How to have an amicable divorce…Yes, you can!

Is an amicable divorce a rare mythical beast? It actually isn’t. Here’s four ways to make separating amicably entirely possible.

By Courtney Mullen, Head of Family Law at Australian Family Lawyers (Canberra)

So, your relationship has ended. Whether you disagree with the decision, are taking time to digest it, or are even feeling bitter about how it ended, the process can be amicable if you both make a conscious choice and effort.

There are many options now available to separated couples to help guide them along a path to an amicable divorce. It’s all about trying to reduce the conflict and maintaining positive relationships, especially if you’re co-parenting. Read on for recommendations to help give you the best chance of an amicable divorce and settlement.

1. Collaboration and mediation services

Amicable divorce couple with young toddler

There are some great conflict resolution processes available to separated couples these days. You have a lot of choice; collaboration and mediation are just two. What these have in common though, is that you both get a say in the outcome.

Mediation is a process whereby an independent third party convenes a discussion between you, with the aim of helping the two of you to negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement. A mediator’s role is one where they advocate for the two of you reaching an agreement, and each of you advocate for yourselves. 

Collaboration involves problem solving with lawyers, where you and your former partner try to understand each other – including your respective interests, concerns, goals and fears. The idea being that these are the measures of success for an agreement being reached between you, rather than just what the law might say you’re entitled to. You and your former partner are responsible for information gathering and solutions.

Each client is represented by his or her own lawyer throughout the process, with both lawyers help you and your spouse work as a team to:

  1. Find and focus on your common interests;
  2. Understand each other’s concerns;
  3. Exchange information;
  4. Explore a wide range of possible choices; and
  5. Reach solutions acceptable to both of you.

These processes can help focus you and your former partner to separate amicably.

2. Online negotiation tools

On 30 June 2020, the Attorney General’s Department put out a media release about ‘Amica’ – an “artificial intelligence (AI) technology to suggest the split of assets, taking into account: the couple’s particular circumstances; the kinds of agreements reached by couples in similar situations; and how courts generally handle disputes of the same nature”. Apparently, the tool could even assist parents to develop a parenting plan for their parenting arrangements.

In saying this, online negotiation tools like these do not assist people in formally documenting a final property settlement agreement, whether through Consent Orders or a Binding Financial Agreement. There are benefits of formalising your property settlement in one of these ways, including:

  1. An exemption from stamp duty on the transfer of real property and vehicles;
  2. It is required to give effect to a superannuation split from one of you to the other;
  3. Ensuring that future assets you acquire are protected.

We can assist you to properly document any agreement reached through dispute resolution or online negotiation tools such as this, to avoid the potential for any further conflict about your separation arrangements down the track. 

3. Co-parenting apps for communication

Young lady using a co-parenting app on tablet

The use of smartphone co-parenting apps that manage child care arrangements and expenditure can certainly help to reduce the conflict in parenting disputes. Using a combined calendar between parents specifically for the children’s activities and events can prevent any miscommunications and double ups. It can also create certainty for care arrangements that might change from week to week, avoiding potential confusion or disagreements.

It can be an effective tool in reducing the need for legal intervention because parents are accountable for their communication with one another. I like to think that this encourages parents to be:

  1. more child-focused when communicating;
  2. more likely to comply with their parental responsibility obligations, through the ease of information sharing;
  3. less likely to engage in unkind or abusive communication;
  4. better co-parents.

Apps like Our Family Wizard and 2 Houses are helping couples to remain amicable after separation.

See our top 9 co-parenting app recommendations here.

4. Professional advice for an amicable divorce

Getting legal advice should always be a top priority when you are separating – no matter how amicable the split.  Good legal advice can help a separating couple to remain amicable throughout the process, because you’ll know what is relevant to agree on and what you can work on letting go of. The more informed you are, the more likely you will be able to separate in a way that is fair to both partners.

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