Knowledge

20 June 2017

How to conduct yourself during a separation to get the best result

Six top tips from nearly a decade in family law

Julie Hodge – Senior Associate

Having worked in family law for nearly a decade now, I have been reflecting on the enormous number of variables that affect the outcome of a family law settlement, and those that the client can control.  The major thing ten years in family law has shown me is that how separated parties conduct themselves upon separation can be critical to getting the best result, remaining amicable and avoiding unnecessary court action.

So here are my six top tips on how to conduct yourself during a separation to get the best result (and remain on good terms with your former partner).

Appreciate that the relationship has now changed and adapt your behaviour accordingly

Whilst texting each other ten times a day may have been normal during the relationship, it may not be upon separation.  Watch out for and appreciate new boundaries that are put in place by your former partner.

Excessive texting or telephoning your former partner after separation can amount to domestic violence or stalking and lead to a (domestic violence) protection order being sought against you, or even criminal charges being laid.

Don’t do any Facebook posts about your separation

Aside from possibly causing tension or miscommunications with your former partner, and complicating or derailing any settlement, these posts could end up in an affidavit before the Family Law Courts.  I have seen Judges on many, many occasions reading a party’s Facebook post to the Court (which is open to the public) and challenging them on the content and appropriateness of the posts.  Orders are often made by Judges restraining or injuncting parties from posting information on Facebook about their children or a settlement.

On an even more serious note, publishing certain information about court proceedings is an offence which can result in serious penalties, and evidence in Facebook posts can be critical to winning or losing a family law case.

Try to keep the communication lines open with your former partner

Continuing to communicate with your former partner one-on-one in a mode you both feel comfortable with; be it via email, or phone, or over coffee, can not only assist to keep your relationship amicable, but can also aid your legal separation.  For example, at times your solicitor may suggest you discuss certain settlement issues direct with your former partner.  Such open discussion not only saves time and legal costs, but may also allow you to overcome an impasse in the settlement.  Common impasses can include who is to have the children on Christmas Day or whether to sell the family home and when.  This may not be appropriate if there is a history of domestic violence.

Get the support you need

Separation is one of the most traumatic life events.  It is strongly recommended that you not only have a few close friends or family members to talk to in confidence, but that you also speak to a counsellor or psychologist at the time of separation.  Some people feel they only need one or two counselling sessions, while others require support over a longer period of time, particularly in the circumstances of a traumatic separation, or litigation.

Don’t rush in and freeze joint banks accounts, withdraw funds from bank accounts or change the locks

Taking serious steps such as freezing joint bank accounts, withdrawing funds from bank accounts or changing the locks on the house may be necessary in some circumstances, however in most, it is not, and just antagonises the situation and causes more legal issues and complications.

Except in circumstances of urgency, you should obtain legal advice from a family law solicitor before taking any of these steps.

Obtain legal advice from an experienced family law solicitor

Obtaining legal advice, and if necessary, representation, at the early stages of separation, or even in the event you are considering a separation, is critical.  Knowledge really is key at the initial stages of a separation. The more informed you are the better you are able to make decisions about the separation and your future, and conduct yourself in a way that is consistent with your goals.

What most separating parties don’t know is that a solicitor can be retained by you to do as little (such as providing advice only), or as much, as you need them to do.  Nothing makes me happier than to have someone walk into my office and tell me that they have agreed on a settlement with their former partner and need me to “make it legal.”

A good family law solicitor will let you know during the process of any options you can take to reduce costs, such as preparing a written chronology, rather than the solicitor taking a full statement from you over many hours, or initially attending mediation without solicitors at a mediation service.

If you would like any further information about the matters raised in this article or you need family law advice please feel free to contact me.

Julie Hodge
Senior Associate
Miller Harris Lawyers

Telephone:  07 4036 9700
Email:  juliehodge@millerharris.com.au

Voted into 2016 and 2017 Doyles list of leading Family and Divorce Lawyers

 

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