It’s no secret that separation and divorce can bring out the worst in people. That’s why there are so many stories about people taking revenge on their exes. You know, like the man who moved next door to his ex-wife and erected a huge sculpture of the middle finger salute, pointed in her direction. And then there’s the jilted husband who set up a website documenting 101 uses for his ex-wife’s wedding dress.
But there’s no doubt that taking revenge can be hugely damaging with increased emotional baggage, drawn-out legal proceedings and escalating legal costs.
That’s why it makes sense to try and separate in the most painless and amicable way possible, regardless of what has happened to cause the split. Here are our six top tips.
1. Know your key dates
Key dates are important when talking to a lawyer and taking a case to court. They can include:
:: The date of separation.
:: The date you or your ex moved out of the house.
:: The date you and your ex agreed to separate, or when it was discussed.
:: The dates that your kids have seen your ex (if no parenting agreement has yet been made).
Knowing these dates will save time and money because:
:: Your lawyer won’t have to try and piece together information to work out the dates.
:: It may be easier for your lawyer to agree the dates with your ex (or his lawyers).
:: It may be easier for your lawyer to prove the dates to the Court.
It’s important that the key dates are recorded somewhere and to make sure you keep the information safe and easily accessible.
2. Be prepared to negotiate and agree
The more you can agree, the cheaper and quicker it will be to settle all issues, whether they be about property, kids or both. And the more amicable your split, the easier it will be for any future negotiations (especially concerning kids).
Negotiation means that you have to be prepared to compromise. Just because you want something may not mean you’ll get it. You have to work out how many concessions you’re prepared to make to reach an agreement.
Keep in mind that no matter what, your lawyer is there to act in your best interests, even if you disagree about what is being suggested to you. Your lawyer will see the bigger picture and will understand from experience how things will benefit you in the long run, so it’s important to trust them. And if you can’t do that, you may need to take the significant step of changing lawyers.
3. Communication is everything
Good communication almost always improves the outcome of a legal issue. This is especially true in family law cases. If you and your ex can put aside your differences, the process will be far less damaging to your kids.
Having good communication with your lawyer is also important. It’s your lawyer’s job to get the best possible result for you and to act in your best interests. This means you must tell your lawyer everything, even if the information doesn’t do you any favours. If you tipped paint on your ex’s new BMW, tell your lawyer. Because your ex will make sure the truth will come out anyway, so it’s far better that your lawyer can be prepared with a response.
4. Property division
In working out how to divide the property of the relationship, your lawyer needs as much information as you can possibly provide. It’s important to get your documents in order. Don’t worry about whether they’re relevant – that’s your lawyer’s job.
Collect as much information as you can. Original documents are best but copies will do if originals aren’t available. Documents include:
:: Payslips, tax returns and superannuation documents (for you and your ex)
:: Business or trust details
:: Mortgage documents
:: Bank statements
:: Share and other investment information.
The more you have, the clearer the picture of the assets and liabilities of the relationship and the easier, quicker and cheaper it will be for your lawyer to negotiate a settlement.
5. Kids come first
When negotiating over the kids, it’s really important to remember that their interests come first.
Don’t argue with your ex in front of the kids and don’t be disrespectful of your ex to the kids. For example, don’t tell them that “Daddy left because he’s a bad man.” Even if he’s done something wrong, he’s still their dad and you need to consider how those comments affect your kids
In trying to work out an agreement, consider your lifestyle choices and discuss with your lawyer how the Court may view them. For example, if you live a long way from their school, how will this affect them when they are staying with you? You may need to consider living closer to your ex or the school. Consider making changes to improve the quality of time that you can spend with your kids.
6. Moving on
The longer you remain emotionally entangled in the situation, the more difficult the separation will be. It’s important to carve out some “me” time, especially when you don’t have the kids. This may be new interests, joining a community or support group, getting counselling or taking up yoga or meditation. Whatever you choose, make sure the focus is you.
Separation is no walk in the park, but it doesn’t have to be a minefield of slurs and vengeful acts either. The more you can cooperate with your ex, the easier it will be. And having a lawyer on your side can really help to smooth the way.
This article provides general information only. For advice specific to your needs, you should consult a lawyer.