FAMILY lawyers offering catchy gimmicks such as ‘divorce in a day’ or ‘divorce hotels’ may be creating unrealistic expectations and long-term problems among separating couples, according to a Gold Coast law firm.
Accredited Family Law Specialist Cassandra Pullos, of Pullos Lawyers, says the ‘divorce in a day’ concept, which has drawn recent media focus, sends the wrong message to separating couples.
“It suggests a quick fix remedy. Divorce your partner and move on, all in a day. Out with the old and in with the new – simple consumerist rhetoric that pays no regard or respect for the complexity of human relationships,” she said.
“The reality is a lot more complex than that and to suggest otherwise is not only a gimmick but dangerously misleading.”
Ms Pullos said various family lawyers here and interstate were promoting ‘quick fix’, cheaper divorce processes which generally focused only on “getting a divorce” as if it were the same thing as “getting a burger”.
“You can’t get ‘divorced in a day’ in this country,” she said.
“To suggest otherwise to people unfamiliar with the law is misleading. You have to be separated for a minimum of 12 months to ‘get a divorce’.
“You can certainly sign the necessary paperwork the day after the 12 months expires – you will then be divorced on a final basis about four months later, after the Court has reviewed your application and satisfied itself of the factors required in the Family Law Act and after a final “cooling off” period of one month.
“That has been the law in Australia since 1975 – and it hasn’t changed.
“As for the untangling of the practicalities of a relationship, such as the dividing up of property, superannuation and financial investments, arrangements for any children and so on- these are life decisions that are never made in a day, at least not without the risk of later regret for hasty decisions made for emotional reasons and without proper advice.
“Similarly the idea of a ‘divorce hotel’ where a couple check-in for a weekend and thrash out an agreement and ‘divorce’, all pre-supposes the two people are already in agreement on all matters.
“This marketing concept has been around for some years and used in other countries,” she said.
Ms Pullos said the allure of a fast decision and settlement within a day may appeal to those seeking the quick fix solution but the process of separation and divorce was far more complex and needed to be thought through to prevent complications later on.
“A divorce involves a process of grief and loss,” she added. “The key throughout is to make informed decisions. You can’t rush to a decision then have second thoughts six months after the documents are signed.”
“A divorce means you are making decisions that could be irreversible and certainly will have lifelong consequences for you, your ex-partner and your children.
“You don’t generally make a decision in a single day to get married or commit to a life together. It takes time to develop a relationship with your partner leading to that commitment.
“If the relationship breaks down it also takes time to process the emotion on a personal level so that you can make wise and informed decisions on a legal level about your children and your finances into the future.
“Those decisions have to last a lifetime. When do you ever make lifetime decisions in a day?
“My 32 years of experience in working with couples going through the life transition of relationship breakdown tells me loudly and clearly that couples want, generally, to be able to separate in a way that is future and child focused with appropriately qualified and experienced professionals to help them make wise decisions that will support their new life as a separated family.
“That takes time, and the seeking of wise counsel from trusted advisors in law, finance, children’s needs, communication and emotional and psychological health.
“Much as we would all like to take a magical pill to make us happier, thinner, wealthier, sexier or separated – the quick fix simply does not exist.
“Separating couples do want alternatives to a big, long, expensive, nasty Court battle in which, usually, neither side ‘wins’.
“Those alternatives are available, mediation and Collaborative practice are two of them. ‘Divorce in a day’ is not one, or at least not a safe one.
“Those genuine alternatives are respectful, future and child focused, problem-solving approaches that also take commitment, patience, and maturity from both the clients and their lawyers and other advisors.
“They also deliver better, positive, outcomes.”
Ms Pullos said the benefits of couples controlling the divorce process in a respectful and co-operative manner were widely known now and practised internationally.
“All of these processes take time,” she said. “Sometimes a short time, others longer, but almost never in just one day. There’s a reason for that, to ensure people make informed decisions for their future.”
“Just like life, relationships and their endings are a journey, not a destination to be reached in a day.”