April is National Stress Awareness Month. The aim of this is to raise awareness of stress, the impact it can have on physical and mental health and stress management techniques. Separating is a stressful time for everyone involved, but there are ways to minimise the impact:

1. Obtain legal advice at an early stage

During a separation, it is normal to feel uncertain as to how the process works and what the future will look like. Obtaining legal advice at an early stage will allow your lawyer to give an indication of the steps involved in the separation process. This will help you to feel more in control of the situation. Your lawyer will also be able to advise you about the different resolution options available, including mediation and collaboration, and how appropriate they are to your circumstances. Prior to coming to your first meeting, it may help to write down questions you wish to ask or topics you wish to discuss. During the meeting, don't be afraid to ask questions and obtain clarification on points if there is anything you are unsure about.

2. Be realistic with your expectations

It is important that realistic expectations are set. Having a clear idea from your lawyer about timescales to work towards and potential outcomes can assist in reducing stress. However, it is important to remember that one party may require more time to come to terms with the separation before being able to move forward with the separation process.

3. Be aware of costs involved

Legal fees are understandably a concern to clients and can be a source of financial stress. During your first meeting, your lawyer will be able to advise of potential costs. Whilst it is difficult to provide a determinative figure, an estimate of costs can be useful. Your lawyer can send regular bills so you can keep on top of what you have paid to date. You can assist with keeping costs down by carrying out any 'homework' given to you by your lawyer.

4. Consider consequences of your decisions

Whilst you may be focusing on the future and life after separation, it is important that you take time to consider the impact that the decisions you make will have on you and your family in the future. It is best to ensure decisions are made after careful consideration, and not as part of an emotional reaction. Your lawyer will provide you with the necessary legal advice to aid your decision making and assist you with agreeing settlement terms.

5. Minimise conflict

It is recognised that following a separation you may not see eye to eye with your ex-partner and tensions may be high; however, minimising conflict between you both is important in order to ease stress. It is best to keep communication civil and not become involved in a blame game (however tempting!). If communication is difficult between you and your ex-partner, communication can take place via lawyers.

6. Look after your mental and physical health

Going through a separation can be an emotional and overwhelming time. It is important to look after your mental and physical health during and after a separation, including trying to maintain a regular sleeping routine, eating well and exercising regularly. Some people find it helpful to focus on hobbies or try a new interest.

Whilst your lawyer can provide you with legal advice, your family and friends can offer a source of emotional support. It is also important to remember that there are other professionals who can assist with your wellbeing. Do not be afraid to seek advice from your GP, counsellor or a financial advisor. Professional support is also available for your family throughout the separation process, including assistance for children impacted by a separation.


Joanne Hunter