The breakdown of a marriage or a de-facto relationship is a time of high emotion. If you find your relationship has broken down you are likely to be suffering emotional distress in a similar manner to suffering physical distress or illness. Besides seeking legal advice you should obtain support and professional help through your general practitioner or referral to a counsellor, social worker or psychologist.
When and how children are told about their parents’ separation may influence how well the children cope. Specialised advice is available from Family Relationship Specialists, both privately and through Family Relationship Centres, who can be contacted at www.familyrelationships.gov.au.
Where children are involved, you should refrain from :
- Arguing in the presence of or within earshot of the children
- Discussing the relationship breakdown with anyone within earshot of the children
- Showing children any Court or other document relating to the breakdown
- Discussing Court events with the children
- Involving the children in any way in the process of resolving issues arising from the breakdown
You should be courteous to your former partner and not make derogatory comments about them, particularly in the presence of children. You should seek to adhere to arrangements and be punctual in respect of “handover” times and dates. You are entitled to be able to move forward respectfully and safely after separation. Any communication that it respectful between you and your former partner is good.
You are entitled to protection from family violence. Family violence is conduct, whether actual or threatened, by your former partner towards you, members of your family or your property, including pets. Family violence is a serious problem and you should make full disclosure of family violence issues to your support team, including your lawyer. If family violence is revealed as an issue, your lawyer should ensure your location is kept confidential and advice provided in respect of obtaining a family violence intervention order.
Whether you see the end of your relationship coming or not, you should start as soon as you can gathering records and getting control over the relationship’s cash accounts and credit cards. You should have some financial resources under your control that you can depend on. It is unlikely to be helpful to clear out shared resources.
Collaborative practice is always worth considering If you are unable to reach an agreement with your former partner, litigation should be a last resort and mediation is an option along with lawyer negotiation.
What do you want
It is important that you consider the goals you hope to achieve now that your relationship is ended. There are no fixed outcomes. You should think about the needs of your children and yourself as you move forward and whether you are able to support yourself and your former partner achieve those goals.
Select a lawyer
The Law Society of South Australia has a list of lawyers who are accredited as family law specialists. These lawyers specialise in family law disputes and other kinds of family law issues. To be accredited they must have significant family law experience and pass a rigorous examination. Friends and colleagues are likely to encourage you to consult family lawyers of whom they have some knowledge. These testimonials, whilst useful, should always be tested. I like to compare these recommendations with recommendations as to which orthopaedic surgeon I should have had repair my broken pelvis when I fell from my bicycle last year. The leading surgeon who repaired my injury has spent many years specialising in the type of injury I suffered and is an acknowledged expert in his field. I felt totally confident in his ability to repair my injury and now, some 12 months later I know that I received the best care and the best guidance for my own recovery. I have tried to assume responsibility for my condition under his expert guidance. When choosing your lawyer, choose an expert but also be aware that the ultimate outcome depends upon you accepting that expert’s guidance.