For a Business Owner: How This Is Likely to Play Out
Once you have decided or you have come to the realisation there is no prospect of reconciliation, it is usually best to start the process of negotiating parenting and financial arrangements sooner rather than later. In most cases, the longer the process drags out, the more difficult it becomes. Especially for a business owner. You need to focus on managing your business, keeping it going and profitable, and that is difficult whilst you are trying to negotiate with your former partner and even harder if you are in the process of litigation.
If you have young children, the first step is to try to negotiate arrangements for them so that you get to spend time with and continue to develop your relationship with them and you remain a supportive parent who is involved in their lives. If you can’t reach an agreement directly with your former partner generally, you should try to engage with a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner to assist. However, there are some matters where that is not appropriate, for example, if there has been domestic violence.
If you still can’t reach an agreement about the children you will need to consider making an application to the court. Whilst you can make an application to court yourself is generally preferable to consult with a lawyer who can advise you and assist you through what is a difficult and often frustrating process.
If you have older children (I’m referring to teenagers) they will often express their wishes as to which parent they want to live with and how much time they spend with the other parent. If the matter proceeds to court their wishes are likely to carry some weight but are not the deciding factor. For this reason, matters involving teenage children rarely go to court.
With finances, the assets and superannuation owned by the two of you will need to be divided. You may also have an entitlement to or a liability to pay child support and spousal maintenance. At this point, you should consider engaging a specialist family lawyer who can advise you as to your entitlement and your obligations, the process and the likely cost. Armed with some knowledge you can then choose to negotiate directly with your former partner or engage a lawyer to do so on your behalf.
From here you have a few options which are set out in the previous chapter. It is important to remember that if you keep the matter out of court you will generally have some control of the process. If your matter goes to court then you lose some of that control because the court will make directions and orders, imposed deadlines and dictate to you how the case is going to run. By continuing court proceedings you and your former partner are letting somebody you don’t know and you will probably never meet decide what happens to your children and\or your hard-earned money.
But even if the matter is in court, usually you can and should continue to attempt to negotiate a resolution. Court proceedings are not only stressful and time-consuming, but they are also expensive and they keep you away from more important activities such as managing your business, spending time with the children and getting on with your life. Court cases can take years to resolve and you may not get the outcome you want.
If you do manage to negotiate an agreement with your former partner without the assistance of a lawyer, it is a good idea to engage a lawyer to properly document the agreement. If an agreement is not properly documented, you can run into trouble later on. This may cost you but it is worth it for the peace of mind.
NB: Please note that the contents of this article do not constitute legal advice. It contains information only of a general nature that may not apply to your circumstances. If you wish to obtain legal advice about your separation, please contact us to organise a consultation.