First of all, let me say, you are probably in a great deal of emotional pain if you have decided to get a divorce.
Even if you are the one who has initiated the separation, divorce is an emotional roller coaster. If your ex partner has made the decision you may be feeling hurt and betrayed, angry, confused and much more. But this article is not about the emotional space of ending a relationship but rather the practical aspects of what to do, what you need to consider and some options that are available.
If you have children, there is a whole other layer of complexity, regardless of the age of the child/ren. You will need to consider how they will spend time with each of you, what needs do they have and the safety and comfort factors. Some divorcing parents easily make their own arrangements. Sometimes the children make it clear what they would like to do and parents are okay with this. But the most important thing to consider, as enshrined in the Australian Family Law Act, is that children have rights and parents have responsibilities.
Parents do not have the right to make demands on their children. Children should have the expectation that their parents will make decisions about them based on the rights of the children to have a meaningful relationship with both parents. Parents have equal shared responsibility to care for their children. This does not necessarily mean that children will spend equal time with each parent. It is up to you, the parents, to avoid conflict in front of your children and to keep them safe and as free as possible from any situation that causes anxiety or distress.
It is important to know that if you have children and can’t agree on practical issues related to parenting or decide on a Parenting Plan and you are thinking of going to court, you will need to obtain a Section 60i Certificate.
Sounding technical? It’s not meant to.
This simply means that, according to Australian Family Law, parents must make a genuine effort to attend mediation (Family Dispute Resolution – FDR) and be issued a Certificate 60I by a registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP) before they can enter into court proceedings (litigation). The FDRP has specialist qualifications and is registered with the Attorney General’s Department. FDR is a process where separating couples can agree on parenting matters post separation and financial matters also if needed.
It is much less costly than going to court. FDR can usually cost between $300-$500 per hour and usually requires about 6-10 hours. Compared to hiring a lawyer to take matters to court this is a huge difference as litigation proceedings average $50-70 thousand per person. Yes, that’s right! More than $100,000.00 combined total. Other reasons to rethink court proceedings are the impact on children and the autonomy that is taken away from parents. In court proceedings, the Judge decides. In FDR (mediation) the parties come to an agreement. And this can be made into a court order if this is what the parties want.
There are government funded organisations that offer FDR at discounted rates but they usually have very long waiting lists and clients usually do not get to choose the FDRP (mediator). Private FDR is a great option that I highly recommend for separating or divorcing couples to sort out matters relating to parenting and finances.
There is one other option that I recently became aware of and I think this idea has merit. It is somewhere in between FDR and Litigation. It is called Collaborative Family Law. You can do a google search to find out exactly how this works as it is a bit complicated and I am not overly familiar with this process. But the basic premise is that there are four professionals involved. Two family lawyers, one for each party, a mediator or support person, and a financial advisor or accountant.
The mediator and financial consultant are completely neutral (do not take sides) in the proceedings. To be accepted as a client you have to agree that you will not go to court and you give an undertaking to commit to the process with complete transparency and disclosure and work toward solutions and fair agreements. This option is obviously more expensive than FDR (mediation) but far cheaper than going to court. If this option holds interest for you I suggest you research it to find out more.
For some people Court proceedings may be the only option especially in cases involving violence or abuse toward children. It may be helpful to check out legal aid eligibility or other supports in these circumstances. If you feel the need for legal advice please do so. But ultimately, it is important to know that there is a range of options to consider when working out parenting and financial matters when you separate or divorce.
I hope this information has been helpful. It is but a brief overview and you can contact our centre to learn more. We offer a FDR (Mediation) service as well as Divorce & Separation Coaching.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free no obligation telephone discussion.