Beginning the process of separation after many years with your partner can be daunting, particularly when children are involved (for more information about parenting matters, see Co-parenting). A great deal of the stress arises from not knowing what you do not know.
Ramsden Lawyers understand the importance of discretely seeking confidential legal advice in contemplation of separation, even if you are not completely certain that you can or will go through with the separation. By educating yourself on your various entitlements (see Property Settlement), you will be in a far more favourable position when you begin to negotiate the terms of your property settlement and/or parenting arrangements.
THE FIRST STEP: SEEK COUNSELLING
The first step is to figure out whether your relationship actually has broken down irretrievably, or whether the problems can be remedied. Remember, once you have begun the separation process, it cannot easily be ‘reversed’.
If you are uncertain about separation, we strongly recommend that you seek marriage, family or individual counselling.
A counsellor can help you decide whether divorce or separation is the answer to your problems, or whether the issues can be worked through. Counselling can help couples restore intimacy, increase communication, work through trust issues and implement strategies to reduce arguments. If counselling is unable to resolve the issues, a counsellor can assist with ensuring that the separation is done amicably and compassionately by providing emotional and practical steps to assist the transition into separate lives. If you would like a referral to a counsellor that will be best suited to your individual needs or the needs of your family, please contact our family law department.
WHAT SHOULD I KEEP IN MIND IF I AM CONTEMPLATING SEPARATION?
Once you have decided to separate from your partner, there are particular matters you should keep in mind. There is only benefit in beginning to protect yourself and your interests (and the interests of your children) moving forward.
We recommend keeping the following matters in mind:
- Keep a diary as evidence of the date of separation. This will be relevant for:
Applying for a divorce;
Ensuring you are within the time limit to bring proceedings in a de facto relationship; and
When calculating post-separation contributions.
- Contact your local post office and have all of your mail redirected to your work or set up a private PO Box. You want to ensure that all important mail (infringement notices, car registration renewal, voting information, etc.) is within your control, and that you do not miss important payments or tasks because you did not receive the mail.
- Consider your accommodation options and whether you will remain in the property (and if you can afford to do so). If there are children involved, you should consider who they will live with, bearing in mind that it is usually in the child’s best interests to minimise disruption and allow them to remain in the matrimonial property.
- Consider how your former partner is likely to react when you communicate your intention of separating, and whether there is any risk of domestic violence (particularly if there are any children involved).
- Begin to get your finances in order. For example:
- Set up a separate bank account and re-direct your income or Government pensions;
- Educate yourself in respect to what bills are paid regularly;
- Check who the account holder is for all of the family accounts – internet, home phone, mobile, electricity, Netflix, etc. If necessary, change the account holder to the person who intends to keep using the account after separation;
- Ensure your mobile phone is in your name so that your former partner cannot access your phone records. Phone accounts can also be difficult to ‘switch over’ to your sole name without the account holder’s authority, so this should be done when things are amicable;
- Collate financial records such as tax returns, important invoices, trust deeds, Business Activity Statements, etc (this will establish history of contributions and various transactions paid on behalf of or by either party);
- If you and your former partner use the same accountant or financial adviser, advise them of your intention to separate and to keep all personal information separate moving forward.
- If there are children involved and you are not the primary care taker of any children, ensure that you are aware of school teachers, medical professionals, etc. and begin (discretely) informing them of the separation when necessary.
- Protect your online identity by changing passwords, backing up your computer with a different log-in, and removing personal documents from joint computers.
- Consider whether you need to protect your assets (see asset protection).
We note that you should not be underhanded in attempting to conceal anything from the court or from your former partner. Moving forward, you have a duty of disclosure, that will require you to be open and honest about your financial position.
At Ramsden Lawyers, we offer confidential consultations so that you can be informed and armed with enough knowledge to make appropriate decisions in relation to separation.