What Should I Do Before I Separate?

When your relationship ends it can be incredibly overwhelming dealing with the day to day issues without adding legal problems on top of that but you should think about what to do before you separate. When there are children and houses and arguments it can seem like there is no way you are going to resolve anything but we promise, you will. Don't be overwhelmed by what is ahead; it is very achievable to resolve your matter and move on with your life. We have compiled some useful tips below that will help you in preparing to finalise your separation.

For Parenting Disputes

  • Ensure that you have the children's birth certificates and passports in your possession.
  • Think about what the current parenting arrangement is and whether you would like that to change moving into the future. Once the status quo has been set, it can be extremely difficult to change that in the months to come so ensure that you are happy with the parenting arrangements to stay as they are until you have resolved things on a final basis
  • Consider enrolling yourself and the children in counselling. Separation is a difficult time for everyone, particularly on young children who don't have the emotional intelligence to cope with what is happening. Giving them someone independent to talk to from the beginning can help them before any damage is done to their mental health.
  • Apply for child support and Centrelink straight away if you need to.

For Financial Disputes

  • Make sure you have a copy of all important financial documents. You will need paperwork such as title deeds, superannuation information, bank account and credit card statements, pay slips, tax returns, and valuations of the home or vehicles.
  • While you should separate your finances as much as possible after separation, sometimes that is not practical. In that circumstance, you need to make arrangements about who is paying joint bills or debts and keep a record of any payments that you make. As always, you should put everything in writing.
  • You will need to take the time to sit down and figure out what you believe your assets and liabilities are. Write a list of all your assets and liabilities and what you believe the approximate value is for each of those. This is to enable you to understand what resources are available to you (called the property pool) and what exactly you are going to be dividing
  • If you are leaving the house, you should take your furniture and personal effects with you as it can be challenging to try and retrieve items once they are out of your possession. If leaving furniture and other items in the home, it is a good idea take photos of what is in the house and what state the house is in just in case there is a dispute in the future.

Do Your Research

  • Before you get legal advice, it is a good idea to understand how separations solicitors work and how to pick the right lawyer for you have a look at our pages What should I ask a lawyer? and How much does a lawyer cost? to help.
  • Try to get a bit of an understanding about your options and the process before speaking with a lawyer or before trying to settle your matter with your former spouse. While it can be confusing, having a general idea about terminology and process will help you ask your lawyer more specific questions and will help you do as much as you can yourself. Have a look at our How To Guides and Frequently Asked Questions for more information about the Family Law process.

General Tips

  • If you can, stay in the matrimonial premises. Once you leave, it can be extremely difficult for you to return if you wish to do so.
  • Ensure that you have severed ties to your previous partner as much as you can. For example, change your will, any power of attorneys, your beneficiary on your life insurance and superannuation, your passwords and your joint bank accounts.
  • Speak with a lawyer, at least for one consultation. If you don't have the finances to engage legal representation, or you just don't want one, you should at least have one meeting with a lawyer to understand your legal rights and what position you are in. If you are going tonegotiate with your former partner yourself, you need to have some good advice to understand what your position is.

We provide free, no-obligation initial consultations with an experienced family lawyer to help get you started. Contact us for more information or to book a free legal advice session.

Our focus is on achieving your goals; resolving your case in the most stress-free and cost effective way possible. At our first meeting, we will discuss what your ideal outcome would be for your case and work out a plan to achieve that for you. Sometimes simply negotiating through lawyers is the solution, sometimes parties need to attend mediation for some help. Occasionally the only solution is lodge an application in court in order to fight what is in your, or your children's, best interests.

While our aim is to resolve your problems amicably and harmoniously, we know that sometimes you need someone to stand up for you and that is what we do. This does not necessarily mean that you will end up in court; we are experienced in negotiation strategies that will obtain the best result for you without needing to say "we'll see you in court". If it appears that court proceedings are the best, or only, option for you, our lawyers have extensive experience in court advocacy and are confident we will achieve the best result possible in court.

This information does not constitute legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer to obtain independent legal advice relevant to your situation.

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