20 Jul What we learn about the separation process from high-profile Sunshine Coast businessman, Tristan Kurz
Nobody enters a marriage or begins a family believing that it will one day fail. But the unfortunate reality is that there are 2.2 divorces for every 1,000 residents in Australia. High-profile Sunshine Coast local Tristan Kurz is included in that statistic.
The prominent businessman, community supporter and former TV presenter and his ex-wife commenced the separation process following 10 years of marriage and the birth of their two daughters, now aged eight and 10. What made their case even more complex was the generational wealth involved, the lack of a Financial Agreement and a slow start to finding the right legal representation.
After many emails, meetings, stress, emotional whiplash and a few years passing, the separation process was finally completed. But while he wouldn’t recommend his journey to anyone, Tristan did gain some valuable life lessons along the way.
Fortified: Lessons on Love & Divorce Podcast
In the fantastic episode 2 of the podcast Fortified: Lessons on Love & Divorce, host Laticia Braving chatted with Leisa Toomey and her client Tristan to gain more understanding of the separation process.
What we learn about the separation process from high-profile businessman, Tristan Kurz
1. Don’t underestimate the emotional hardship of divorce
‘I think because divorce is so prevalent in society, we’ve got a tendency to kind of underestimate how horrific it is emotionally,’ Tristan said. He explained that it is not only gruelling for the two partners involved but also for their children and families.
Not only did he find the emotional aspect of divorce far more challenging than he anticipated, but trying to make smart, rational, efficient decisions in such an emotional state is no easy feat.
‘At the end of the day, the biggest emotion which plays havoc with everything is love. And I guess there are probably very few couples who can go through divorce where all love has completely gone.’
Tristan said that when there is still some level of love, the ex-partners care about how they are perceived, as well as how they are perceiving the other – which can open them up to further pain.
2. You have to be ready to start the separation process
At the start of any separation, when emotions are high, parties are often stuck in the flight, fight or freeze response – which does not pave the way for results. Clients need to be mentally and emotionally open to listening to the other person. This is the only way for the separation process to run smoothly and outcomes to be reached.
Leisa explained that this can also impact the client’s ability to face the realities of the situation.
‘Clients are no good to lawyers when they’re in that space of heightened … stress. They can’t think straight, and they can’t think logically, and they can’t make commercial decisions,’ she said. ‘That’s why you’ve got to work with your client to be able to explain to them and keep them calm about the process and let them know it’ll end, but we just need to keep working through it.’
3. Establish these four items from the outset
Tristan suggested that both parties should nut-out four key elements with their lawyers:
- What is the objective?
- How long is it expected to take?
- How much will it cost?
- What is the process?
‘If you don’t have a really, really clear guide on what those things are, it just kills you emotionally. You’re trying to deal with the loss of your family, the loss of your marriage, and then you go into this crazy storm when you don’t know how to navigate through it.’
4. Find the right lawyer for you
The first lawyer you have a meeting with may not be the right representation for you. Tristan began the process with a large firm but later moved to Toomey Family Law.
‘When you go through a divorce, the process is just as important as the outcome,’ he said. ‘If the process is full of stress and no sleep, it can be a tough mountain to climb.’
‘I rang Leisa and within about 4.3 minutes… and straightaway I knew that’s the sort of person I wanted to deal with.’ He said that Leisa was always clear and honest – even when her advice was not what he wanted to hear. ‘But it made me understand that when she did talk, I could value it, and I could trust it.’
5. Be patient with the separation process
The legal system has a reputation for taking its time – but for good reason. And the separation process can be slow and arduous. This can be particularly frustrating for parties who want the matter settled so they can begin the next chapter of their lives.
‘I can see that level of frustration from the client, and my job as a lawyer is to try and abate that frustration and let the client become aware of what the process is,’ explained Leisa. ‘The process is really frustrating. The court system is really frustrating. So that is emphasised when things aren’t moving as smoothly as they should.’
6. Keep your behaviour in check
It’s vital to be conscious of your own behaviour during the separation process because anything you say or do can actually work against you.
‘One of the parts of educating a client is that every [time] you write a letter it’s on the basis that a judge may see it,’ said Leisa. ‘And therefore, that letter has to be cordial. It has to be polite. It has to be direct and to the point.’ You don’t want a judge reading a letter that doesn’t represent you at your best.
Leisa’s advice is to write a draft and wait a day or two before sending it. You won’t be sending it in the heat of the moment, and it won’t come back to bite you.
7. Have a realistic sounding board
When you’re going through a divorce, you may find yourself inundated with different opinions – many of which will not be based on sound advice or legal accuracy. Some may be friends who want to support you by agreeing with everything you say, while others may be basing their advice on completely different scenarios – even projecting from their own bitter experiences. So don’t rely on the opinions of your best friend or Google.
Leisa emphasised that your particular matter is unique to you, and the law will apply differently to every single case. She said that it can be helpful to have a sounding board that will give you a reality check, such as a psychologist. For Tristan, that was his father. ‘Find the person who doesn’t always say yes to you,’ he advised.
8. Keep things in perspective
Tristan reminded us not to lose focus on what really matters. During a particularly challenging time one Christmas, while his daughters were with their mother, he went on a long road trip to the Burke and Wills Dig Tree in regional Queensland.
It was on that journey that he had a revelation. ‘I realised what’s really important is, one. ‘how many happy hours do you have in the day? Two, what’s your relationship like with your children and your family? Three, what’s your health like? And apart from that, it really doesn’t matter.’
The experience helped him put things into perspective and value the emotional side over the finances. ‘If there was one really, really key thing that I’ve learned from this entire process, we all know that money doesn’t make us happy … You can make money back, but you can’t get your soul back.’
He said that spending years involved in a bitter separation process can negatively affect how you are as a parent, a friend and in business. ‘What really matters is how am I with my children and how am I with myself.’
9. You can’t control how the process unfolds
One of the hardest parts of the legal process for Tristan was accepting that he couldn’t control even the speed at which the matter was resolved. ‘It can be a really slow process. And not being able to just grab it and get it sorted is really, really hard.’
‘When you dive into the family law world… you can’t control your universe anymore because you’ve got other people who are going to be making decisions about how your world is going to run.’ Leisa said it is important to educate clients early on to help them navigate the realities of the separation process.