Australian courts require that prior to applying for divorce a couple must be legally separated for at least 12 months. This period of separation can be very difficult for all parties involved, both the partners and any children. The decision to separate alone can cause significant distress to all parties involved. Family Courts of Australia recognize this time can be difficult and offer many helpful tips for this time in your life.
Even if the decision to separate was the best decision for you and your partner, it can still be one of the hardest times in your life. This one decision alters one of the most major aspects of your life – having a steady partner. All of a sudden, the way you live your life and organized your life must be changed completely.
Many couples that decide to separate go through the typical stages of grief. This is understandable and to be expected following such a massive change in one’s life. The first stage of grief is listed by the courts as “shock and denial.” Many people have a hard time accepting that the separation is actually happening. In the second stage of grief, many people get angry, and blame his or her partner or an outside party. When a party finally moves past the anger and guilt and shock, they often feel immense sadness but most come out of this sadness with an affirming sense of acceptance of his or her new life and situation.
You and your partner may move through these stages of grief at a different pace. Sometimes, a former couple is strong enough to discuss arrangements about their former life from childcare to financial matters. Sometimes one partner is not yet ready to face the other. The court recognizes this and understands that you and your partner may be at different stages and that it may affect negotiations.
While it may be very difficult, former partners must make arrangements and decisions about their lives immediately following a decision to separate. If tensions run high, a temporary agreement may be made. And unfortunately, there is a lot to consider and you must be prepared. You and your partner must decide what happens to the property you share, like houses, cars and furniture. You also must decide which of you will stay in the house. Which of you will pay any outstanding debts, the rent or mortgage? What will you do about a joint bank account? Making decisions about your children is the most important. You must decide where your children will live and who will take care of them. Which partner will financially support the other, themselves or the children? The hardest decision is how to tell your children that you and your partner are separating. Take it slow, as it may be difficult for young children to process.
If you are having trouble getting through the period of separation remember – you are not alone. There are couples all over Australia that are going through exactly what you are. Rely on your friends and family to help cope with changes. Find a support group or a counselor. There are Family Relationship Centres in Australia, and there is probably one near you. Seek additional legal advice to help you understand the process of separation and divorce so it is not as daunting. If you and your partner begin to think that separation was not the best decision, go see a relationship counselor.
Separation is difficult, and is often the first step before divorce. It can be scary, traumatic and painful. Be sure to seek help when you need it and try to think as rationally as you can. It will get easier.