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50 Ways to Leave Your Lover…

November 8, 2010

Paul Simon, upon his first marriage ending in 1975, wrote what should probably be the Number 1 song on the “Family Lawyers’ Countdown”, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.

Simon’s 50 ways can be more generally distilled down to 2 ways: suddenly and unexpectedly or carefully planned and implemented.  More often than not, it isn’t necessarily the same way for both parties to the relationship. What appears to one party to be a sudden and shocking departure could have been undertaken after a lot of careful consideration and planning by the other. In such cases, both parties usually find themselves at different “emotional stages” in grieving for the relationship, accepting and understanding the separation and emotional preparedness to move on from it.

I always maintain that the Boy Scouts’ “Be Prepared” motto is very applicable to embarking on the wilderness of separation. Being prepared will help take some of the uncertainty and fear out of a separation, it can mean you have more control over your situation post separation and it can help reduce your legal costs. Being prepared can include any or all of the following:

  • Compiling a list of your assets and debts and gathering together copies of documents about all of these;
  • Getting some counselling, either individually or with your partner, about the issues that have you contemplating separation. The Family Court provides a free referral to counselling. You can ask your local Family Court for this yourself – you don’t need a lawyer to do this;
  • Putting together a realistic budget of what you anticipate your expenses and income to be upon separation. This will not only be of practical use for you but will help your lawyer quickly assess any financial support claims you may have. Budget advisers can assist you with this;
  • Making enquiries of WINZ and IRD as to what financial support may be available to you if you separate;
  • Making discreet enquiries of your employer about the liklihood of changing your work hours or income if you have identified you may need to do this upon separation;
  • Coming to some preliminary agreements with your partner. This obviously requires a reasonable degree of goodwill and communication but a number of my clients have been able to come to some arrangements about their financial affairs, their children’s care and practical living arrangements for at least the short term after separation. Again, a counsellor or trusted family member or friend may be able to help you in negotiating such things;
  • Making a “Plan” which encompasses things like where you will live and how it will be furnished, who your supports will be, how you will meet your expenses and the arrangements for your children’s care.

Being prepared before you leave your spouse should include obtaining legal advice. I have a number of clients who have come to me because they were just simply “thinking about leaving ” their husband or wife. I wish more people did this as it often makes sorting matters after separation a lot tidier and easier.

It won’t always be possible to be prepared. You may find your partner has left you suddenly and without warning. You may need to leave suddenly for safety reasons because of violence in your relationship. Such situations require several blogs all to themselves! The emotional thumping a sudden separation hits you with can mean thinking through the legal and practical consequences of a separation feels like just one more unwanted stress to have to contend with but it is important to get legal advice on this sooner, rather than later.

Whether you have had a sudden or well planned separation, an experienced family lawyer will be able to:

  • advise you about the ways the Family Court can help you if you have urgent safety issues;
  • identify the practical and legal issues that will likely arise out of a separation, some of which you may not have thought of;
  • help you negotiate any urgent issues with your partner or commence urgent proceedings in the Family Court if this is required;
  • refer you to appropriate support organisations;
  • advise you of your position in law and what your likely outcome will be; and
  • demystify the path ahead and help you identify a plan for resolving the legal issues you face.

 Feel free to leave any comments about topics or general questions you’d like me to consider covering in future Blogs on this site!

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