Now Let’s Talk About Separation Equality

Written by Jasmin Newman

It’s interesting that around the world we are so heavily focused on marriage equality when marriage itself has such a high failure rate. In Australia there are over 50% of marriages or de facto relationships which end in divorce or separation. In fact, even a basic relationship doesn’t seem to last long these days.

Sure, there’s a fundamental difference when talking about marriage equality versus divorce. In the marriage equality debate a large sector of the community is discriminated against in getting legally married based on their sexual orientation, and we no longer tolerate that kind of discrimination, at least on a social level.

And yet somehow our government remains steadfast in it’s antiquated family law system which deals with the aftermath of separation and in doing so it supports a discriminatory system which affects countless thousands of children and their parents, most frequently fathers.

We can debate ad nauseam about who gets it worse in family court; fathers or mothers – but if you can’t see that children are always the losers when they lose a parent then you are blind or a narcissist. OK, you’re probably just a narcissist.

In advocacy for shared parenting there is much debate and push for 50/50 shared care to being the presumption in every case.  Under he Family Law Act it still is the presumption; and yet this is rarely adhered to because far too many parents are seeking care based on either control over the other parent/child or financial rewards or avoidance of payments ~ or both.

A large chunk,  thank heavens, are actually talking about the best interests of the children. But even those to whom that means spending decent time with each parent are perhaps not looking deep enough to solve the problems for the future.

Looking at this from outside the box I see a far bigger societal solution we are missing.

Your marriage or de facto relationship currently has a greater chance of failure than it does of success and yet no one is going into the concept of family with contingency plans so that couples who (for the most part) were once loving, can separate and still maintain a loving relationship with their kids and avoid being hostile with each other.

What if we could turn this whole problem on it’s head with a simple shift in thinking? What if we could eliminate the vast majority of cases going through family court or families going through hostile separations without the court, purely by being prepared to discuss separation equality prior to marriage and certainly prior to children.

You may now be thinking of unicorns and rainbows but hey, let’s remember when we first discussed the concept of Gay marriage.

A good friend asked me recently if I agree with prenuptial agreements; and I most certainly do. Forty years after no-fault divorce and the rise in second marriages where couples were frequently more eager and aware for the need to retain their individual wealth after being screwed over the first time, it’s something that still most couples aren’t really comfortable addressing. It’s a bit icky to talk about “what if” when all you want to focus on is “what’s next”.  That “what next” however, is most often something of vital importance to our future ~ the children you may have.

What if we dealt with discussions and agreements of  “what next” before we all got to the point of “crap – what now?”

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Domestic violence champions and those who make spurious claims that a domestic argument means they are “fearful” forever will no doubt be screeching that 2b is the most important clause. There are of course, some cases of genuine domestic violence where shared parenting is simply not possible and this applies to both men and women. However, I implore you to open your minds to alternate solutions because what we have now is most certainly not working.

I wonder what would happen if parents knew they could amicably walk away and still retain a sustainable and loving relationship with their kids; and that the financial agreement of child support was already established as meaning that both parents could afford to live ~ what would that look like?

I know, you’re seeing unicorns and rainbows again but then their is marriage equality…..

Think about it. If you were in love, about to get married and your partner said in the event of divorce that they would take the children and full child support leaving your life emotionally or economically unsustainable; would you still get married?  Of course not.

Maybe this is a way to solve a large part of the domestic violence problem. Maybe this is a way to discuss moving amicably before things get too bad. It might not be the whole solution, but it bears thinking about.

I have previously discussed with various people including church ministers, the need to have the “what if” discussion in preparation for marriage. Some have said they feel it makes marriage failure a fait accompli, others agree there is a place for these discussions to be had.

Because we had some fantastic post-separation role models around us, my ex husband and I had them; and we remain in an amicable and loving post-separation relationship which means our children can have both their unicorns and their rainbows.

It wasn’t always easy, but it was always possible because we chose it to be.

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Jasmin Newman