There have been many studies on whether and how divorce affects men and women differently. Our summary is that overall, men tend to do less well emotionally in the early stages of separation, but after a few years most gender differences tend to iron out. The one difference that remains in the long-term is women’s increased risk of poverty.

Whether the risks of divorce that worry individuals most are the short term or the chronic long-term ones, the way couples go about their arrangements for parenting, child support, spousal maintenance or property settlements will have a forceful impact.

The adversarial legal system does not consider a person’s emotional state unless it has moved to questionable or dangerous behaviour, and it absolutely fails to consider the long-term financial prognosis for either half of a couple. Even if the writing is on the wall, the law is inflexible and limited when it comes to financial planning for the future of either individual or the family as a whole. The law gets elevated above the financial realities which can be addressed when more is taken into account than “the law”.

The child support formula is all about the here and now, and although it is a welcome safety net for many families, it creates conflict and is open to manipulation; the assessed payments are not based on the situation of the individual family, its values or spending history. Rarely is an Assessment seen by both parents as fair.

The concept of a shared perspective, or of sharing information openly and generously to arrive at best long-term outcomes for children/parents/whole families is unknown to legal forums or to legislated child support. Separation is hard enough, and the struggle to be seen and heard as a real person means it can be difficult to achieve creative and flexible arrangements.

Where possible, choosing mediation or collaborative divorce makes so much sense. In these forums, people can emphasise what they most fear or care about, consider how each of them is managing life and wellbeing at the time, and what the future looks like in the short and long term.

In collaborative divorce, it is now normal to have counsellors and financial advisors on team to inform and support clients and the process. Support teams in mediation are less common, but change is coming. In both mediation and collaborative divorce, the chance for clients to be included in designing agendas and process, as well as having conversations that will never make their way to a judge. The humanity of each person can be front and centre, including their different responses to separation driven by gender and all the other aspects that make up the person whose life is in transition, and who needs care and openness.