Family & Divorce

How I Survived Divorce: A Family Lawyer’s Own Experience

Going through a separation and divorce is a very difficult time.  I can say this as I have experienced it first hand.

You might think I had the “upper hand” throughout my separation and divorce because I am a family lawyer myself.

Well, I can say that was not the case at all.

Lawyers need lawyers for their own divorce too.

Lawyers need to spend money on lawyers to ensure that their legal issues are dealt with appropriately and efficiently.

The emotional impact my separation and divorce had on me was something I never expected.  It has been the worst grief I have encountered in my life.

I tried to breeze through the process clinically and without emotion.

However, like anyone who has been through this process, I failed.

I could not treat myself empathetically like I would a client.

I could not logically and strategically approach the legal issues I was facing as I ordinarily would with a client.

From this experience I would like to pass on to you both some personal and legal tips and hints which I am hoping will assist you on your journey.

Personal

  1. It is important to establish good support networks

I was unfortunate that whilst I went through my separation and divorce I resided in Western Australia.

My family are all located in Queensland.

I was however lucky that my family provided me with both emotional and financial support when I needed it most.

My friends in WA provided me with emotional support during this time.  I knew that I had shoulder to cry and someone to reach out to if I needed.

My employer was extremely understanding and I’m grateful I could candidly discuss my needs with them and they could accommodate me when required.

  1. Reach out to people you trust and who care for you

I have always maintained that no matter what happens in life – good, bad or ugly – you must have courage to keep going. However, during my journey I learnt that it was also important to reach out to trusted family, friends and advisors.  Having the ability to reach out to people in times of need does not mean that you are weak.  In fact, it means the total opposite when you can accept that sometimes you need help.

  1. Try to stay physically active and eat well

I have always been a physically-active person and tried to maintain good health.

I can be honest and admit that during times of grief we all succumb to bad habits. This is a fact of life.  It is vital, however, to maintain good health both physically and mentally during this difficult time.  Your mental health during this process is extremely valuable to you.

You will not be able to make rational decisions and think clearly and concisely as to what you are required to do throughout the process.  To not be able to think concisely and clearly is only to your detriment, particularly when giving instructions to your lawyer. It makes it very difficult for your lawyer to progress your matter further without clear and concise instructions from you.

If you need help mentally or physically it is always important to reach out and seek advice.  You may want to see a psychologist or a counsellor who can help you strategise ways to overcome your clouded thoughts, or join a gym or actively involve yourself in a free activity group.

Maintaining both physical and mental health will both empower you and give you confidence.

  1. Do not move on so quickly

You could be jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.

The dating world has changed so much from when I first dated.  It takes a lot of getting used to. There was no like and swipe-right apps and you were forced to go out and meet people face to face and actually talk to them.

It is overwhelming sitting in the former marital  home without your significant other in an empty house full of good and bad memories.  It is also worse sitting alone in a new environment not having someone to go home to and talk about your day at 5pm. I know that cooking and eating a meal is lonely and it can become a cumbersome task to cook for one.  It is only natural, because as humans we crave affection and love.

Lying in bed on your own takes a lot of getting used to as well.  My recommendation is take the time to sit alone in that empty house, take the time to lie in that empty bed.  Use this time to think, take the time to get used to being you again.

Feel yourself and fall back in love with who you are.  Do not be in a rush to bring someone else into your life because you are only craving human affection or love.  This only fills the void for a short period of time.  Getting to know yourself again and getting to learn who you are will help you in selecting a future partner.

Take this time whilst you are on your own to forgive and to learn to trust again.  Taking baggage and issues into a new relationship is not helpful and will only land you back in the same position that you are in now.

Not to mention the legal side of things by not finalising your financial settlement with your former spouse there could be implications should your new relationship not work out and you rushed into that relationship and that commitment financially way too soon without finalising your previous financial relationship.

It is integral to ensure that you finalise your financial commitment before entering into further financial commitments with others thereafter.

