Separation and divorce proceedings can cause strong emotional reactions such as anger, hurt, fear and anxiety about the future. When emotions are running high it can be difficult to make the best choices.
The following are some tips to assist you with the emotional aspects of marriage breakdown.
- Consider reconciliation
Divorcing isn’t always the final solution. Ask yourself whether the relationship can be salvaged. There are relationship counselling services you can access and participate in as a couple.
The Family Law Act 1975 requires that your family law solicitor provides you with prescribed material regarding the availability of reconciliation services. Prevention is better than cure, so ultimately reconciliation may be the best outcome for your family, emotionally and financially.
- What if the marriage or relationship cannot be saved?
Often when people are at the point of obtaining advice from a family lawyer, the reality is the relationship can’t be saved.
If you find yourself separating, there are steps you can take to make the process a bit easier on yourself.
- Don’t forget the self-care
Taking care of yourself makes you feel better in a difficult situation.
It’s not always easy to do but getting enough sleep, eating healthy food, exercise and getting help, or information, will improve your situation and outlook. If you are struggling with anxiety or depression a useful place to start is with your general practitioner who can refer you to psychologists or counsellors.
Your lawyer can help to demystify the legal process, and provide you with a road map for resolution leading to the next phase of your life.
If you’re negotiating property settlement or children’s time, it is important to consider keeping an open mind and not become “positioned”.
Becoming positioned is when you draw lines in the sand, create “bottom lines” and say things like “my way or the highway”.
Often in negotiations or mediation, it is more useful to consider the interests of everyone involved (including children), the costs involved in litigation (including the non-financial, emotional cost of a protracted legal fight) and the time you will spend dealing with lawyers and Courts that you could be spending getting on with your life.
- Try not to “mirror” hostile behaviour
Often separation isn’t amicable. You may find yourself confronted with aggressive, angry and unreasonable behaviour.
If you’re also angry it can be a natural reaction to respond in kind. This situation is rarely helpful and tends to escalate conflict. Conflict in family law matters tends to make resolutions more difficult to achieve and can be very emotionally harmful to children caught up in the middle of such a dispute between their parents.
You can’t control what your ex-partner is doing but you can control yourself, and choose not to mirror destructive behaviours. Often when one party refuses to “mirror” aggression, a de-escalation will occur. Family violence of course should not be tolerated in any context. If you or a family member is confronted by family violence or threats of family violence you should contact police or discuss options for your safety with your lawyer.
- Get proper advice
You may find after separation you start receiving lots of advice from family and friends about your “legal rights”. While they generally mean well, be wary of the back yard or BBQ advice.
Family law is complex and while someone may know someone with a situation similar to yours, family law outcomes will depend on many different factors unique to individual circumstances. Early advice from a family law solicitor will assist you understand what you need to do, and will likely make you feel better.
In my experience, one of the most common types of remarks people make leaving my office after an initial attendance for advice is “thank you, I feel much better now”.
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