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Whether the decision was yours or your partners, ending a relationship is rarely easy. Most couples go through a lot of emotional turmoil, not to mention the stress of organising the practical, legal and financial ramifications of separating.
The following article aims to provide simple and practical steps you can take or need to consider once you’ve decided separate.
The date of separation is the first practical step to take. Under Australian law separation is seen as bringing the marriage or de facto relationship to an end. The separation date occurs the day either or both parties express their intention to end the relationship. It is a good idea to document your separation date by putting it in writing so you can demonstrate in the future that the separation was effected on that particular date.
From the date of separation onwards one or both parties move out of the home, or otherwise start living separate lives under the same roof (separate beds, separate domestic responsibilities, separate social lives) an identifiable change in the relationship you once were in.
Related Article: We’ve Separated – Does One Of Us Need To Move Out?
If you have children you must address issues such as:
If you are able to agree on parenting arrangements and develop a Parenting Plan, you will potentially be able to eliminate the need to have the Court determine parenting arrangements on your behalf, which will save you a great deal of time, money and stress.
Related Article: Do You Need A Parenting Plan?
Start to get organised and gather documentation on all your own financial circumstances and any joint finances you have with your former partner.
When it comes to property settlement both parties are required to provide “full and frank financial disclosure”. This means all information and documents that you control or hold that provide evidence of your financial position and net worth.
The types of documents required included but are not limited to:
Related Article: Financial Do’s And Don’ts During Divorce
Early advice from an experienced family lawyer will likely save you a great deal of time and money in the long run. Meeting with a family lawyer early in the separation journey will help you understand the process of divorce, property settlement and child arrangements as well as giving you an understanding of different option like mediation/negotiating that you can choose from to resolve your family law matters.
Following separation, one of the most difficult things to decide is what pathways to take for your separation and divorce. Some different pathways are:
Family Mediation – known as Family Dispute Resolution: This is a great place to start. You will save time and money and develop a working relationship with your co-parent. It can also help you achieve good outcomes quickly and cost-effectively in simple financial matters.
Collaborative Practice – This is a non-adversarial team approach to problem-solving where the parties sign a contract not to go to Court and to put their children first. A team of professionals including financial and child experts assist the whole family to develop parenting arrangements and an asset distribution that meets the needs of the family.
Lawyer Negotiation – When you are time poor or simply do not want to deal directly with the other party, this is a good option. The lawyers conduct the negotiation on your behalf based on your instructions to them. A full day mediation is often scheduled to assist matters to resolve.
Mediation with Lawyers – Sometimes mediation with Lawyers cannot be avoided. When this occurs, you need an experienced team to guide you through the myriad of Court systems and processes. Our years of Court experience ensure you are in good hands and positioned to get the best result.
Kitchen Table – Clients negotiate between themselves to reach agreement and can have us as advisers in the background. Once an agreement is reached we then prepare the necessary documents to put the Agreement into effect and make it legally binding.
Depending on you circumstances there will most likely be joint accounts that you need to keep open for instance home loan or loan servicing account, however be sure to close any joint accounts that are no longer needed once separated. If your former partner is using a joint credit card and runs up a large debit you could be liable for it.
When life changes so must your Will. The separation period is a critical time to update your Will, as marriage separation does not have an effect on your Will. This means that should you fail to update your Will and you die whilst separated, before your divorce is finalised, your spouse may inherit any part of your estate you had previously intended to leave to them. Likewise, if your Will names your spouse as your executor, they will be entitled to take up that role regardless if you wanted them to or not.
Related Article: Marriage, Divorce and Wills: What You Need To Know
Note: This is general information advice only and does not constitute specific legal advice. If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters, please contact us on 03 9620 0088 or email [email protected]