Family Law Blog

7 Ways to Try and Keep your Separation Amicable

The separation process is the target of much negative commentary. Many both inside and outside the legal system consider it to be overly long, expensive and difficult for separating couples to navigate.

One particularly challenging area is where one party desires fast and amicable finalisation of the relationship, and the other seems to want a fight at every opportunity.

So while there’s no sure-fire method, what are some strategies you can implement to try and keep things on the path to a better resolution?

Understand What Matters To You Early On

Taking an initial time to reflect on the things that matter to you can be an invaluable first step.

It’s always tempting to go into a separation process with a defined list of precise outcomes that you “must” have, but doing so is often the path towards a fight.

Over time, that fight will inevitably sharpen your attention on the things that really matter to you and those desires that you are prepared (or at least able) to let go of to achieve finalisation.

So rather than letting those realisations come at a high personal and financial cost, having a good appreciation early on of the outcomes that matter most, and those that don’t, is a good place to start.

Avoid Early Polarisation

Offence makes people play defence.

This is where traditional methods of lawyers exchanging long lists of demands and positions aren’t always ideal from a psychological point of view.

If I want A, B, C and D and your lawyers respond with “Our client rejects A, B, C and D” then simply by listing those out and inviting a response you’ve created an immediate polarisation of positions.

That polarisation is going to flow through to the other aspects of the negotiations and the entire separation process.

It will also make it more difficult to agree on things that could have otherwise been agreed.

So rather than assuming the best way to reach an outcome is necessarily to draw a long list of requirements and then write back and forth, it’s always worth considering deferring the contentious items until later.

Of course, no deal is done until it’s done. You giving up your desire for A might mean you’re less prepared to give up on B – however, if you can avoid early polarisation, then you can set the tone for a more positive approach.

Understand Sales

Do you know why door to door salespeople always ask you polite questions first?

It’s not because they enjoy making small talk. It’s because if they can ask you questions like “nice day, isn’t it?” and get you to answer “yes”, then they know it’s more likely that you will be psychologically positioned to say “yes” to more things.


  1. “Nice day isn’t it?”, becomes
  2. “Do you ever have trouble keeping up with the housework – I know I do!?”, becomes
  3. “How would you like it if you could save an hour a week on that?”, becomes
  4. “Would you mind if I took 5 minutes to show you our new widget?”.

Each yes leads to another greater amount of pressure to say yes.

Of course there’s a chasm between the decision to buy a new vacuum cleaner and finalising a property settlement, but the psychology remains the same.

In a sense, this is the opposite principle to the polarisation point above. More yesses early on leads to a more likely set of future yesses, leading to you all being far closer to a resolution.

So if you can get some quick yesses then that’s worthwhile.

Respond, Don’t React

There are times where your ex, or their lawyer, is going to say something or ask for something or make a demand that’s going to blow your mind.

It might be totally unreasonable.

It might be a complete lie.

It might make your blood boil.

But firing off some quick instructions or a hasty response won’t necessarily keep you on your path towards a swift settlement.

Take some time. Remember what matters to you. And then consider the best response.

Your lawyer can help you with this.

Don’t Dig Your Heels In… Most of the Time

There are some topics on which you will probably be non-negotiable.

Provided you have figured them out upfront, and they are a fixed decision, that’s fine.

However, experience tells us that most negotiating positions aren’t generally as non-negotiable as they might sound at first.

The problem is that the moment you agree to negotiate on any position you’ve said was non-negotiable, you’ve immediately undermined any future occasion on which you are genuinely non-negotiable.

So use the “line in the sand” negotiation method carefully and sparingly – once you draw it, don’t cross it.

Wisely Time Demands and Discussions

It can be tempting to get things to a round-table discussion or mediation very early in the piece.

After all, if the matter is likely to resolve at mediation, why not hold the mediation earlier?

The reason is that very early sometimes people aren’t ready for the resolution. Perhaps things are too emotional, perhaps they are still in the “take it all the way to Court” mindset.

A mediation that fails in month 1 might easily have succeeded in month 3 – simply because more time has passed and everybody is in a better place mentally and emotionally to actively seek a negotiated outcome and move on with their lives.

So while alternative dispute resolution will probably play a big role in your separation, as best you can make the timing most conducive to a good outcome being reached.

Be Honest With Yourself, and With Your Lawyer

Telling yourself (and instructing your lawyer) about what you want out of your separation is only half the picture.

One of the things that can help us, and you, to figure out how best to negotiate an outcome is to have at least a bit of an understanding why something matters to you.

So if the small wooden clock is a hot item because it belonged to your deceased grandfather who you loved, that’s actually relevant for us to know.

It also works the other way around though – sometimes we want something for reasons we really can’t understand, and digging into that a bit more can help us be more flexible in our positioning.

Ultimately it helps us work with you during your separation if we understand a bit more about what’s going on in your head.

So be honest with us, and we’ll do our best to help you along the way.


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