Separation can be an incredibly difficult time for all concerned. But can the impact of the ordeal be reduced through both an understanding of the road ahead and knowing some things before you make the move?
There’s little doubt that family law disputes can be incredibly stressful. Should those disputes escalate to a point where the relationship is untenable, separation often follows and at times it can happen really quickly.
In today’s podcast I’m talking with David Millwater a partner and family lawyer at McNamara & Associates. David, sometimes these decisions may happen in haste without the person who is leaving perhaps being fully aware of what follows and of course some things that they should put in place before the move. Is that what sometimes happens in your experience?
Yes Dan, it is. Marital separation or de facto separation is something that involves many different factors that need to be considered. I mean, it depends on every person’s personal circumstance. In some cases you might have children involved, other cases there might be property that needs to be divided up. Some cases some of the issues might be whether each party can support themselves. There also might be issues in terms of child support.
It really is about assessing the relevant issues in the case. Then also, trying to give some people a bit of an insight as to what the future might hold for them if they were to separate and what could be done to look after their interests and their families interests in to the future.
What’s really the starting point in that case David? You know, is it always so prudent to get some advice at the front end before contemplating separation or what’s your recommendation on that respect?
Well, it certainly is. I suppose it’s interesting because I do have a number of clients who consult me who are considering whether to separate. The decision to separate is obviously a personal decision of theirs that I don’t have any part of but I do try and give them a little bit of an idea of looking forward to what the landscape might be should they separate.
They idea is to give them a bit of insight in to the different angles that might raise in the future for them. For example, if there are young children involved, I try and talk to them about, you know, what might the parenting arrangements look like in the future. What type of practicalities do we need to think about in terms of getting children to and from schools and things along those lines.
There are also things like looking where people might need to live and whether they’re able to support themselves. Those are the primary things that come up.
David, what about emotionally? One must be in incredibly difficult time for people. Is there anything that can be done or recommendations that you make with respect to, you know, self-care and the care of their family at this particular time?
Oh, Dan, most definitely. One of the first things that I try and do is kind of asses whether the person is in a good space to be really having a big discussion about the legal issues. Sometimes it’s really good for them to have the opportunity to talk to a counselor or depending on what it is they might need to approach a support group, such as DV connect, or perhaps talk to their general practitioner. At least even, talk it over with family and friends.
It is that tough of an area of the law that is highly subjective in to people’s emotional state. Quite rightly so, people are, they need that type of support all around them, not just from their lawyer.
What about those occasions where there is still a significant amount of, perhaps anger between the parties as well. Do you find that in contrast, you know, working with a couple who just can’t agree at all on anything to a couple that can, obviously the letter is obviously, you know, a better approach or a better way forward?
It is and I suppose at the level of conflict is something that we try and look at and decide how we’re best going to approach it. Our focus in all of this is to try and reduce the impact that this will have on our clients and try to make it as easy as possible for them in terms of time and stress and expense.
In terms of the level of conflict, it’s much better if we can try and do everything amicably and by agreement. Obviously that highly depends upon the circumstances that we’re faced with because if there is domestic violence or other very important issues, then we deal with those matters a little bit differently. We try and insure that the parties possibly don’t have any contact with each other.
Ranging from that end of the spectrum down to the other end of the spectrum, where people are relatively amicable it’s sometimes useful to have a very collaborative approach and perhaps a round table discussion or a mediation early in the case. Really, it does come down to the individual’s circumstances and I try and make an assessment of how I think it’s going to be best to progress their case to try and get them what they want with minimal stress and worry out of it, I suppose.
David, the firm offers an initial free consultation as well doesn’t it? It’s obviously a good opportunity to get a bit of a heads up about the road ahead.
Well, Dan, that’s right. I suppose one of the things with family law is that, because as I mentioned earlier, it’s a very highly emotional type of a subject for people to be going through. I think it’s really important for them to have a little bit of piece of mind early on in the case.
The idea with the first free, sorry first half free consultation is that I can sit down with people and find out where they’re coming from and tell them somethings that might help them to understand the process a little bit. At the same time, I can make a bit of an assessment of their case and give them some practical advice.
Really, the idea is that we understand that people come from situations where they might be very much struggling just subsequent to separating. I guess by just investing some time with them, it allows us to try and help them to begin with. Then, we can see where that all leads to afterwards.