As a lawyer practicing solely in family law, I can tell you that one of the most important things that I consider to be influential and critical to discussions between couples who are separating, is communication and the importance of ‘the re-frame’.

Whilst emotionally it can serve to discuss what went wrong, who did what and how upset one person is, it serves little utility to play the blame game when one person or both, have decided that the relationship has ended. Certainly, someone acknowledging regret or sorrow for hurt, upset, infidelity, and mistreatment, can assist in the healing process for the individual or the couple, and provide some degree of closure. It is not the conversation however, that will finalise everything to do with the division of finances and care arrangements for the children.

The reframe is about two people moving forward together, to progress the conversation.

What I’m talking about is about reframing the conversation of ‘You wanted this separation, now what?’ to ‘Okay, we’re separated. How do we move forward?’. The use of the word ‘we’instead of ‘you’ intends a collaborative effort, a partnership to work through going your separate ways but doing it together. It is forward focused and positive. You remain partners in that process until the end and if you’ve children, indefinitely for life.

In progressing these discussions, I’d encourage you to bring it to a higher level and talk big picture, rather than get bogged down in smaller details being the ‘noise’ to the overall outcome. Identifying three to five things that you feel you ‘want’ and ‘need’ as outcomes (bearing in mind that you may need compromise on some of them) to an overall agreement that you can live with will assist you and your partner to achieving an agreement. The argument about who gets the 40inch television is not the real issue needing a resolution when the big-ticket item is about who keeps the family home and what cash payment should be made to the person who is not keeping it.

The take homes therefore would be to communicate respectfully, don’t interrupt, identify and understand your own needs and wants for an outcome that you feel that you can live with and of course, use the ‘we’ propositions to avoid backwards thinking and create a collaborative effort with your partner to reach an agreement.

After all, you were capable of agreeing to move in together, get married, have children, whatever it might have been. Utilise those skills to reach an agreement now after separation.

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