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New Year, New Separation?

January 23, 2017

It is that time of year again. A time for reflection, resolutions and new beginnings. For a number, once the Christmas decorations and camping gear are packed away, they must face their marriage or significant relationship coming to an end. For lawyers specialising in family law, the phone rings hot in January as couples separate. Separating may be a decision that has been some time in the making for you but which you have delayed “to get through Christmas”. Possibly spending so much time together over the holidays has shone light on the reality that your relationship has run its course. Perhaps the credit card bills have come in and financial stress has become the final straw for your relationship to bear. Maybe you have been separated a while but are in need of a change to the post separation dynamic between you and your ex.

Whatever the circumstances behind your separation, whether it has just happened or you’ve been separated a while now, here’s four resolutions that you might like to consider:

Check: Is it Really Over? If you are newly separated or considering separating, take pause and check whether the relationship is really over. Separating is hard to come back from and has significant financial and personal implications for you, your spouse, any children you may have and your wider whanau. Being proactive and considered about the decision is important. Now is not the time for being impulsive. Spending some time with a lawyer to get an overview of what lies ahead if you separate allows you to make a fully informed decision. Counselling, individual and joint, may assist you to work through the issues that trouble your relationship and avoid separation. If it cannot be avoided, counselling may help you to be on the same page about how you both want to make this significant change to your family.

Doing it Differently: Most of us have seen and heard the horror stories. Separated friends or family members who have spent years and tens of thousands of dollars litigating issues about their children and property. Many couples aim for a simple, amicable separation only to end up in ever increasing conflict which they feel unable to bring themselves back from. Gwenyth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s “conscious uncoupling”? You could be forgiven for having cynically thought this is impossible. But, what if it weren’t? What if transitioning you and your family through a separation could be undertaken in a way that aims to focus on your important concerns and your children while avoiding rising acrimony?

Lawyers trained in Collaborative Practice work with their clients to achieve dignified, equitable outcomes that are personalised to their unique needs. Whether you are on the cusp of separating or are well along the path, it isn’t too late to look up a Collaborative professional and explore whether this process may be right for you and your family.

Save Money – Use the Right Professionals for the Right Stuff: One of the challenging issues around separations and legal issues is facing your altered financial position. So, it really doesn’t make sense spending more than you need to on legal costs, does it?

One way you can protect yourself from excessive legal costs is to ensure you are using the right professionals to deal with the right issues. This may mean having multiple professionals on board but ultimately, having each do what their skill base best equips them to do should mean reduced costs for you overall. Many professionals have lower charges than lawyers.

A common example is counselling. Clients often will come to their lawyer bearing the heavy emotion that accompanies separation. They share this with their lawyer (often at length). The sheer weight of their emotional state can mean they are unable to properly take on board the information the lawyer provides, let alone carry out any fruitful decision making about the legal issues. Do this several times and you end up with a large bill with little to show for it in a legal sense.

While most lawyers will be empathetic to your situation and may even be very good listeners, their skill base is in the law not mental health. Better to spend time and (usually less) money working with a counsellor or psychologist to help you work through the emotional challenges you are facing. These professionals usually have lower charges and you’ll have the right professional to support you. When you see your lawyer, you’ll have better focus on the legal issues and ultimately will likely spend less. Got finance/budgeting/business issues? Issues with assisting your child through a separation? Same deal!

Take the Higher Road: Struggling to move out of the conflict zone with an ex who seems to know just how to rile you up? Tired of constantly having to battle together over most issues? For the sake of your emotional wellbeing and the wellbeing of your children, its time to change that. While we’ve all heard the saying “It takes two to tango” and it is easy to believe change can’t happen unless the other person changes, it also only takes one to stop the tango. Perhaps what is required is a change in the method or timing of your communications. If you still have legal issues between you, deploying a process like Collaborative Practice or Mediation will usually not inflame the conflict between you in the same way litigation does.  It may be as simple as resolving to always take the higher road when faced with a challenging situation with your ex. For some, this may mean having to get the expertise of a conflict or divorce coach, counsellor or psychologist to give you the tools to respond differently when your ex presses those buttons.

Do Something You Couldn’t do Before: There is a lot of compromise in marriage but guess what? If you are separated you can choose to do things you couldn’t before your separation. For one lady I knew, this meant getting a dog which was something she couldn’t do during her marriage as her husband was allergic to dogs. For another client, it was travel while another chose to throw lavish dinner parties. I have heard another client speak positively about now simply being able to watch what she wants on the telly. Whatever it is for you, these small choices around shaping and constructing your post separation life can be liberating. Even if the decision to separate was not yours and you are struggling with it, making choices to do things you’ve had to compromise on previously can help you to create a silver lining and see the future more positively.

The feeling of renewal and fresh starts at the beginning of the year gives us a valuable opportunity to assess whether life is how we want it to be and to take action. Resolutions like those above will have long term implications for the wellbeing and future relationships for you and your children so its well worth putting some careful thought into them. Most of all, be gentle with yourself and those around you. We’re all just trying to do our best!

Thinking of separating? Separated and wanting to resolve your legal issues in a respectful way out of Court? Arrange a consult in person or by Skype/phone with Family Law Results by calling 0064 9 297 2010.

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