real life

Cathrine Mahoney and what nobody says about getting divorced.

Simple Separation
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“There’s no two ways about it. Divorce is not like a wedding. The wedding is the good bit, the divorce is not as good." 

For someone who went through a very public marriage breakdown after a very public marriage to one of Australia’s highest profile sport stars, Cathrine Mahoney is unequivocally candid in talking about it. 

For 13 years, the former publicist was married to Newcastle Knights halfback Andrew ‘Joey’ Johns. Their separation and eventual divorce in December 2014 came two weeks before Cathrine turned 40. 

“You don't say ‘I do’ to then be a divorce stat,” the now 48-year-old and author of the book, Currently Between Husbands, told Mamamia. “And you don’t know what you don’t know until you go through a divorce.”

Having no one to show her the ropes of splitting from a spouse, Cathrine bumped along a road that can often be filled with stress and anxiety, costly legal processes, and heartbreaking impacts on children. 

“There are days you can’t actually see the wood for the trees, and things don’t always go as quickly as you’d like,” the mother of one explained. “But it gets easier and you get through all of it, and life goes on and it’s changed, but it doesn’t mean it’s not changed for the better.”

Opening up to Mamamia, Cathrine revealed the lessons she’s learned along the way, and what nobody says about getting divorced. 

You need to talk to someone who’s not involved.

“I think it's really important to have, whether it's legal advice or whether it's a therapist, people that aren't connected to you that can be a bit more black and white when you need black and white,” Cathrine explained. 


“Then you can just sit down on a therapist’s sofa and blurt for an hour without having to put that on your parents or your friends, and just be able say it all out loud.” 

She said it’s the same for the legal side.

“It's great to talk to other people who have been through a divorce about the dos and don'ts and what's going to happen, but I think you can get yourself into a Google rabbit hole or a bit of a confused state because lots of situations are different,” she said. 

“When it comes to the legal stuff, it's just better to go to someone that knows and works in that space for advice. 

“Someone that can take the emotions out of it.” 

A service like Simple Separation, Australia’s original leading online provider of divorce and separation services. 

They provide affordable mediation, financial settlements, parenting plans, divorce, wills, prenuptial agreements and conveyancing to help couples achieve a respectful and legal separation – much quicker than traditional methods, and at a fraction of the cost.

Cathrine says Simple Separation’s online service is a “fabulous” solution to guide and support Aussie couples through the separation process amicably. 

“They have lots of different services that they offer, so it’s a bit of a one-stop shop, and I think it would be a great option for couples,” she said. “They’ve got everything in one spot, they’re across all of it, and everything they need to know.” 


You need to keep things private to save your energy.

While Cathrine had a support network of “beautiful” family and friends around her when the “wheels fell off”, she was mindful not to lean on them too much because it can be “really stressful”. 

“Otherwise you can put so much energy into retelling a story or situation or part of the separation and that’s exhausting,” she warned, adding that it comes at a time when you really need your energy. 

Especially if you’re suddenly a solo parent. 

“You need your energy for you, for the job that you potentially have, and your child or children,” Cathrine explained. 

“So just be really mindful of leaking energy left, right and centre, and just try to keep in a really tight-knit circle of people that love you and who are going to cotton wool you for this period.”

The rug will be pulled out from under your feet.

For Cathrine, the hardest parts of her separation were the moments when she didn't expect the pain to hit. 

The times that would “pull the rug out from under your feet”. 

“I remember going to change my Medicare card back to my maiden name and bursting into tears with a stranger at Medicare,” the mother-of-one said. “And you're like, oh God, I can't believe I've cried.”

“Or it was when having to say to the teacher, ‘We're going to need two reports going home now and actually, we're going to need two meetings at parent teacher time’.”  


Then there were turning points at the playground with her then five-year-old son, when she felt like she had a sign over her head reading ‘solo parent’. 

“It was also having a panic when I thought I'd lost my engagement ring because it was something that was on my finger for 13 years, and then being like, ‘oh no, I'm not married anymore’,” Cathrine explained.  

“Strange things set you off, while other things don't bother you.” 

You will feel incredibly lonely.

For parents who suddenly go from being a tight family unit to completely on their own with the children, or totally alone, it can be tough.

”That's really difficult for a parent to suddenly not be putting their child to bed or be in the house every day with them,” Cathrine said. “It’s difficult not being with your child when you're used to it, but you have to let it go and know that when they're with their dad or mum that they’re with the other person that loves them just as much as you do.”

While on the days she was alone, Cathrine tried to surround herself with others. 

“Being at the gym just meant that I was around people,” she said. “The music would be pumping, and there’d be the endorphins from the exercise, and I just felt so much better.” 

You won’t want to go out.

“You won’t want to leave the house a lot of the time,” Cathrine warned, “but I always say to people to keep their dance card full.” 

“Say yes to everything, because it’s better to be going to bed exhausted than sitting on the sofa from 6pm with your jar of gherkins and Netflix on.”


It’s pushing yourself even when you don’t want to. 

“For me, it was about washing my hair, sticking a red lip on, getting dressed every day — even though I felt like balls. For me it was playlists, it was the music, it was dancing in my lounge.” 

Even when her son was with her, Cathrine kept busy. 

“I really made sure when I had Louis that I arranged playdates,” she said. “Stuff with friends with kids, so our dance card was full together.” 

You will lose parental control.

The minute you start co-parenting is the moment you lose control, according to Cathrine.

“You no longer have any control over what happens when they go to their other parent’s,” she explained. 

“You have no control over what they eat and what time they go to bed. You’ve just got to trust that the other person is going to be just as loving towards them and look after them to the same level that you do.”

Solo parenting can be easier. 

While it’s hard yards at times when you have younger children on your own, Cathrine insists that sometimes that makes it easier. 

“You can’t bicker with your partner about who's doing dinner, who's doing baths, who's doing this or who's doing that, when it’s just you,” she explained. “It's actually a lot smoother sailing than maybe it was during the marriage.”

And then there’s her relationship with Louis, who’s now 14. 


“I certainly feel like I have possibly even a stronger bond with my child now because we’re a two,” the 48-year-old said. “And when it's just us, we do the things we love together and just bump along.” 

You will feel like you failed.

When you’re in the trenches of it, there’s no sugarcoating, Cathrine said, “you just feel like you’ve failed at something”. 

“It’s not a great feeling getting your divorce certificate through,” she explained. “You have that, ‘oh god, this is the end of my life’ feeling.” 

“It was two weeks before my 40th when my marriage ended, and I did not see myself approaching my 40s as a solo parent divorcee.” 

But at the end of the day, Cathrine insists that the stigma of feeling like you’ve failed “is all in your head”. 

“You’re not alone, many people are going through it and it’s okay,” she said. “It’s really rubbish at times, but it does get better. And then it gets great. 

“Now I can flip it around and go, no, we didn’t fail. We had 13 years, most of them were fabulous, and we have a beautiful son. That’s just our story.

“It’s just flipping that perspective.”

If you're looking for a quick, stress-free and affordable way to separate legally, book Simple Separation for a free consultation online or call 1300 271 793.

Feature Image: Supplied/Instagram/@cathrinemahoney

Simple Separation
Simple Separation is an affordable alternative for couples to separate amicably. It's an online service offering an end-to-end solution to guide and support Australian couples through the Separation process with a much faster completion time than traditional methods, at a fraction of the cost. Simple Separation works in a unique way compared to the rest of the industry. Separation and divorce packages are entirely customised depending on the couple's situation. Packages can include mediation and legal services, conveyancing, Wills, estate planning and divorce coaching for emotional support. It works on a fixed fee basis and offers generous payment plans.