It’s a predicament Rachael Scharrer knows all too acutely.
Following the breakdown of a highly complex marriage, Scharrer hoped she’d be able to navigate the separation before hiring a lawyer. With two young children, and facing the prospect of sole-parenting, Rachael recognised that money for legal bills could be put to better use.
She quickly noticed however, the lack of readily accessible information and resources out there for people in the throes of divorce. There were no tools she could find that would help her delay the cost of hiring a lawyer.
Rather than buckle, Rachael saw the opportunity to use her situation to assist others in the same position. She launched Divorce Answered (www.divorceanswered.com.au) with the objective of sharing lessons, experiences and hardships from her divorce with others.
Rachael’s the latest to be featured in our game-changing women series. We speak with her about her journey, ambitions and her drive to make family law accessible to the every day person.
Tell us about the business?
DivorceAnswered.com.au helps men and women who are separating or separated to navigate their divorce with confidence and clarity by offering tips, tools and information which fills the knowledge gap between what a family lawyer knows and what is freely available.
DivorceAnswered.com.au is revitalising divorce by embracing technology to empower separating individuals, creating a tool that lawyers can rely upon for their clients and allow individuals to be a proactive participant in their divorce.
How did you get here?
It was June 7, 2012, and my husband at the time said the words “we’re done.” He also sent me an SMS and email both confirming the end of the relationship. Our marriage had been tumultuous and fraught with challenges. My marriage (and subsequently divorce) was ‘colourful’ – it had the complexities of domestic violence, undiagnosed and untreated addiction and mental health concerns, while trying to protect the two young children from the adversity. Knowing what the right thing to do and how to best navigate the separation while delaying the cost of lawyers was a great challenge. I couldn’t find the right information freely available. There weren’t any tools available to work alongside my lawyer and save costs, despite my motivation. It was then that I decided to help other people in a similar situation, using my experience and things learned to help others better navigate their divorce than I did.
What ‘game’ are you changing and why does it need a shift?
The way that we communicate, purchase goods, become educated, access information and process banking are only a few industries and activities that have adapted to advances in technology. Family Law is no exception to moving with the technology of today.
There is a growing number of people self-representing through the divorce process and in court. The number of people who can afford a lawyer full-time or ‘on tap’ is limited and there are increasing demands for Legal Aid, yet so many people don’t qualify for the Legal Aid requirements.
It is stressful if you are on a budget and wondering how you will meet the costs of a lawyer. Retaining a family lawyer from start to finish may mean an overwhelming invoice at the end. Similarly, self-representing and not hiring a lawyer could save you lots of money, but it could also be a mistake. Whichever path you choose, it is entirely your decision. Each divorce is different. Sometimes an individual’s situation changes throughout the divorce process and tricky questions or situations arise which is where a lawyer is of great assistance.
Divorce Answered recommends that people work alongside their family lawyer or takes individualised advice from a family lawyer. For some people, circumstances change and they need to reassess their current position in parenting, finance or relocation. Knowing how to save when working alongside your lawyer and positively contribute towards your divorce process while lightening the load for the lawyer is a great asset.
What unique skills do you have that have helped you get where you are today?
I have a natural thirst to know as much as I can on topics that peak my interest. Obviously, protecting young children through a complex divorce while trying to save costs and improve efficiency played a large role in the inception of DivorceAnswered.com.au.
My formal experience is with a Bachelor of Communications (PR). I then worked in the male dominated motor industry and worked my way from sales person to general manager. I learned to be resilient around men who may not have liked reporting to a younger, female manager. I had a keen interest to learn about all departments and processes throughout the business and in the face of adversity or challenges, I feel like I rose to the occasion. One of my strengths was to work with each employee and their individual motivations to get the best out of them. The motor industry experience, in particular, helped me to keep emotions out of the business interactions and it was this experience and lesson that helped me to thrive throughout a ‘colourful’ divorce. Being retaliatory, irrational and inflammatory doesn’t make the divorce process easier for anyone involved.
When you come from a place of wanting to genuinely help others and are passionate about your offering, I believe that it translates to others. The strong belief in the benefits to other individuals and lawyers is a driving force.
