Changing the Face

The Way of The Future

Written by Marie Fedorov – Founder of FEDOROV Family Lawyers and Family Mediation Station

Climbing divorce rates in Australia don’t appear to be taking a break anytime soon based on the marriage and divorce trends recorded in recent years.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics found in 2017 there were 112,954 marriages registered and around 49,032 divorces granted in Australia. This was a 5.2 per cent increase in the number of divorces and a 4.6 per cent decrease in the number of marriages compared to the previous year.

To put it simply, almost half of all marriages throughout Australia end in divorce. These statistics have Australians asking the question - what’s causing so many people to divorce?

As family lawyers and mediators, we are finding a breakdown in communication is a leading cause of marriages coming to an end. Failure to communicate can be detrimental to any relationship, no matter the similarities or amount of time-binding two people together.

Another leading cause of divorce is physical separation. Many aspects of life cause couples to spend time apart and one of the key factors is work. Fly-In-Fly-Out (FIFO) jobs, in particular, have couples spending days and even weeks apart. For many, this is the only way to keep afloat financially and it makes it more difficult to maintain intimacy on an emotional and physical level.

While some couples facing these issues believe counselling may save their relationship, others see divorce as the only option.

Divorce can only take place once the marriage has reached the point of ‘irretrievable breakdown’ – which is proven by the couple being separated for 12 months or more with no likelihood of getting back together. Separation does not have to be physical. Separation occurs when at least one person in the relationship makes the decision to separate, acts upon that choice and communicates it with the other person.

Separation can still take place if the couple is living in the same home. Considering there are no legal requirements for it to occur, some agencies (such as Centrelink) will simply consider things such as whether you sleep together, share meals and domestic duties, share bank accounts, as well as whether or not family and friends see you as separated.

Separated couples often end up paying tens of thousands of dollars to lawyers to fight for them. There are generally no winners as the process becomes lengthy, expensive and emotionally draining.

Once it is proven that you have been separated for 12 months with no chance of getting back together, it is possible to file for divorce.

The average cost of a divorce involving the Courts is upwards of $40,000 when going through the conventional family law process – a very expensive operation when already dealing with potentially losing assets and other things you once shared with your ex-partner.

A very affordable alternative to the Court process is mediation. If you pick the right service, the actual mediation process can involve just one mediation session carried out in the morning with legal paperwork completed in the afternoon, saving thousands and thousands for each party. For example, at Family Mediation Station, we help separated couples become ‘emotionally-ready’ for mediation, support them through the mediation and draft the documents. Before the mediation even begins, our team assesses what the two individuals actually need to be ready for mediation. For instance, we help determine if they need a range of specialist advice from mortgage brokers, financial planners, valuers and accountants. We also work with them to assess their need for counselling. We have these professionals on our panel and make recommendations regarding what they need to look at before mediation can be successfully completed. By linking them up with these professionals, they have all their matters in order and are ready to mediate.

Mediators are able to provide an external and unbiased view of a dispute between couples, helping them reach an agreement. They also play a role that regular legal consultations generally don’t involve, such as the screening and assessment that is focused on physiological, emotional and mental issues, including all of the non-legal aspects that can get in the way of achieving an outcome.

There is overwhelming evidence that people need to be emotionally ready before embarking on the formal mediation process – and if a person is ready, it increases the likelihood of sustainable, safe and fair agreements at the end of a marriage.

For instance, at Family Mediation Station we have mediation coaches that help identify whether a couple is emotionally ready for mediation. I am of the opinion that it is best to know if mediation will work before spending valuable time and money on the whole service. Why embark on the process only to have it fail? I always suggest both individuals are presented with a checklist to help them get ready for mediation, and once they have followed the recommendations then they are set for success.

The process can be slowed dramatically if one person is reluctant about the end of the relationship, which is why a mediation coach comes in handy to individually assess each side of the relationship before any formal agreements are made between both parties.

The number one priority is bringing couples together who have decided they definitely want to get a divorce and helping them through mediation so their property and custody matters are finalised quickly.

The best advice - do your research to find the lawyer and mediation service that is right for you, both financially and emotionally. Finding the right people to support you can make the entire process much easier and take away a lot of the stress involved in the process. Separation and divorce are incredibly hard, and having that extra support from advisors that are there to genuinely help can make all the difference towards having the most pleasant of an experience possible.

This article provides general information and does not constitute legal advice. It is always important to seek professional legal advice.

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