This guide, by family lawyer Renee O’Callaghan, is designed to prepare you for the very first steps after deciding to separate from your partner.
What are my legal options?
Before you embark on the journey of separation you may have some unrealistic concepts as to what is involved. The thought of going to a lawyer can be overwhelming and may seem like an expensive exercise. This does not need to be the case.
Obtaining legal advice about the options available to you can be more cost effective in the long term. Options such as collaborative divorce, mediation and conflict resolution can be ways to minimise legal costs.
Do your homework!
It is highly recommended that you obtain as many financial documents as possible.
Collating your documents, and your spouses’, is helpful when attending your first appointment with your lawyer.
You may wish to consider obtaining the following documents:
– Tax returns
– Banks statements
– Pay slips
– Superannuation statements
– Trust Deeds/Company constitutions
– Valuations for real property such as real estate/motor vehicles
– Share values
It is also helpful to prepare a list of the assets and liabilities of the relationship.
You may find that if you do not gather as much of this information prior to separation, once negotiations or a decision about your property is underway, such information may not be forthcoming or readily accessible.
Gather up all valuables and items of sentimental value
In my experience, it is far too common for parties to argue over furniture or items of sentimental value. Either keep a list of the items you wish to retain from the former matrimonial home or gather them up and give them to a trusted family member or friend for safekeeping, and document that you have done so.
Family pets are also another ‘item’ of sentimental value and should you wish to retain the family pet then moving it to safekeeping may be an option.
Safeguarding the sentimental items prior to broaching the subject of separation may save you costs and heartache in instructing your lawyer to attempt to recover them later down the track.
You may wish to consider whether you want to continue living in the former matrimonial home, the costs associated with living on your own, the costs associated with maintaining any mortgage repayments, incidental costs associated with the former matrimonial home, as well as the costs associated with looking after dependents under the age of 18 years versus your income.
Consider your children
It is important that you try to maintain quality relationships with your children. If you intend to leave the former matrimonial home then communicate this with your spouse and advise them that you wish to continue a healthy and meaningful relationship with the children. Reassure the children that despite you living somewhere else you still love and care for them, and that you will always be available to them.
If you have school aged children, get involved in their schooling. Help them get ready for school, have breakfast with them, guide them with their homework and attend their extra curriculum activities.
Learn who their teachers and friends are.
Be involved in their lives as much as possible and learn as much as you can about your children.
Start to take proactive steps to secure yourself financially
You may wish to withdraw your share of funds from any joint bank accounts. You should get some advice as to the amount to withdraw and the potential consequences before doing so.
Close any unnecessary credit cards and/or loan facilities. Don’t make any unnecessary purchases. Make do with what you have until final property settlement is concluded.
Tell those who need to be told
Once you have prepared yourself for separation, tell your spouse that you intend to separate. Gently tell your children in a way that will not involve them in ‘grown up’ discussions. Only tell your children what they need to know.
Hopefully these tips will assist in preparing you for separation so that you can move forward with your life. For more information contact your nearest TGB office.