Consciously uncoupling

Lessons from Hollywood for Kiwi couples looking to separate

Each year, there is a wave of break-ups around the new year period after couples spend the extended holiday period together. This results in a surge of Family Dispute Resolution applications before Easter.

Over January and February, people begin to look at what is involved in separating. Many people assume they have to ‘lawyer up’ in preparation for a bitter and long battle in court, reminiscent of the Kramer vs. Kramer custody case or infamous Hollywood divorce battles. In fact, most couples can ‘consciously uncouple’ in the style of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, rather than go through the emotional and financial toll of a courtroom battle.

The key to consciously uncoupling is to get the right support for challenging conversations, such as ‘who gets what.’ Mediation is a great option for couples who would prefer to keep things amicable. Depending on your circumstances, this could involve a legally trained mediator facilitating a conversation around the relationship property issues that cannot be agreed, or asking the mediator to help you work through the issues in dispute and formalise an agreement.[1]

For couples with children, Parenting Through Separation and Family Dispute Resolution are services to assist you to navigate child care related issues. Parenting Through Separation is a free parenting course that is available across New Zealand and Family Dispute Resolution is a mediation service which is free of charge if you are eligible for government funding.

FairWay’s Family Dispute Resolution is a confidential process whereby an independent and impartial mediator assists parents to reach their own parenting arrangements for their children. Commonly parents will come to Family Dispute Resolution when they disagree about care and contact arrangements, such as where the child will live or how much time they spend with each parent, but other parenting issues may arise such as choosing a school or making holiday arrangements. Through mediation, FairWay mediators help parents to focus on the needs of their child and make plans that work for them.

The thought of attending mediation and working through difficult issues with an ex-partner can make people feel anxious, so we also offer Preparation For Mediation, which is a mixture of support work and coaching to help individuals get ready for this experience and get the most from mediation.

The first step

If you know someone who is separating, let them know that there is way to separate without the time, stress and expense of a Hollywood-style bitter divorce battle.

They can take a look at case studies of family disputes and find some more information about mediation on our website.

If they think mediation might be the solution for them or if they have any questions, they can get in touch with FairWay on 0800 77 44 22 or email


[1] If a settlement is reached, a mediated agreement will be prepared by the mediator. No settlement is binding unless and until the requirements of section 21F of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 are satisfied. In particular section 21F requires that:  

  1. each party has obtained independent legal advice in respect of the mediated agreement (this advice must be obtained before the mediated agreement is signed);
  2. the agreement is in writing and signed by both parties;
  3. the signature of each party to the agreement is witnessed by a lawyer; and
  4. the lawyer who witnesses the signature of a party certifies that before that party signed the agreement, the lawyer explained to that party the effect and implications of the agreement.