10 May 2022

MEDIA RELEASE: Divorce 4 Kids – A children’s guide to separation and divorce is a first in Australia.

Having children not only had a profound impact on former family lawyer Shelby Timmins, but it also changed her focus and career direction. After 20 years as a family lawyer, she decided that she’d had enough of the adversarial nature of family law and that she could make a bigger difference to families working in the dispute resolution space. One that allowed for flexibility and a gentler way of resolving family disputes.

Shelby upskilled and become a Nationally Accredited Mediator and Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner. She started her own business, Divorce Done Differently, and has never looked back.

“I wanted to help families to separate with dignity and respect and to keep their children central to all decisions. Understanding that court is not the right place for most families, I realised that there was huge potential to really make a difference through dispute resolution for the families I worked with,” said Shelby.

The court system, she says, has been underfunded and overworked for many years. Delays were significant and costs were rising. Courts are not the best environment for most when it comes to helping families reach the best possible outcomes in reasonable timeframes and with minimal cost. Family Dispute Resolution offers families a safe place to talk about the tough stuff. It is a more family friendly option, that is fast and efficient.

Shelby also trained in an innovative process known as Collaborative Practice. “Families formally opt out of going to court. With the assistance of a team of interdisciplinary professionals including, collaboratively trained lawyers, financial neutrals, child specialists and coaches, we work together to support families to come up with resolutions that reflect their interests, needs and concerns rather than simply focusing on legal entitlements,” said Shelby.

In her work, Shelby is constantly looking at ways that separating parents can ensure that their parenting arrangements are child focused.  Now she is putting her own experiences on paper in a book designed to share with pre-teens and teenagers everything they need to know about separation and divorce but might have been too afraid to ask.

It is designed for children whose parents are separating, children who might be scared, confused, and distressed. The book, a first in Australia, aims to make sure that children are informed in friendly and supportive way about separation and divorce and reassured that divorce is not their fault.

“It’s just so important that kids don’t shoulder the blame for their parents’ separation. Children need to know it is not their fault, that they can’t change what is happening and that in most cases, that it will get better and be okay. The book looks at a range of topics, from children’s feelings and emotions, the day-to-day minutiae around where they might live, will they have to change schools, continuing with extracurricular commitments, the legal stuff and where they can go if they are feeling unsure or unsafe,” said Shelby.

With the help of colourful designs and easy to read text, the book is a self-help guide with a difference and one that, Shelby hopes, will ease the overwhelming emotions divorce can bring with it and help children understand that whilst life may appear to be upside down in the beginning things will be ok. 

It was her work with Collaborative Practice and the creation of a course for Collaborative Coaches that saw Shelby nominated for a 2022 Resolution Institute Certificate Award. These awards, now in their second year, recognise excellence in Dispute Resolution and are conferred on the best in the business.  

“I was honored to have been nominated by several students from the course. To receive this award is wonderful recognition of the magic that the Coach can bring to the collaborative process and the wonderful assistance we can offer to families. I am incredibly grateful to the Resolution Institute in supporting my work and the real difference we can all make,” said Shelby. 

All eight awardees were announced at a virtual award ceremony held on May 3, 2022. The ceremony can be viewed here