Is it possible to separate amicably?

Certainly it is possible to separate ‘amicably’, but it takes an effort to compromise, and to avoid getting into unnecessary battles over minor issues.

Much depends also on how the relationship came to an end and how well the ex-partners are able to deal with their feelings about it. Sometimes the decision to end the relationship is reached mutually after a long period of difficulty or growing apart; but very often there is a ‘leaver’ and a ‘left’. The leaver is the one who decides the relationship is over, or acts inconsistently with it, for example by having an affair. The left is the one for whom the breakdown of the relationship is not a choice, or is at best a choice made to accept the inevitable. It is understandable that the one who is left should feel hurt, angry and betrayed. Separation can cause a lot of bitterness.

There are many issues that former couples can fight about. Some people get stuck in the court system for years – and keep coming back. Legal costs can run into tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

To separate sensibly, you need to make a decision to try to avoid court, to compromise where it is possible to do so, and to keep children out of the conflict. The children will do best if you can manage to get on well enough to co-operate and communicate about their needs for the many years that they are dependent upon you.

Children are likely to suffer, and lose respect for you as a parent, if you constantly criticise and denigrate the other parent, or use the children as a weapon in the war between you. Many a parent has won the short-term battle to turn a child away from the other parent, but later lost the war as that child grows up and develops an appreciation for the good qualities of the other parent.

Separation can be a hard road to travel down. There will probably be many difficulties and aggravations along the way. If you could work everything out amicably you should not have needed to separate; but remember the ten year rule. However big the argument, however difficult your ex is being, will whatever you are arguing about matter in ten years’ time? Sometimes it is good to take a long-term view!