More and more people want to have a “do it yourself divorce” settlement – that is, negotiate directly with their former partner instead of through lawyers or the courts. Here are some practical divorce negotiation tips to help you start your negotiations:
1. Make copies of all relevant financial information
- Bank statements
- Annual tax returns
- Superannuation accounts and statements
- Salary information
- Mortgage documentation for all properties e.g. marital home and any investment properties
- Documentation supporting any other loans or debts, whether personal or business
- Investment portfolio statements
- Documentation for interests in any small businesses
- Insurance documentation e.g. health, cars, property, life
- Car valuations and any loan/lease information
- Documentation with respect to any inheritances, compensation claims or family loan agreements
Keep these copies in a safe place eg at a friend’s house, with your lawyer (if you have one) or in a security box at your bank or post office.
2. Protect your mail
Ensure your email cannot be accessed by your former partner. Either set up a new email address or change your password. Organise a new PO Box at your local post office if you are concerned that your former partner may go through your mail.
3. Take detailed notes of any improper behaviour during the divorce process
Note anything your former partner does which may have an effect on any legal proceedings. For example, threats or acts of violence, refusal of access to children or to records of access. Try to record the date, place, yours and their words and actions and the names/contact details of any witnesses. Keep any relevant emails or text messages – although remember that all emails and texts on your phone may be made available to your former partner’s solicitors – including those that are deleted.
4. Don’t rush into any interim agreements
Be aware that if you are making any interim agreements with your former partner on parenting or financial matters, these agreements may have considerable emotional sway on both of you when it comes to negotiating your final agreements.
Do not sign any documents or agree verbally to anything you are not comfortable with or you think may be unworkable or impracticable. Take the time to consider your options. Listen to the advice of those you trust, such as your close friends and family, lawyer and accountant, but remember it is your life and your future and you alone know what is best for you.
5. Calculate your future costs before negotiating a settlement
Be aware of your future costs in running a household and looking after any children and yourself when negotiating any settlement. Use previous household bills and bank statements to properly document your expenses.
6. Get agreement that your assets will not be disposed of
If your assets are in your former partner’s name, consider whether you should ask them to agree in writing that they will not dispose of those assets without your written consent. You may also wish to put a caveat on any property that is in your former partner’s name. Also consider whether your former partner will incur debts on your behalf post separation. If so, you may wish to advise those creditors (preferably in writing) that you will not be assuming any liability for those debts.
7. Seek legal advice, if only to understand your entitlements
Do remember that you are entitled to seek legal advice, and that normally you should do so – if only to understand what legally you and your former partner are entitled to. You should do this regardless of what your former partner says. In fact if your former partner is telling you not to get legal advice this is a warning sign that you should do so. We can help minimise your legal fees by helping you prepare information for your lawyer beforehand, and understand the advice they give you.
8. Aim to negotiate directly (a do it yourself divorce), rather than through lawyers or the court
Negotiating an agreement directly with your former spouse regarding finances and parenting has positive consequences that negotiating through lawyers or the court does not bring. These include minimising hurt and bitterness, giving you more control over how you want your marriage or relationship to end (thereby empowering you) and reducing expensive legal costs. The more involved you and your former partner are in any agreement, the more likely that it will be workable for both of you.
9. Take considered action by planning ahead
Choose to take control of your life by taking considered action. Don’t react – plan ahead, think before you act and retain your dignity. Remember that acting in revenge or anger may at best give your former partner something real to gripe about at your expense and at worst may adversely affect your negotiations or court proceedings.
10. Be kind to yourself
Surround yourself with people who will support you. When you are feeling energetic (and there will be times when you will) try to do as much as you can. Cook meals to store in the freezer, attack the washing or the housework and get your finances in order. Then when you are feeling down, you can relax. Be honest with yourself and accept responsibility for your decisions and your life.
Bonus Tip 11. If you have children, see things from their perspective
Remember that any decisions you make with the other parent regarding their parenting should be in the best interests of your children – not your interests or those of your former partner. Try to see things from your children’s perspective and protect them from your anger and fear by not talking badly about their other parent in front of them and by encouraging that relationship. All children are entitled to have their mother and their father involved in their lives, excepting in extreme circumstances such as where there have been proven instances of child abuse.