Separation and all the challenges that follow are daunting, regardless of the stage of life you may be in. It is incredibly easy to become consumed by the emotional turmoil of the situation, which inturn can also make it hard to decipher what to do next, who you should speak with and where you seek help from. These are basic considerations but ones that are important, as they form the foundation of how you move forward in a time of crisis.
First and foremost, your support network is your lifeline. For this reason, it is important that you remain connected with friends, family and healthcare professionals, if needed.
If you have children then you should seek the advice of a lawyer about what kind of post separation care arrangements are appropriate in your circumstances. There are many factors that can influence what kind of care routine could be considered appropriate and which the Court may consider to be ‘in the best interest’ of your children. These factors can commonly include the benefit of the children having a meaningful relationship with both parents, whether there are any dangers posed to the children, the age of the children and the nature of the care arrangements during the relationship. This is not an exhaustive list of factors but rather provides some examples of the topics you will need to speak with your lawyer about to help determine what care arrangements are appropriate in your situation.
Once you have received advice from a lawyer, the next step is to attend mediation. Mediation is a process where an independent third party helps you and your former partner to find common ground and hopefully reach an agreement in respect to care arrangements. The advice received from your lawyer prior to mediation is important, as it will assist you to negotiate a care arrangement that is child focused and within the scope of what would be considered by the Court to be reasonable in your circumstances. The step of mediation should only bypassed in limited situations, such as urgent matters regarding the safety of the children which need to be dealt with by the Court without delay.
In addition to matters relating to children, there is also the issue of joint property and finances. If you are amicable with your former partner, you should try to work together to form what is called an ‘agreed asset pool’. This is essentially a list of all of your assets and liabilities (regardless of whether the asset is only registered in one of your names) with an agreed value for each item. If the value of any item is not agreed, then list the different values you both attribute to that item. An official valuation may need to be obtained for any item the value of which is not be agreed.
The process of determining the pool and any assets the value or which are agreed (or even disagreed) can save you considerable time and expense, as this is the first step a lawyer will take to provide you with advice about your matter. If you have already undertaken this step with your former partner then you and your solicitor can focus on advice about how the asset pool should be divided. There are many considerations to take into account when determining how an asset pool should be divided and everyone’s situations is a little different. As such, it is important that you seek advice regarding your specific situation and entitlements.
If you are unable to determine an agreed asset pool with your former partner prior to speaking with a lawyer, then you should prepare your version of the asset pool prior to the appointment and take with you all supporting documents. This includes your current bank statements, superannuation statements, mortgage statements, credit card statements and any other documents that can confirm the value of an asset or liability within the asset pool. Taking this step will save time during your first appointment with your lawyer, so that more of your appointment can be focused on determining your entitlement.
The next step after receiving advice is to try and negotiate a property settlement with your former partner, based around the advice you have received from your lawyer about your entitlements. This can be undertaken in several ways, as you may wish to negotiate directly with your former partner yourself, attend a private mediation or have a lawyer write to your former partner to commence negotiations. The step taken at this point is largely dependent upon your personal circumstances and what you feel comfortable doing moving forward.
Navigating through a separation is extremely difficult. However, the right support and advice can help you to map your way through and weather the storm. If you would like to speak with me about your specific situation or you would like advice about your next steps, please do not hesitate to make an appointment with me.