SEPARATION AND DIVORCE
Separation is not an easy time for anyone, men, women or children. It can be particularly tough for men in a number of ways.
In over 60% of cases, it is the wife who initiates the separation, and in many of those cases the husband is not expecting it. Nor does he want it. For him it is an enormous loss: loss of his home, his position in the community, and, in most cases loss of daily contact with his children. Often he still loves his wife and is shattered by her rejection of him. Crueller still is the discovery that she has already formed a relationship with another man whom she wishes to take his place.
Many separated men suffer an immediate loss of identity, their place in the lives of their extended family, and their idea of themselves. Their self-esteem sinks and depression and grief can overcome them. They feel they have lost control of their lives, and this feeling is not helped when their ex-partners, further down the separation journey, appear to be so much in control of the situation. Often their experience in the Family Court and with the Child Support Agency adds further to this sense of lack of control.
In some situations a man can be so eaten up by the experiences of separation and divorce that his health suffers, emotionally and physically, his work performance deteriorates, and his judgement is seriously impaired.
If any of this is happening to you, the good news (there is some!) is that there are ways to handle your situation that may make it easier to manage.
Use the links that are provided here to access groups and associations where you can get support, encouragement and information. It’s unwise to try to cope with separation all by yourself. There’s an enormous amount of information and help available on the internet and there are some good books that you should read. There are also sensible, male-friendly counsellors and doctors who can assist you to put yourself on the right track.
It’s important at this time to recognise that you are not alone. Not only are hundreds of thousands of men, women and children going through the same experiences, but a lot of work is being done by separated men and women and also by experts in psychology, social welfare and law to assist individuals and families to manage their lives after divorce in a sensible and decent manner.
There has been a tendency in the past for people who separate to run off immediately to lawyers. That may be necessary in some cases, but generally it’s not a good idea, at least not at the beginning. The best thing is for you and your ex-partner to talk sensibly with one another about what is best for the children and for yourselves now that you will be living separate lives. Try to set up some form of shared parenting for the children. This is not always easy to do, of course, and you can often benefit by seeking assistance from a counsellor or mediator. In this way you may avoid the heartache and stress, to say nothing of the financial costs, of nasty legal proceedings and endless court appearances.
It is understandable that conflict will arise after separation, whether it be about the children, the matrimonial home or about financial support. Lawyers and the courts are not always a good way of settling these disputes. Separating couples can often expend huge amounts of time,energy and money in and out of court, and end up with bitterness and hostility and not much property left to divide. There’s a better way to sort out these problems.
What’s best for the children must be the guiding principle here. It is very easy for adults to kid themselves that they are seeing things from the point of view of their children. Often they confuse their own selfish interests with those of the children. What the children inevitably want is good and continuing relationships with both their mother and their father, and, at the very least, peaceful and respectful dealings between their parents. They want both parents to love them, and they want emotional permission to continue to love each parent. Conflict involving the children must be avoided.
It’s important for men after separation and divorce not just to learn to accept it and its changes and to get on with their lives, but to build up their appreciation of themselves as men and fathers. One of the positive things that separation can bring is the opportunity to reassess ourselves and to see what kind of persons we are, what kind of men, what kind of fathers. Many men report that their experience of separated life has enabled them to develop really meaningful relationships with their children, sometimes better than what they had before the separation.
All this takes time and effort and it’s not easy. Some are more successful than others, and, of course, some situations can be very difficult if not impossible.
Whatever your situation might be, there are some useful things that you can do to mange it more effectively. Start by accessing these links. Above all, look after yourself! If you are no use to yourself, you can be no use to anyone else.
Michael Green was admitted to the New South Wales Bar in December 1975. He practised at the private Bar for four years mainly in criminal and common law and also in the newly created Family Court of Australia.
He joined the NSW Public Defenders Office in February 1980 and for sixteen years specialised in criminal law. He appeared in all criminal jurisdictions from Local Courts, District and Supreme Courts, to the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal and High Court of Australia. He became a Queens Counsel in 1988.
In 1996 Michael returned to the private Bar and for the next five years conducted an appellate practice in the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal and High Court of Australia. Interspersed with those cases were appearances in the Wood Royal Commission into the NSW Police Force.
For the past two years he has worked with the Legal Representation Office in appearing for the families of the victims of the Thredbo landslide disaster of 1997. After the Coroner’s judgement was handed down at the end of June 2000, Michael retired from the Bar to continue and further his interest in mediation. He is currently developing a mediation practice in the areas of family conferencing, local government and commercial disputes, and restorative justice.
Food for Thought.
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