Legal

  1. Get your financial house in order

Given that I was on my own in Western Australia I had to ensure I continued to hold down my employment and maintain my financial independence.

I will admit there were days where I did not feel up to facing anybody in the office. However, I had to have the strength and courage to leave my issues at my home and walk into the office with a happy and cheerful face to carry on my day-to-day duties.  I had to ensure that I could continue to earn an income and that my income was securely deposited into my own personal bank account.  I also ensured that I maintained my financial obligations because my financial actions now were so important and would affect my financial capacity in the future.

I had to secure my finances and have a buffer just in case something went wrong given that I was now financially independent and did not have a second income stream to rely on.

  1. Remove items sentimental to you before you leave the former marital home

Before I made the move to leave the former marital home I ensured I took items from the house which were important to me and close to my heart.

I did not take items to be vindictive, or factious, nor to cause a stir.

To act within reason and not take things that I knew could be replaced is advisable.  It is amazing how many letters lawyers will write in relation to the return of household items.  This is a costly process with no guarantee that you will ever have those items returned.  I recommend that you take items of value and importance and leave behind anything that you know can be replaced.

  1. Take important legal documents with you before you leave the former matrimonial home

Marriage certificates, birth certificates, passports, bank documents for loans and bank accounts and investments, share documents, title deeds, superannuation documents  – these are all important to have during the property settlement process.  These documents will be called upon at your initial appointment with your lawyer so make sure that you have them handy.  It is costly to have to apply to banks or government agencies to obtain copies of these documents so think ahead and take what you can before you leave.

  1. Have a financial buffer or access to financial support to assist you with obtaining legal advice

Take the opportunity to speak to a lawyer for a small fee and for some preliminary advice as it could save you a lot of money and heart ache in the future.

Financial support and legal advice during this time of separation is extremely important.  It you are not fortunate enough to have access to family members or friends who may be able to assist you financially or if you are not able to obtain a bank loan for the purposes of obtaining legal advice I then suggest that you speak with your lawyer in relation to what options they have available for payment of legal fees.  In some cases you may be able to pay at the end of your matter once property settlement has been finalised and you receive a payment or there may be instalment payment options available.

I hope this article has helped you.

 

My parting words to you are this:

Deal with your separation and divorce and accept it.  You have not failed, you have in fact won.  Regain your confidence and independence.  Get good legal advice early, do not wait and do not be told that you should not involve lawyers as “we can sort this out ourselves, lawyer’s costs too much money and they will complicate things”.  You can still divorce amicably and have a lawyer assist you and guide you through the process without having every penny that you have worked for being absorbed in legal costs.  Sit down and discuss your issues with a lawyer who is empathetic and who you feel comfortable with.  You need to be able to speak candidly with your lawyer in relation to your issues.

Get some preliminary legal advice at an early stage so that you can start your divorce journey on the right foot.

Do not rush in. If it is not finished how can you open your heart fully?  How can you be at peace within yourself?  Why would you want to jeopardise your financial future with a new partner when your financial relationship with your former partner is not even at an end.

Take what is yours and do not be greedy.

Things can be replaced, look at the bigger picture.  You do not want your lawyer writing endless letters over some items that you know can be replaced at Target for a very small price.

Stay physically fit and mentally healthy as best you can.

Financially secure yourself and have access to funds.  You want to explore your legal options and you want to make sure that you have some financial capacity to do so.

Forgive and learn to trust again.  Do not change who you are. Be yourself, be confident and be strong!

At Tindall Gask Bentley Lawyers I offer Coffee with a Lawyer for a small $50 fee.  This is a 40-minute appointment at a café chosen by you where we discuss your legal issues and I give you a preliminary understanding of the process and what legal options are available to you.  I also provide you with little tips and hints to commence your divorce journey.  If only I had this option available to me, I would have sorted my divorce sooner.

To find our more please contact Tindall Gask Bentley Lawyers Perth office on (08) 9211 5800.  We also offer this service in our Adelaide office and you can them on (08) 8212 1077.