I am an incredibly empathetic person and wish I could offer some direct assistance to everyone experiencing divorce, however, learning to distance yourself from every person’s problem and challenge is difficult. For these reasons, I developed online tools so that I can maximise the reach, support and assistance while having personal space from each individual divorce.
Collectively, this prepared me for working in an area that is often considered taboo. In 2015 alone, there were 48,000 divorces and over 42,000 children affected, showing what a big impact divorce can have, how important it is to be well informed and make the right decisions. It also proves that the divorce process is becoming more and more common. Society is becoming more open to divorce and the benefits of two individuals being amicable and respectful divorced rather than being in an unhappy, fractious relationship. We learn by imparting experiences and knowledge. Similarly, if we have a friend or family member struggling, as a loved one, we have a responsibility to also share supportive information with them.
What does an average day look like for you?
7am – my 8 year old will wake me, already dressed in his school uniform. We then all start the day, dressing, breakfast, packing school bags (lunch is made the night before) and rushing out the door at 7.55am
8am – first school drop off
8.15-8.35am – my 6 year old and I sit in the car outside her school and we read together (to take it away from the afternoon homework), then the second child is at school
8.35-9.10am – I often meet a friend for coffee, collect mail and anything from the supermarket if required, or take a little walk and listen to music.
9.30am-2.30pm – these are the crucial 5 hours of my day to spend in and on the business. It’s been hard getting to the point of not taking distractions!
3pm – school pick up routine begins. Ferrying from extra-curricular also commences if it is on that afternoon. Homework, dinner preparations.
5pm – dinner, dessert, kids shower and quiet time.
6.30pm – kids go to their room to read
7pm – lights out (yes! I look forward to this because it is finally my time to stop being ‘mum’)
7pm-10pm – depending on how productive I have been, any deadlines or pressing items, I may either talk with friends on the phone, have a friend pop in for a tea, work a little more, before retiring for the night around 10pm.
What key thing (or things) would you say have helped drive your career to date?
My children – as a single/sole parent, it is great to demonstrate to them that in the face of adversity great opportunities can be made.
The support of friends and family has also been a great driving force. When in the planning stage and while developing the Divorce Answered, I started to share my idea and vision. Some people cried when they retold their divorce story and wished that they had a website like Divorce Answered to help them. I have heard stories from adults who were children of divorce and they wished that Divorce Answered was around decades ago to assist their parents to come to a more economical and amical divorce. I even had lawyers say that the tools were worthy of them using.
And how do you look after your wellbeing and health outside of work?
Divorce is such a serious, contentious topic. I like to balance it with spirituality and the benefit of healings, music and meditation. There is nothing better than going for a walk, admiring the beauty of the world while listening to an instrumental meditation.
Why do women make great game-changers?
Women have often been told there are limitations to their ability. In light of this, they are accustomed to the constant juggle of being a wife, friend, mother, employee/employer, housekeeper etc. Research today shows that more than 80% of the household chores and domestic responsibilities still fall on the female’s shoulders. Being able to balance so many roles on a daily basis truly demonstrates how and why women are changing the world every day.
What are you reading?
Thrive, by Arianna Huffington
The Scent of You, by Maggie Alderson
Lion, by Saroo Brierley (young reader’s edition), with my 8 year old
Pippy Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren, with my 6 year old
What’s your favourite piece of tech and why?
My mobile phone!! There is so much that we can do and achieve at every moment thanks to our PDAs. If I am driving, I can voice record any inspirations. I can take meetings with me on the run. I can access and upload to social media, respond to emails, read the news and create content. Equally, putting the phone away, placing it on silent and being present with friends, family and my children is a blessing and a convenient feature.
What advice would you like to tell your 18-year-old self?
Take time in each life stage to connect with your authentic-self outside of the definitions of work, family and societal restraints. Find and live your passion. Each day will be more amazing and you won’t ‘work’ a day in your life when you love what you do.
If you want something, go for it and keep striving, even when others say it isn’t possible. Find a way to make your dreams or vision a reality. Life isn’t always easy – without the dark, we can’t appreciate the light; without facing challenges and adversity, we can’t truly appreciate or celebrate our successes and achievements.