The preview of the book by Lynette Galvin
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One day you are part of a couple – sure you fight a bit, who doesn’t, but you are sharing responsibilities like kids or mortgage and you come home to each other at night. You have always managed to sort through your problems before and you had no reason to think this time was any different when … BAM! … Someone said those fateful words that ended it.
Your marriage may have ended through indifference or through an affair or maybe just got too hard for one of you. Whatever the reason, it is over and you are stunned. Your marriage is finished. Gone. Over. The big question is “what do you do about it?”.
I decided to write this book after nearly 20 years practicing in Family Law in Australia. I realised that a lot of the common sense advice given daily in my practice to my clients would be more helpful if it could be accessed as and when it was needed. You know what it is like. You may not yet have been to a Lawyer. Or you may have been to one and not really remembered what he/she said. I suspect it is a bit like going to a Doctor for bad news. You have been to a Doctor where he has carefully explained your condition and treatment and you go home and realise you have forgotten half of what he said. The same happens with your Family Lawyer, only you are in such an emotional state sometimes I think you remember less. Also your visits are often for an hour or more and can cover many areas of your situation such as children, property and child support and it is tough to recall all of this afterwards. I often wonder how much of my good advice, especially the practical stuff is forgotten almost at once.
So this book is a kind of guide by your side with information when you need it. There is a little bit of legal information but general only, since every case is different and there are plenty of legal books available if you need further in-depth legal advice.
What this book offers is what other books don’t. Practical strategies to get you and your family through this difficult time in one emotional piece and with the least possible financial cost. It draws on my years of experience as a Family Lawyer, Mother, Teacher and also on my experience, as a Single Parent, Step Parent and Divorcee, so I know something of what you are about to experience. If my experience can ease the way for you, then this book has already achieved its aim.
TO DO TODAY!
So, your partner is gone. It is over, and you wake up alone, If you slept anyway. This is the first day of your new life and whether you view it through a veil of tears, or with relief, there are things you have to do – today – no matter how hard it is.
The first thing is to make contact with your bank as soon as you can and block any further redraws of any line of credit account you may have after ensuring that you can still draw enough to live on. Don’t actually block off the whole account so that the wages that have just gone in are inaccessible, leaving you both broke. Find a sympathetic bank assistant and enlist their help to take the necessary steps. The point is, that you don’t want your ex to be able to clean out the whole account without your permission, so joint signatories may be the way to go. It is up to you, talk to your bank.
If you feel it is necessary, put holds on your credit cards (and advise your ex you have done so). Change your internet banking password and open your own account to have your wages banked into (you can always transfer funds to the mortgage or joint account to cover your obligations) as you need money to live on.
In the first few weeks, take steps to have your name taken off any phone or electricity accounts attached to the house where your ex lives (this may need his co-operation). A draft letter to him is annexure “*” at the back of this book together with addresses and phone numbers of various phone companies and electricity authorities in each state (Appendix 1).
In some separations the battle lines are drawn pretty clearly. We have all heard horror stories where the Father comes home to find the house empty and Mum has gone with the kids and all the furniture, cleared out of the bank account and may or may not have left a note telling him not to try to contact her. If the Husband does try to contact her he ends up with a Domestic Violence Order Application filed against him. He ends up angry, confused and hurt.
The mother often justifies such a course of action by referring to allegations of the father’s domestic violence in the marriage but, whether or not such action is justified, I have observed that there is absolutely no trust left between the parties after such a violent separation so there is almost no prospect of resolving property or children’s issues without ending up in Court. I often wonder if there could have been some other way to accomplish both the safety of the Mother and Children and the dignity of the Father. One way is to open up a dialogue with the ex to begin resolving issues and restoring or maintaining trust.
Another type of separation scenario is the one in which the parties decide that they will continue to co-parent and share responsibilities for their finances in much the same way as though they were, still married. This stems from a desire, I think, to cause minimal disruption to the children and often, if the instigating party is the breadwinner, this is an attempt to preserve the status quo and assuage guilt. I have even seen families where the parties have houses next door to each other so that the children can see both parents. As laudible as this is, however, there has to be an extraordinary amount of co-operation between the parties that lasts even when one of them starts having visits from a new partner.
Many of us have separations that fall between these two extremes where, after the initial shock wears off, we struggle between wanting to sever all ties and wanting to hang on to as much as we can of our old bonds. When there are kids, of course, you realise you have no choice but to maintain some contact and bond. Sure, some people do manage to limit the contact the kids have with the parent, but make no mistake, the bond is there and it is not weakened by lack of contact. In my experience, the tie between the child and the parent remains. If a parent teaches a child that they can only be loyal to one parent at a time, then beware when the child decides to reach out to the other parent as they may sever contact with you!
Think of some of your friends who have separated recently. If things were okay between them and their ex just after separation, generally things get worse at some stage (sometimes through frustration at lack of progress, misunderstanding or a third party). Sometimes it deteriorates to the point of needing lawyers and even court intervention, but it generally starts off okay. So what happens? Is it the lawyers causing the problem? Probably not. Probably the couple have left it too long to find out exactly how to go about sorting out their property matters and kid’s issues, with the result that one or other of them gets very frustrated and miscommunication often results. No-one forces people to go to lawyers, they go when they feel they must. A good family lawyer is able to help restore the situation to the level of co-operation the parties generally had immediately, pre or post separation.
