Uncertainty and confusion can dominate your thoughts during a separation, but they don’t have to if you seek early advice. TGB lawyer Alexandra Svenson explains why seeing a lawyer immediately after separation could be your smartest move.
In the immediate aftermath of separation it’s difficult to know where to start. Property, finances, children, emotions – all are in a vulnerable state of flux. One of the smartest things you can do to protect yourself and your family, as well as safeguard your entitlements, is to see a family lawyer as quickly as possible.
Seeking early advice from a family lawyer, even if your split is amicable, will provide you with invaluable tips to protect your finances and put proper care arrangements in place for your children. This can save you from facing bigger problems in the future – and may even save you a lot of legal fees.
Childrens’ Care Arrangements
In most cases, as long as it is safe and the care arrangements are practical, your children should to continue to have a meaningful relationship with both parents.
However, from the start of your separation, it is important you don’t agree to care arrangements that aren’t in the children’s best interests or put their safety at risk. If, at first, you allow your children to stay overnight and/or have unsupervised time with your former partner but later wish to change this arrangement it will be difficult to do so unless a significant change in circumstances has occurred that now means your children would be at risk.
It is also important to ensure that you keep a positive relationship with the children and that you do not involve them in the difficult aspects of your separation.
Where the children and your former partner have passports or are citizens of another country, it can be important to seek advice on the potential risks of your children leaving the country.
Ultimately the care arrangements for your children following your separation should be based on what is in their best interests.
The financial stress of separation can be softened if you take steps to protect your assets, and the best way to do this is by seeking early legal advice. There are a number of measures you can take to preserve your asset pool prior to formalising your property settlement with your former partner.
This can include making your joint bank accounts “two to sign” for withdrawals greater than, for example, $500 so that neither one of you can spend large amounts of joint funds without both parties agreeing to the withdrawal.
It is important to consider whether any of your properties are in your former partner’s name only. If your name is not on the title, your former partner could sell, mortgage, refinance or otherwise deal with the property without your knowledge. If you are in this position you should consider seeking advice about lodging a caveat over the property to protect your interest in it.
You should, as much as possible, avoid purchasing another property, or any other significant asset, after separation until you have formalised your property settlement with your former partner. This is because your former partner could have an interest in your new property even if it was purchased after you separated.
Make sure you have copies, or photographs, of all of you and your former partner’s financial documents including bank statements, superannuation statements, tax documents, payslips and trust or company documents so that you are well-informed of each of your financial positions.
Other important steps that are often overlooked include updating your Binding Death Nominee (BDN) for your superannuation and your nominated beneficiary for your life insurance. Your BDN and your insurance beneficiary may be your former partner and if you do not change them your super and life insurance will automatically pass to them upon your death, even if you are separated.
You may want to store any sentimental or valuable personal items in a safe place, possibly away from the family home.
There may be other measures you need to take in your individual situation and you should seek advice from a family lawyer as soon as possible. Being armed with knowledge about your legal rights and obligations can help you to make the right choices and avoid situations that have the potential to harm your settlement.
Tindall Gask Bentley’s family law team have helped thousands of clients successfully navigate the turbulent waters of separation. If you need assistance book an appointment at your nearest office today, or register your details here and we’ll be in touch soon.