may come as a complete shock to the other partner. If the marriage breaks down because one person has had an affair, the other party is likely to feel incredibly upset, hurt and betrayed. These feelings and issues will pervade the resolution of matters unless dealt with and addressed beforehand.
Sue concludes: “I truly believe a good divorce is one where both parties have realistic and pragmatic advice about what is fair for each of them and are able to talk frankly and openly with each other to achieve a settlement.”