Setting boundaries during separation and divorce is the first step to ensuring it runs as smoothly as possible. And while it may not necessarily be an easy task, there are a logical set of actions you can take to provide you and your spouse with the best opportunity for creating a healthy set of boundaries.
Create physical boundaries first
Creating physical boundaries early in the separation helps to make the actual separation of divorce a much less daunting experience. It also helps to manage expectations from the start. After all, up until this point you and your spouse have been sharing the same physical space. So agreeing upon clear physical boundaries helps to also create the mental space you need to work through the situation in your own way.
Creating physical barriers can start by deciding whether you’re still going to live together, or deciding who gets to stay in the house during the separation. If you own the property together, this may require some more complex negotiation. You’ll need to think about which belongings stay and which go, and also determine how to manage when your spouse needs to attend your joint property.
But by having a clear agreement in place, and making the effort to respect the agreement, you’re starting yourself off on the right foot, and beginning to set boundaries in a healthy way.
Agree on the timeframe for physical separation
During a divorce you don’t just separate and be done with it. You need to demonstrate 12 months and one day of separation. While this doesn’t necessarily have to involve one spouse moving out, it does make it easier to prove your case.
So if it gets decided that one spouse will move out, it’s important to agree upon clear timeframes and expectations during the separation. Discuss how you’ll trial the situation, and set expectations around the decisions and conversations you’ll have at the end of it.
While this time may not necessarily heal what’s come between you, it will help to establish a base level of normalcy in living apart.
Set expectations around how you divide your belongings
As well as deciding who gets to stay in the house during separation, you also need to take into account how you divide your belongings, like furniture, bedding, and white goods. What do you do about larger assets, such as your family home, second properties, or other investments?
In this situation, it’s important that you’re clear in your expectations of each other. Deciding who takes what may come down to a negotiation, so taking the time to talk it through now ensures there are fewer shock decisions down the track.
The same applies to your money and bills
Setting boundaries during separation and divorce also includes discussing how to manage the bills, utilities, and other payments associated with your life together. If you’re renting, this is a reasonably straightforward answer, but if you own your home jointly it may require some in-depth discussion.
You may have shared bank accounts, loans, even a business together. Marriage counselling, medical bills, and—if children are involved—school fees all need to be taken into consideration.
So to set healthy boundaries, it’s critical to discuss how the bills will be managed and, where necessary, divided.
Managing time with your children
When you have children under 18, you also need to ensure they’re included in setting healthy boundaries during your separation and divorce. Deciding on a roster or routine with your children will ensure that they have a better chance of coming to terms with the situation. While it may not be easy, this can help to create the space, and provide them with the support they need to navigate the separation.
When factoring children into your decision-making, don’t let any unresolved issues, tensions, or anger between you and your spouse spill into your childrens’ time. The calmer and more civil the two of you are, the easier it is for them to establish their own healthy boundaries within an unquestionably confusing and difficult time.
The key thing to remember is that there are two parties involved
While we definitely need to take care of our own needs first, setting healthy boundaries during a separation involves thinking about how your actions will affect your spouse, and vice versa.
It might not be easy, but talking about things upfront and being as clear and as clinical as possible about it all, will allow you to create defined boundaries that put structure around a decidedly chaotic time in your life.
Luckily, there is a lot of good information out there that you can read to help you understand what’s going to work for you and your spouse during a trial separation, and how to set clear ground rules when beginning the separation.
Get expert support to help you in setting boundaries during a separation
Pearsons Lawyers are experts in all matters involving Family Law, including helping you set and manage boundaries during a separation. If you’re after advice on your family law matter, get in contact with us on 1300 699 688 and book in with one of our family lawyers for a free consultation.