Published on January 10, 2023

Most of the public don’t realise that there are alternatives to family court or the traditional letter writing service offered by most lawyers.  I would urge you to take the three C’s:

Consider all the other options, throughout your breaking up journey.    

Change the narrative around a break up and divorce.  Do things have to be angry and acrimonious? 

Consider where you are on the breaking up journey.  

The grief felt, at the end of a relationship by couples, their children, friends and family are real. Grief is not linear so it’s felt at different times.  Do not mistake your difficult feelings with the need to have an acrimonious and difficult divorce.  Instead, spend time working through the difficult emotions with a therapist, counsellor or family consultant.  You may need to wait to get on with things until things calm down (but take legal advice to check).  

Blame

As you can now jointly apply to the court for a divorce or dissolution of your marriage or civil partnership, there is no need to blame the other person.  There is no need to state that there has been poor behaviour or adultery. No need to blame. The so called, ‘no fault’ divorce is a new normal.

Court

It’s not an understatement to say that Judges do not want to see you in court.  Judges only want to concern themselves with the most serious of situations. Most couples do not have a serious case. It will feel serious, of course, but it’s very likely not a serious legal situation; it’s just a normal case. 

The courts are busy, so very overwhelmed that they are simply not the forum for the normal case. Delays and last-minute postponements are prevalent. Your privacy is not guaranteed with a push to transparency in the family court. So, avoid it if you can.  There are more than 10 ways of avoiding court.  (Almost) Anything But Family Court (OnlyMums & Dads 2022) focusses on all the ways to sort things out without judicial involvement.   They include:

  1. Mediation and Child Inclusive mediation
  2. Hybrid/assisted mediation
  3. One Lawyer: One Couple (Solicitor Neutral)
  4. Round table meetings
  5. Collaborative process with Arbitration
  6. Arbitration
  7. Arbitration with Mediation 
  8. Private FDRs
  9. Early Neutral Evaluation 
  10. Online help (e.g.Our Family Wizard)

Each process has advantages and disadvantages which are listed and discussed in the book.  Assume that these processes can be used interchangeably, in a ‘mix ‘n match’ kind of way. Your situation is unique – think creatively about how these processes would suit you both. 

Jo O’Sullivan contributed to Separating With Children 101′, 3rd edition, (Bath Publishing, 2023)

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The Early Days Of Separation

Humans are designed to cope with many onslaughts, but change continues to prove extremely challenging. How you manage the early days of separation or divorce has the potential to set the tone for the rest of the process.

When couples separate, they are often thrown into a period of uncertainty. Identities are changing from couple to single, from mum and dad together as a family unit to mum with children and dad with children. Depending on the circumstances and who decides to leave the family home, there are many questions that arise during the early days of separation. “Will we have to sell our home?” “I haven’t worked since we had children – how will we manage financially?” “What will our friends and family think?” “How much will divorce cost?”
“Will I cope on my own?” There seems to be so much to sort out both practically and emotionally and it comes at a time when at least one of you will be ‘all over the place’ emotionally due to the loss you are experiencing. This can make decision-making seem impossible. Who wants to agree the practicalities of legal issues and more importantly organise the children when they are devastated, angry and confused by loss? It can turn otherwise rational, clear-thinking mums and dads into what appears to be belligerent, stubborn, unreasonable people.

Take Your Time!

In those early days of separation or divorce, take your time if you can. Seek support from friends, family and professionals. Try not to make any big decisions too quickly.
Bear in mind that communication problems with your ex and all the pressures on family life you are now experiencing, like for many separating couples, will get better with time. It’s important to recognise that you and your ex will more than likely be in very different emotional places at the moment; different stress levels and anxieties will be making communication difficult. Taking the time to sometimes do nothing, to not react, give things a day or two, can prove very useful techniques.
What you have to remember is that if you have children, your ex is always going to be part of your life. That can be hard to take on board when you are feeling hurt and angry. If you can find a way to communicate with each other that focuses on the children, you will all benefit in the years to come.

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