What To Do After Deciding To Separate


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What To Do After Deciding To Separate

People enter into a relationship with the intention that it will last. The reality though, is that whilst we start a relationship with the best of intentions, life can put up hurdles and some relationships will come to an end. In this blog, we discuss what to do after deciding to separate.

The breakdown of a relationship is incredibly difficult for all parties. It can cause a great deal of emotional stress. The process of deciding to separate is especially difficult when there are children involved.

There are some straightforward steps to keep in mind to reduce the stress involved from making the decision to separate and then navigating the separation process. 

What To Do After Deciding To Separate

Confirm Your Intention To Separate 

Surprisingly, one party will often communicate their intention to separate to everyone else but not have an open and honest conversation with their partner or spouse. Unsurprisingly, this can cause significant hurt and mistrust and a feeling of being blindsided by the other party. 

Communicate your intention to separate, first and foremost, with your partner or spouse. 

Have an open and honest discussion. Do not involve the children or 3rd parties. 

Once you have made the decision to separate and you have communicated this to your partner or spouse, try to consider what practical issues need to be discussed. 

If you are amicable, there should be an open discussion about practical decisions related to separation such as:

  • Living arrangements
  • Managing finances
  • Parenting arrangements
  • Property settlement

Try to discuss things amicably.

Understand Your Financial Situation

It is normal for one partner or spouse to feel in the dark about finances. It is important that both parties have an understanding of and access to information pertaining to financial matters. If both parties can be upfront and engage in what lawyers call disclosure at an early stage, it goes a long way to one partner or spouse feeling that they have some control over their financial future. 

Parties separating should take the approach that there should be more of a “show and tell” approach to disclosure of financial matters, rather than a “hide and seek” approach. 

When you separate, the Family Law Act 1975 provides that both parties must provide full disclosure of their financial position. This includes disclosure of ALL sources of income, financial resources, assets, liabilities and superannuation interests.

To assist in being transparent and reaching an early agreement, start to gather and exchange relevant financial documents with your former partner or spouse. This process works well when parties can effect a mutual exchange of their documentation. 

Here are documents that would assist in ascertaining your financial position:

  • Joint and individual bank account balances and statements for the past 12 months
  • Superannuation balances
  • Any insurance policies
  • Valuations of properties
  • Full details of any assets held in sole or joint names
  • Documents confirming debts and liabilities
  • Loan statements – credit cards, personal loans for the past 12 months
  • Taxation documents for the last 3 years

Ensure to keep the documents in a safe place and provide copies to your former partner and your solicitor.

Agree On (at least) Short-Term Living and Financial Arrangements

Especially when children are involved, it is often not in everyone’s best interests for you all to remain living under the same roof. 

Try to agree on living and financial arrangements, even if only for the short-term.

Decisions need to be made as to who will stay or move out of the family home, who will pay joint liabilities such as household bills, rent, mortgages, child support, and living arrangements for the children.

Consider Family Dispute Resolution or Mediation

Mediation or dispute resolution should be undertaken. 

If the other party is unwilling, ask them to consider the delays in having the matter dealt with by the Courts and the significant costs. 

Family Dispute Resolution is a pre-requisite for any court application relating to parenting.

Developing dispute resolution strategies at an early stage can set the ground rules for parenting arrangements going forward and make it clear to the children that both their parents are on the same page and despite the separation, are still prepared to put the best interests of their children first. 

Statistics support that if a dispute can be resolved through mediation or Family Dispute Resolution, parties feel they have more control over the outcome and there is less likely to be further conflict in the future. It is an excellent way to reduce costs and avoid going to Court.

Talk About How To Tell The Children

Telling the children that their parents are separating may be the most important and challenging things you’ll face when you decide to separate.

Sit down with your former partner or spouse and discuss how you should talk to the children about the situation. It is vital that both parents take a “child-centered” approach. 

Provide the children with the reassurance that both parents love them and that they have nothing to do with the breakdown of the relationship.

Depending on the ages of the children, talk to them about their expectations as to their living arrangements and the practical issues, considering their schooling, friendship group and extra-curricular activities. Talk about how you can ensure that each parent will spend time with them and maintain a meaningful relationship. Always remember to put the children’s best interests as the priority.

What To Do After Deciding To Separate

If you’re considering separation and would like to seek some advice from a leading Family Lawyer who can speak to you about the process, contact us on (07)5574 18888.

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