I think, from my experience, that there are two optimal times to talk to a professional family lawyers about your case. Firstly, people really need to know where they stand pretty early on. If they can find out roughly what their entitilement will be, or what the likely outcome about the children will be , even if it is not great news, then they can begin to prepare. Many people ask everyone around them for advice and all that happens is that they get ideas about how things worked out for other people. There is no ‘one size fits all” answer to Family Law matters. This well meaning advice from family and friends can result in either unrealistic expectations or in nightmares about how the whole thing is going to pan out.
Whether people realise it or not, they are making decisions about the outcomes for them in children and property matters from the first day. There are always options available to people, and if they making choices about things based on wrong advice, or no advice, they can inadvertently extend the time that it takes to get the whole thing sorted and get on with their ‘Journey” to normal life again.
So I offer free phone consultations for people who are not yet ready to do anything formally, or who are trying to negotiate between themselves. We don’t do this to urge people to fight. On the contrary, we give a mud map of how to negotiate a good outcome in line with your actual entitlements. The second time that people need to see a Family Law Expert, inmy experience is either when negotiations can’t go any further without help, or when you have reached agreement and need to have that agreement recorded in Family Court Orders binding on you both.
Just because you have reached an impasse in your negotiations doesn’t mean that the next step is Court. Usually it just means that whatever communication issues you had going on while you were still together have got in the way of continuing to discuss settlement. A good Family Lawyer will simply continue those negotiations and take some of the heat out of the debate. Maybe one or other of you has unrealistic expectations. ( This is why I say each of you needs to see a lawyer for a consultation at the beginning even if it is amicable. ) Whatever the reason, unless the matter is very urgent, like an impending mortgage foreclosure or urgent matters about child safety or losing contact with your children, your family lawyer should continue the negotiations where you left off.
I know it is scary going to a lawyer, but it is as important as going to a health professional when you need to. Every day we hear stories of families who have gone through many extra days of uncertainty and suffering because they didn’t get the advice they needed at the beginning. This book is my attempt to address that problem. I strated it when I realised that people will ask the questions of theinetrnet that they are hesitant to ask in person. I know you are all intelligent and capable people who are just doing your research as any sensible person would. But please remember this advice is general and meant to be taken as a guide rather than a particular answer to your particular problem. Any typos are my fault, as I don’t get this externally edited or even let my secretary edit it at this stage. I am just concerned with getting the info to you as quickly as I can, and one day I will tidy it up, really I will! This book is dedicated to the silent victims of unresolved separation issues,the children.
SEEING THE KIDS
Keeping in Touch
The days of the kids living 12 days at one house and 2 at another are long gone, as are the terms “residence” and “contact”. These days the word “Residence” more properly reflects the true situation where children reside (or live) with one parent for so many nights a week or fortnight and with the other parent for the other nights. The obligations of day-to-day parenting are shared too. A child may live 7 days a fortnight with one parent and 7 days a fortnight with the other. This could be made up of different scenarios such as 3 nights one week and 4 nights the next week with Dad and 4 nights the first week and 3 nights the second week with Mum and all the variables in between. Think about that for a minute. You could make an arrangement that gives you each one weekend a fortnight with your children and arrange the other nights to * your family. For instance, if dad coaches the kids in netball they may want to stay over on netball training nights. Easy isn’t it? Well, this arrangement is ok in that some kids can spend time with both parents but this may not suit all kids. You know your children.
If they are happy enough to move from place to place, then this plan will probably suit them, but if you have a child who likes his or her own space, who is happy to get home after holidays and spend time in their room, then this arrangement may be intolerable for such a child. You have to consider your kids needs, after all, it is the child’s right to see the parents, not the parents right to see the children that we are talking about here.
Separating the children
Sometimes it seems obvious that one child should be with Mum and one with Dad. Think carefully before you enter such an arrangement. It sometimes seems fair for one child each, but, the studies show that kids really rely on their siblings. This is especially so in separating families and to separate them can deprive them of their main support. Courts occasionally make orders to separate children but when they do, they take great care to ensure as much time as possible together eg almost every weekend, all of the school holidays and their birthdays.
Even so, it may be that the kids grow up in households with different rules and different focuses, I think this can weaken the bond between kids. You know your kids, but think carefully about this plan and be sure it suits them before you lock in such an arrangement. Some sample orders will be in the appendix of the eventual hard copy of this book.
Picking up and dropping off
I often think I could write a whole book on this issue alone! You can’t imagine how many dramas have been generated during 2-3 minutes it takes to collect or deliver children. There are several issues that arise and you may come up against some or all of them at some time so forewarned to forearmed. The issues are:-
- Abuse, violence and intimidation between adults
- Confusion or conflict over changeover venue
- Upset/clingy children
- Upset/clingy parents
- Any of the parents making a scene where the children are affected.