What To Do When Separating From Your Partner
So, you are separating from your partner.
You’re probably wondering what happens next.
Ian Shann of Move On Mediation in Perth has created this handy list of what to do when you separate.
Note the Separation Date
Knowing the date you are separating from your partner may be important.
If you are married, you have to be separated for 12 months before you can commence divorce proceedings.
That does not mean you have to wait 12 months before seeking a property settlement or getting arrangements in place for your children – either of these can be done any time after you separate.
And you don’t have start proceedings in the Family Court to finalise a financial settlement or put arrangements in place for your children – you can organise that through mediation if necessary.
Do a Financial Stocktake
Understand your asset and liability situation. Try to put together a spreadsheet of what you won and what you owe.
This could include the family home, cars, furniture and possessions, savings, investments, superannuation and any business interests.
Make a list of all your debts and liabilities, such as mortgages, personal loans, car loans and credit card balances.
Know where you stand financially at the time of separation and keep track of what is happening with bank balances and credit arrangements.
Collect Important Documents
Make sure you have copies of all your important legal documents.
- Marriage and birth certificates
- Bank statements
- Superannuation statements
- Insurance policies
- Car registration documents
- Tax returns
- Health insurance policies.
Originals are best, but copies are fine. Just make sure you have records of as many of these documents as you can access.
Consider Getting a PO Box
If you have concerns about your ex-partner intercepting or accessing your mail, consider getting a PO Box for your mail.
There is a small annual fee for PO boxes, but that may be a small price to pay for privacy and to ensure that you get mail directed to you.
Adjust Your Banking Arrangements
If you currently have a joint account for earnings and regular outgoings, consider moving your salary payments to an individual account so you can operate separate finances over which you have control.
You may want to close your joint accounts and only operate individual accounts.
Work Out A New Budget
You’re probably going to have to re-appraise your financial arrangements.
Look at what needs to be paid regularly and anything that may need to change as a result of the change in your circumstances.
Work Out Child Care Arrangements
If you have children, you’ll need to make sure they are cared for. Who will do the school drop off and pick up? Will they need to go to day care or before and after school care?
Speak to the Child Support Agency and Centrelink about payments and support you may be entitled to as a single parent.
Advise your children’s school that you have separated and if there are any parenting orders or court orders in place.
Consider whether you need to advise any lenders that you are separated. This may be a useful step if your ex-partner stops making required payments on loans for which you may both be legally liable.
Update Your Will
If you know you won’t be getting back together, you need to update your will and any power of attorney/guardianship documents.
Separation of itself does not change the provisions of an existing will – you need to do that yourself.
Update Policy Beneficiaries
Update your life insurance policies and superannuation beneficiaries if your ex-partner is the beneficiary.
Get Legal Advice
Getting family law advice is a good way to discover what you may be legally entitled to and what are the relevant matters to consider upon separation and/or divorce.
Decide On New Living Arrangements
You may feel like you cannot live together after your separation but think carefully before leaving the family home.
There may be some strategic advantages in remaining where you are, at least until appropriate arrangements have been resolved between you and your ex-partner.
Getting legal advice before leaving the family home is a good idea.
Without a Court order of some kind you cannot force your ex-partner to move out and they are in the same boat, even if the property or mortgage is only in one person’s name.
Stay Civil & Get Matters Resolved
And, whatever you do, try to remain civil when separating from your partner..
Here are a few things to avoid:
- sending emails/texts/voicemails that you may later regret;
- talk badly of your ex in front of your kids/acquaintances/family;
- destroy or damage property, for instance photos or keepsakes.
Escalating the conflict will only cost you in the long term.
Get matters settled as soon as you can and as amicably as possible so everyone can move on with their lives.
Ian Shann is the principal mediator and director of Move On.
Move On offers affordable and effective mediation in Perth for separating couples.
Ian’s commitment is simple.
To help keep separated couples out of the Family Court and minimise their need for lawyers, saving them time, money and anguish.
Under Ian’s guidance, separated couples are able to Move On with their lives through family mediation.