When you decide to move in with your partner, or say the words “I do”, you’re often caught up in the excitement of the moment, and the Disney idea of a ‘happily ever after’(perhaps involving some form of yacht and sailing into the sunset). However, what happily ever after doesn’t encompass is seeking advice from a divorce lawyer.

What can you do to avoid a tumultuous relationship? Well, let’s back track to that first date.

What questions could you have asked that might have given you an insight into your long term compatibility?  You’re in luck, as divorce lawyers we spend our days reviewing the core mistakes that people make during a relationship. So here are our tips to a ‘happily ever after’ (or at least a better chance at avoiding a bad situation).

1. Where did you travel to on your last holiday?”

What you are trying to ascertain is; how did you pay for your holiday? But of course, you may end the date sooner than you like if you come straight out and ask that! You are looking to discover whether they paid for the holiday on their credit card, or if they used accumulated savings.

Their answer to this question is usually a good indicator of how responsible they are with money. Generally, as a person’s income increases they experience what is termed “lifestyle creep”. This means as their income increases so too does their expenses, resulting in no overall increased savings. Conversely, someone who is good with savings could accrue a significantly greater asset pool.

Yes, it’s early days now. But if things go well on this date, and later take a turn for the worse and you were to separate, will you have two Bitcoins to split, or merely the vague memory of that time you ordered a delicious aerated rum cake with grated milk and tamarind sauce?

2. “What’s your favourite Robert De Niro movie?”

What you are trying to judge here is how old or young they actually are? Remember, not everyone is forthright with their age, and a people’s age listed on their Tinder or eHarmony profile isn’t always truthful.

If they say –

  • Dirty Grandpa, The Intern, or Meet the Parents, they are probably young, and enjoy a light-hearted comedy
  • Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, or Goodfellas, they are probably older, and prefer a serious drama.

3. “Are you a quick or idle responder to text messages?”

What you are trying to learn from this, is whether they are going to play games with you.

You are looking for how invested they are in their relationships (both platonic and romantic). Is this person reliable? Are they uber busy, if so, why? Job? Kids? Hobbies? You are after a healthy balance, or perhaps trying to find someone who is equally as hectic as you!

This question also provides an indication as to how proactive they are in maintaining relationships; as we all know good communication is key to a happy relationship.

Remember, relationships end for all kinds of reasons, but an amicable separation, or at the very least an ex-partner who is responsive, can make a world of difference when you’re deciding who gets the odd numbered spoon

4. “How did your last relationship end?”

What you are trying to gather is whether they are self-reflective, and whether they turn their mind to what does and doesn’t work for them in a relationship.

Do they take any responsibility for the relationship ending (or is it all the other persons fault)? You’re looking for signs of personal growth and development..

You also want to know whether they are still in touch with their ex. If so, why? Do they have any children together? If they do, do they communicate well, or do they hate each other? Might you suspect that in the future there will be costly litigation in relation to the children’s’ care arrangements? If so, you may rather avoid this experience… no matter how dreamy they are!

5. “Do you have any family here?”

What you are trying to find out is are they a local or did they move here? If they are a local, are they open to moving? Or are they someone who is required to move regularly or travel frequently (fly-in-fly-out, or posted offices)? Or are they a local through and through?

By asking this, you have insight into their relationship with family (and possibly what their relationship with yours might be down the track). If they’re a local, do they see their family often? If they moved here, why? Do they talk to their family much? Do they visit their home? Does their family visit often? – This could be a great conversation starter!

Are they the kind of person who is willing to uplift their life to follow a partner? This question also is self-reflective, are you prepared to uplift your life? You may be disinclined to date someone who may have to move later for work, or return to their home state/country – especially down the track when you may have a child together and they want to take the child and relocate back to Albania (which I’ve heard is a lovely place)!

6. “Who’s the go to friend or family member for advice in your circle?”

What you are trying to glean is who should I stalk on social media? Whose opinion do they value the most? Do they have a close relationship with their family or are they closer with their friends? Are they so close with family that they would prioritise their family over you? Do they have lots of friends or just one or two close friends? Are they the person who is often consulted for advice? This may mean they are particularly empathetic and communicative (which is generally a good sign).

7.  “Are you, or have you ever been married?”

What you are trying to sneakily ask here is, ‘Are you still married!?!?!’  There is a twelve-month separation period before a married person can apply for a divorce. This can also lead to questions about children, property settlements etc. Are you potentially getting involved with someone during a very messy time in their life?

8. “Have you ever been involved in court proceedings before? “

What you are trying to ascertain is, have they had a run in with the law? This question delves into the darker nature of humanity to see if they have been charged with any criminal or civil offences, in particular, any allegations of family violence.

This question may also reveal that they are litigious by nature and may not be amenable to negotiate, to compromise, or to take advice from third parties, which becomes particularly important during legal proceedings.
And, might just reveal hilarious tales of foolish youthful (or not so youthful) shenanigans.

Red Flags

Listen to your instincts! If they say something that doesn’t sit well, ask further questions – be inquisitive! “You stole what from your grandma?”
You might discover that they have a vice that was a significant factor in your last relationship ending… or you might discover that they are perfect for you and second to the throne!

Jonathan Messieh is a solicitor in our Canberra Office.