What should I do now?
When contemplating the path to separation and beyond, there are so many aspects to consider that it can seem overwhelming. Here are 10 things to keep in mind when you separate.
By Kate Gordon
1. Remain calm
The decisions you make now may have important consequences later. Try not to make decisions in haste. That said, if the safety of you or your children is at risk, do seek immediate assistance from the police.
2. Consider counselling
Counselling can help parents to work through parenting issues or other problems resulting from separation. This can be either individual or joint, and may assist the parties to work through the issues in a supportive and non-adversarial environment.
3. Consider mediation
A mediator is a third party who meets with you and your spouse/partner to help find a solution to your dispute. It is good idea to seek legal advice before attending mediation. If you reach an agreement during a mediation session, your lawyer can assist you to formalise the agreement. This way you know that your agreement will be enforceable by the Court.
4. Seek legal advice
A family lawyer will be able to give you the information you need to act in your own best interests. Most matters can be settled by negotiation, without the need to go to Court.
Do not rely on the experience of friends and relatives who have had relationship problems. Every situation is unique.
Lawyer’s fees vary from firm to firm. Your lawyer must provide you with a costs estimate up-front and provide you with regular cost updates.
5. Keep copies of all documents and letters
Keep all records that relate to your financial circumstances and correspondence from your lawyer in a safe place. Take them to work or leave them with someone you trust.
7. Seek legal advice about where you can live
Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to obtain a Court order that gives you sole use and occupation of your home.
If you or your children are not safe in your home, you should consider leaving your home and seeking assistance from the police and a family lawyer. Whether or not you stay in your home will not adversely affect your entitlement to your home.
Remember to take your personal papers and important documents (e.g. marriage and birth certificates, passports, registration papers) if you decide to leave your home. If you need to go back to get your personal papers or belongings but are afraid, you can ask the police to accompany you.
8. If your home is not in your name
If ownership of your home (or other property) is not in your name, seek legal advice from a family lawyer about protecting your interest in your home.
6. Change all your passwords
Change your bank PINs, internet and telephone banking passcodes to ensure money cannot be withdrawn from your account.
You should also change your email and social media passwords and ensure you have strict privacy settings in place.
9. Change your will
If you have separated from your spouse/partner, you should make a new will as soon as possible.
Separation does not automatically invalidate the provisions of your will that relate to your former spouse/partner. This means that, in the absence of a new will, your former spouse/partner may be entitled to benefit under your estate even if you do not wish this to occur.
Upon divorce, any provision in your Will that relates to your former spouse becomes invalid. You should therefore make a new will.
10. Keep things as civil as possible
It is important to be polite in all communication with your former spouse/partner. Keep things as friendly as possible for the sake of you and your children.
This information provides you with a general guide to get you through those first few weeks or months of separation, but do consider seeking legal advice at an early stage to assist with what is typically a difficult and emotional process.
Kate Gordon is a Principal Lawyer at Village Family Lawyers. We provide personalised family law advice and solutions to clients across the Mornington Peninsula, Frankston and Bayside regions. Conveniently located in Mt Eliza, Village Family Lawyers offers a practical and holistic approach to help its clients to move forward after separation.