MJ's Column: Your guide for when a relationship breaks down
LET'S face it separation and divorce are different for every family.
There are not just the legal and financial issues to be resolved but practical and emotional issues as well.
The process of separating and divorcing, while common in this day and age, is generally misunderstood.
It can be complicated, daunting and confusing so an old friend of mine has just written an amazing book that explains all.
I wouldn't be surprised if this becomes the Bible for a lot of distraught couples who are looking to decouple.
This must-read book is called Moving On - What you need to know about Separation & Divorce and is written by Julie Hodge.
It is a guidebook that addresses misconceptions and seeks to inform and empower those experiencing separation and divorce, and to resolve their family law issues and save time, money and stress.
Written in plain English, with a glossary and an entire chapter explaining the professional and support services available, this book not only explains the legal processes but also assists people to prepare for the financial, practical and emotional issues they may face.
Having assisted countless families through separation and divorce for over 12 years Julie became concerned that people experiencing separation and divorce commonly felt uniformed, confused and overwhelmed.
On maternity leave with a newborn and a toddler, Julie decided to take action and so she wrote and published Moving On - What you need to know about Separation & Divorce.
The book outlines the various legal issues, including divorce, de facto and matrimonial property division, parenting arrangements and children's issues, child support, spousal maintenance, domestic and family violence and child protection.
It also explains family law issues, commonly raised commercial and property law considerations and taxation, financial planning and other commercial issues.
Consulting with a wills and estates expert in your state or territory soon after separation (if not before), to review your estate plan, is a must.
In Julie's book she espouses a holistic approach to separation and divorce, which considers not just the legal issues a family faces but also the particular financial, practical and emotional considerations.
Julie explains that legal issues cannot be effectively dealt with in a vacuum.
For example, if one parent is a shift-worker or fly-in, fly-out worker different considerations will apply regarding a parenting agreement to those in a family in which both parents work 9-5 jobs in the same town.
The considerations will also differ in each particular family. For FIFO or shift workers for example, practicalities and flexibility vs predictably must be considered.
Advice should be sought as to whether a parenting plan or consent order would be suitable in your circumstances.
Also the legal and financial issues faced by a family who run their own business will differ from those faced by a family with a property portfolio or significant debt.
An experienced family lawyer will be able to provide advice and options suitable for each individual client's circumstances. What most people don't realise about family lawyers is that they can do as little or as much as you need them to do. The advice and assistance you receive should be tailored to your circumstances and priorities and consider your budget.
Julie's book explains how to prepare for the first meeting with a family lawyer and how to work effectively and successfully with your lawyer.
Part of this is communicating your particular concerns and priorities so that you obtain advice and assistance on the issues that matter the most to you and your family.
Julie recommends being open with your lawyer and asking him or her what tasks you can assist with or handle yourself to save time and costs.
When asked what is the most important part of moving forward after relationship breakdown, Julie explains: "Trying to resolve your family law issues amicably and outside of the court system, whilst looking after yourself, your children, your future and your finances so that you may build a new life after separation.”
In Julie's book she explains the various dispute resolution options available to parties after separation to assist them to resolve their legal issues by consent and avoid court.
Negotiation, mediation and collaborative practise are but a few. Julie's advice for people at the beginning stages of separation or divorce is: "Take time to come to terms with the separation, to plan for your future and to get legal advice from an experienced family lawyer as to what's ahead but don't rush into the legal/settlement process until you are ready. The vast majority of cases do not require legal action to be taken within the first few months after separation. Bear in mind however the legal time limits for resolving de facto and matrimonial property and any spousal maintenance matters, of two years from separation for de facto couples and 12 months from a final divorce order for married couples.”
Julie is a family and divorce lawyer in sunny Cairns but acts for family law clients all over Australia.
Julie is a senior associate at Miller Harris Lawyers.
Julie's book retails for $24.95. You can contact Julie via her website juliehodgethefamilylawyer.com to secure your copy. Alternatively, print and ebook copies are available on booktopia and most other online platforms. You can also connect with Julie via Instagram or Facebook /juliehodgethefamilylawyer.
I might add that this article contains general information only and does not provide legal advice.
Legal advice for your particular circumstances should be sought from an experienced family lawyer.
It really is a sad day when couples and families go their own ways and if this book can help the split to be amicable thenmy job is done.