Why do women bet against themselves?
This is a question I ask myself so often in my day-to-day practice assisting people through separation and divorce. What do I mean by this?
- Why do women shrink?
- Why do they act out of fear … and fear of what?
- Why do they take less than what is their legal entitlement and even contrary to legal advice?
- Why do they enter into parenting arrangements that they know are not in their children’s best interests?
Many books have been written that go some way to answering these questions, so I will leave those answers to the experts. For now, I’d like to reflect on a few important points to remember when you are in the depths of negotiating with your ex.
They are your ex
Whatever your intentions are to maintain respect, to act with integrity, to preserve a relationship that supports your co-parenting arrangements moving forward (and they are all worthy and honourable goals to have) they are your ex. Statistics show that, if your ex is a man, he will re-partner more quickly than you, he will recover financially better than you and he will have access to more funds at retirement age than you will. It is also very likely that whatever you are agreeing on now, that you will end up doing more parenting than he will now and in the future.
So, look out for you first and foremost. Your relationship with him will continue to transition for better or worse but maintaining a respectful relationship does not mean that you have to sacrifice you (any more than you likely already did in the relationship).
What is your fear?
Fear of an unknown future is reasonable. Fear of reprisals from your ex may or may not be.
Fear of an unknown future takes some courage and faith. To decide to step through the next days and months ahead, when things are looking foggy and sometimes positively scary, is a decision you can and need to make. This period will pass and life will go on. You (and your kids) will dance and sing again.
If your fear is domestic violence-based – physical, emotional, psychological, you may need to speak with a solicitor, DV support agency or the police about this.
Maybe you need to reality check your fear – with friends, family or a professional. But do not let fear be your driver.
Do not feel guilty
So what if it was your decision to end the relationship? When it comes to property settlements the Family Law Act does not care about the how and why of the reasons the relationship ended and neither should you. Do not be sucked into his guilt trips of “breaking up the family”, upsetting the kids, shattering his plans etc.
The formula for determining property settlements is a law. You are entitled to as much as the law says is yours. Your guilt, his opinion, your next door neighbour’s property settlement does not determine your entitlement for a just and equitable property settlement. Remember, that no two family circumstances are exactly the same, no two relationships are exactly the same and the Family Law Act takes this into account.
Let reasonable and informed decisions determine your outcome – not your guilt.
Get advice and take it
Get legal advice early – before he tells you what you are entitled to or before he tells you what he will give you and before you agree anything with him. If you don’t feel like your advice is solid or your solicitor doesn’t have your back get another one. Seeing a solicitor doesn’t have to be expensive – and may save you lots of money in the long run.
Remember, a 50/50 property settlement sounds fair, but equal is not equitable under the Family Law Act. The factors that are involved in determining a property settlement mean that in the majority of cases 50/50 is not the outcome after assessing financial and non-financial contributions (including home-maker and parenting contributions) and each parties’ future needs.
Take the advice of your solicitor rather than your ex.
Parents don’t have rights
There is no law that says fathers have rights (or mothers for that matter). Parents have obligations. They are obliged to facilitate a relationship between the children and their other parent but only where it is safe to do so. Parents are obliged to protect their children from harm. Harm includes physical, emotional and psychological ill treatment. Do not agree to a 50/50 care arrangement for your children if there are risks to them in your Ex’s care – perhaps he is violent, alcohol or drug dependent or very toxic. Is he really the role model that you want for your sons and daughters? Yes, the children may want and need and should have a relationship with both parents but it must be done and arranged in terms that are best for the kids. You may need to arrange support for you and your children.
Make safe and nurturing decisions for your children that are about their needs and not his.
You only get one crack at this
Once property orders are made it is very difficult to change or revisit them. You cannot go back in 12 months or 3 years when the dust has settled and you realise that you took a hit or he didn’t keep his promise to “always look after you”. In most circumstances when orders are made they are final.
So, take a deep breath, get your support team around you and be the bravest version of yourself that you can be. Now is the time to choose courage. Your future self will thank you.
Jennifer Franklin is a family law solicitor at Franklin Family Law. She prides herself on offering legal advice with authenticity and compassion – and she’s a valued member of our expert panel helping women turn their divorce into the best thing that ever happened to them at Champagne Divorce Club.