Building a New Life After Divorce
By Kirsten Magnusson
When you marry you never expect that it will end, so the reality of getting a divorce is understandably disappointing and painful. Although the transition will be filled with emotional, financial and logistical challenges, in time you will be able to recognise it for the opportunity that it is – the chance to build a new future for yourself and your family.
However, there are some fundamental things that you should consider when getting a divorce. Paying careful attention to them will ensure that you are suitably prepared to achieve your goals – including buying a new home - in the next stage of your life.
Managing the transition
The transition from the old structure of your life to the new one can be fraught. Some couples may settle things amicably but, if you are unable, you’ll both need professional guidance. Naturally, finalising any details of the separation agreement in writing is important, especially concerning decisions that are made about the property you once called home.
If children are involved there will be a range of options, but these will be entirely dependent on the circumstances surrounding the separation.
Remember, the most important thing is that your family is looked after and the transition is completed as simply and with the minimum stress possible. The publication, ’Separation and Stress’, which is available from the Family Court of Australia might help you in this regard.
Stabilising your career
Once you are separated you will have different responsibilities than what you had before. These changes may or may not affect your career, but if they do, any changes to your job will need to be carefully navigated.
Depending on your divorce settlement, it may be that you need to work less than before, or will need to take on different hours and a different role to accommodate new routines around the family’s needs. If you were in line for a promotion that took you interstate or overseas, that may be a more complex idea now that your family, as a complete unit, won’t be able to travel to be with you.
This may also mean you are now buying a property out of necessity, because you or your children will now have nowhere to live. These changes are fundamentally connected to your work and income in the short term and decisions should me made carefully so as not to affect your career plans detrimentally in the long run.
Make sure you keep communication open with your workplace, if possible, and consider whether this time of change also represents a time for you to reassess your career goals. You may need to earn more now that you’re budgeting with a single income and potentially increased expenses. You may also need to consider how your current job will help you achieve your property goals if you’re going to be paying a mortgage alone in the years ahead, or in some cases, two mortgages - if you are still paying off the family home.
Redesigning family life
Wherever the children reside will determine where each parent needs to be. Preserving the sense of family by keeping the family home may ease the trauma to the children, to some extent, but for some families the best approach is a fresh start for everyone, which means selling the family home and new properties being bought or rented in both cases.
When a family separates, routines can be thrown into chaos. The important thing is that any children involved are reassured that things will be taken care of and the transition for them is as smooth as possible. This may mean that the parent who is moving out will need to find a property close to the family home so that access is easily facilitated. If the family home is being sold and new properties bought, then logistics must be carefully considered. How far are both new properties from each other; each parent’s workplace; schools and the various places that each member of the family needs to be? From soccer practice to doctors, swimming lessons to the children’s friends, changing the base location of the family unit can throw everyone’s lives into chaos, if not done well.
Every divorce is different, but the common theme is that nobody planned for it and everybody is surprised at some point by how things turn out – good or bad. If there are children involved it gets even more complicated so the important thing to focus on, together with your previous partner if possible, is how to make sensible decisions that ensure your children have a stable family home environment an everybody has the opportunity for a more positive and abundant future.