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Paula Phelan is a Family Lawyer with Specialist Accreditation in this area from the Queensland Law Society. She has been a lawyer for 21 years and is the director of Phelan Family Law, a Rockhampton legal firm specialising in Family Law only.

In my first column, I mentioned that the approach to family law issues would be a global one using the skills of other professionals to assist you along your journey.

This week Dr Vanessa Ghea from Rockhampton City Psychology joins us again to talk about separation as a means to ending the relationship.

It may be that for you separation is a step in the divorce process. If you are unhappy in your relationship and considering leaving your partner, it may be helpful to consider the following:

Have you discussed your thoughts about your relationship with your partner?

Discussing your relationship discontent with your partner in a productive manner is a positive first step. This conversation may feel uncomfortable but no relationship will have a chance of improving unless the two parties can communicate effectively about their dissatisfaction.

This is also an opportune time to attend relationship counselling with a trained practitioner who can support you through this process by coaching you to communicate effectively and teach you skills to improve your relationship.

Is domestic violence an issue in the relationship?

Violence in an intimate or family relationship is a sign that the relationship is in crisis. It should be taken seriously and professional assistance should be sought. Domestic violence can be perpetrated by both males and females and occurs in both heterosexual and same sex relationships.

Examples of behaviours that constitute family violence include:

  • Physical assault such as pushing, shoving, destroying belongings, and a lack of consideration for physical comfort;

  • Sexual assault including forced sexual contact, rape and forcing sex acts with others;

  • Using intimidation such as smashing things, handling of weapons, intimidating body language, and hostile questioning;

  • Emotional abuse such as behaviour that undermines confidence, humiliation, threats to harm the victim, their friends or family members, take children or commit suicide;

  • Verbal abuse including screaming, shouting, put-downs or name calling;

  • Controlling partner’s behaviour. For example, dictating what the partner does, who they see, who they talk to and where they go;

  • Financial abuse such as taking full control of all the finances, spending and decisions about money so the victim is financially dependent on their partner.

How will the separation affect your children?

If you have children it is wise to consider how a separation will affect them. Things to consider are their age and how much they will understand developmentally about the separation. You need to best explain the separation to them in an age appropriate way, advising whether there will be shared care and who will remain in the family home.

Research shows that it is not the separation itself that affects children’s wellbeing but the way the separation is managed and the level of conflict.

Children from families that separate amicably with low conflict adjust better psychologically than those from high conflict families.

It is important to create a team around you that cares for all areas of your welfare during this difficult time.

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