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The Amicable Divorce: How to have one


The definition of ‘amicable’ from the English Oxford dictionary defines it as “the characterisation of friendliness and the absence of discord”. In the context of a separation, we’d probably define it as basically polite interactions, with minimal to no major arguments.

You don’t need to be friends with your partner or have absolutely no arguments in order to have an amicable separation.

One of the two main ingredients for an amicable separation is some level of mutual respect for one another. A mutual respect for one another leads you to behave in a courteous manner, not interrupting one another, not being intentionally offensive or malicious towards the other person and watching your tone of voice.

The second of the two main ingredients to an amicable separation is keeping things ‘big picture’. Identifying what things are important to you can help refocus your and your partner’s energy on big-ticket items that are important to you each when you have discussions about reaching an agreement.

As an exercise to do alone, you and your partner should identify between three to five things by way of outcome that you both want and feel that you need in order to be accepting of an outcome that achieves an agreement, bearing in mind that some of those wants and needs may require compromise. Some of the goals are likely to be the same, whilst others may be different. You might like to do this exercise by yourself even if your partner does not. The consequence of this exercise brings the discussions up to a higher level and enables you and your partner to let go of things that are of lesser importance.

For example, some outcomes individuals focus on may include:

  • Timeliness, getting things resolved as soon as possible even if that means cutting your losses.
  • Keeping the family home, if possible.
  • To keep particular household items or contents that hold sentimental value. For example, family heirlooms, antiques, a particular piece of artwork or photographs.
  • To continue to have a relationship with your children.
  • To keep as much of your superannuation as possible, even if it means compromising on other areas.
  • To resolve things in the most inexpensive and cost effective way.
  • To have financial stability after separation.

Identifying the reasons why you want or feel you need the outcomes you identify is another exercise you and your partner should do. You can both then communicate these explanations in your discussions in trying to reach an agreement.

One of the last ingredients, albeit non-essential to having an amicable separation, is the right lawyer. Yes, there is no doubt that the involvement of lawyers can up the ante and do more harm than good to couples who are trying to reach an agreement between themselves. The right kind of lawyer though, can actually do good. They can help you see common sense, give you advice about the reasonableness of your or your partner’s expectations and facilitate discussions between you and your partner or their lawyer, if things have come to a holt. The kind of ‘right lawyer’ that you want is one that is collaboratively trained. For each State and Territory in Australia, there is a collaborative practice group, which lists those lawyers who are trained in the principles of collaborative law. See our blog on collaborative law for more information.

In summary, collaboration is process option to facilitate separated couples reaching an agreement without going to Court. We specialise in collaboration and can assist you in to this.