Navigating Uncharted Waters

When a person goes to visit a solicitor to find out what their rights are to division of assets and access to children then we know that issues at home are far from ok. This growing trend has gained momentum, as the dividing of assets can leave one struggling where once couples had a comfortable lifestyle.

If one party has met someone else, had an affair that has gradually become more and they want to disengage from their current relationship, or there is a marriage breakdown due to abuse, lack of communication or general unhappiness and no love, then one party heads off to seek legal advice.

Lawyers offer couples different solutions from seeking counselling to mediation to starting divorce proceedings. Working through these issues is never easy and can be emotionally challenging.  Where once you were two, engaging and connecting in some manner you become one. Yes, there maybe someone waiting who can make you a couple again, but are you jumping from the frying pan into the fire?  The social and legal implications of separation and possible divorce can be daunting.

One of my clients who we will call John, gave all his assets to his wife. He told me, ‘one day she just said to me I don’t love you anymore, I am tired of carrying this family and I want a more fulfilling life. I am still young enough to meet someone else and I want a divorce.” He was hurt, shocked and then anger set in. He wanted to do right by his girls, to have equal parental rights and decided to give the house lock, stock and barrel, without any argument, to his wife. The issue that then arose for him was that he couldn’t find a job in his field of expertise and he wasn’t prepared to just accept anything. With no permanent salary he couldn’t get another house loan. Additionally age was against him with the banks. He never realised the repercussions of his decision that left him with nothing.

During separation, there is a need to make important decisions about the future. If you own substantial property or assets or have children, being influenced by another party can have detrimental affects. That other party can be family, friends or a love interest. When substantial assets are involved and the financial cost is high, there are many cases of asset hiding which makes it that much more protracted with higher legal fees incurred and investigations into where funds have gone. Often the party hiding the assets started to pre plan this some time previous and though you may have some idea you have no proof. If they stopped talking about asset acquisition you may not even have an idea where funds have been directed. Conversations that matter need to be held long before when you are just forming a strong relationship so that issues like this can be mitigated.

Separation and divorce can also be a stressful time for your children, if you have them. They may experience a range of emotions that are difficult for them to deal with and talk about with you. They may also behave in ways that are unusual for them. Discussing a parenting plan that takes into consideration the love that your children have for both parties, (unless their safety is in question) needs to be discussed. It’s not about you but about them. The more respect you have between parties, with no disparaging remarks made about the other party the better for the children. Anger does reside if abuse or an affair has been the case for the separation or divorce proceedings but you have choices how you handle this in front of your children. Remember the children are the innocents in all of this.

If your personal safety is in question then a restraining order maybe required. There have been many cases where an estranged partner has taken action that has caused loss of life or injury. Though it may be difficult to tell family and friends about abuse it is important for your safety and care.

If you have never been married but in a de facto relationship in Australia, new laws enacted mean that you can as a married couple have rights on the division of property and the payment of spouse maintenance.

Ruby and Joe had been in a de facto relationship for 20 years. Ruby had sold her house and moved into Joe’s and there had never been discussion of assets if Joe passed away before Ruby. One day he had a heart attack and in his will he left everything to his children. Though Ruby had contributed to the upkeep of the house and invested in refurbishments there was no kept, documentary evidence of this. Though Joe’s children were sympathetic to Ruby in the end this case had to go to court.  It is important to ensure that estate planning and wills are created in all relationship situations.

If separation or divorce are inevitable please think through the impact finacially, socially and legally this may have on yourself and others.

© Conversations That Matter


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