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    I have just separated, what should I do now?

    ReesLaw Separation Lawyers Toowoomba and the Darling Downs

    I Have Just Separated What Should I Do Now

    I have just separated, what should I do now?

    ReesLaw Separation Lawyers Toowoomba and the Darling Downs

    What to Consider When Separating

    Going through a separation can be an incredibly challenging and difficult time in anyone’s life. Whether you have just decided to separate or if the decision was made for you, there are some important steps and considerations to keep in mind to navigate this process as smoothly as possible.

    Seek Legal Advice

    One of the first things you should do when you separate is to consult with a qualified family lawyer. They can provide you with crucial legal advice tailored to your specific situation. Family lawyers can explain your rights and responsibilities under Australian family law, guide you through the legal processes, and help you make informed decisions.

    Consider Personal Safety Domestic Violence, Difficult Times & Safety Considerations

    If you or your children have experienced family violence or domestic violence, it’s vital to prioritize your safety. Reach out to local support services or helplines for assistance. You may need to take immediate steps to obtain protection orders or restraining orders to protect yourself and your children from any further harm. A domestic violence protection order, also known as a restraining order, can provide legal protection against an abusive partner. This order can stipulate various restrictions, such as prohibiting contact, establishing boundaries, and ensuring the safety of you and your children.

    Living Arrangements

    Living arrangements play a vital role in the aftermath of a separation or divorce. When a relationship ends, one of the first and most significant considerations is where each party will live moving forward. This decision can have a profound impact on various aspects of your life, including your emotional well-being, financial stability, and the upbringing of any children involved.

    Take your sentimental possessions

    If you are going to leave the home, look at it from the point of view that you may never set foot on the property again.  Take anything that is sentimentally important to you.  You may never see those items again.  Frequently such important possessions go missing after a party leaves the home, and are never found.

    Redirect your mail

    The last thing you want is your partner having the opportunity to read your mail, particularly if it is from your lawyer.  Mail redirection is a simple process and should be attended to immediately on separation.

    Secure you important documents

    Your driver’s license, passport, marriage certificate, birth certificate and any similar documents should be gathered and stored in a safe place separate from where you were living.  These identity documents are needed for many important purposes such as opening a new bank account, apply for a driver’s license, or renting or buying a property.  If you have children, and they have passports, you should consider taking those as well if you are concerned about your partner taking the children overseas.

    Speak to your bank

    Most people will have a mortgage or other financial responsibilities.  It is important to let your bank know that you have separated.  Mortgage and credit card accounts can be locked, requiring the authorisation of both parties to allow for any changes to the accounts.   This can be particularly important if there is a redraw on a mortgage and those funds are available to be withdrawn.  Informing the bank and requiring joint authorisation will protect those funds.

    Seek Emotional Support

    Separating from a partner can take an emotional toll, and it is important to seek support from professionals or support groups who can help you navigate the emotional challenges that come with this transition. Therapists or counsellors specializing in divorce or relationship breakdowns can provide you with coping strategies and emotional support during this challenging time.

    Keep Communication Civil

    It is understandable that emotions can run high during a separation, but it is crucial to maintain a civil and respectful approach when communicating with your ex-partner. This is especially important when discussing important matters such as property settlements or child custody arrangements. Clear and respectful communication can help avoid unnecessary conflict and potentially lead to smoother negotiations.

    Make a will

    Creating a will is one of the most important legal documents you can have. If you have a will it typically will give all of your assets to your now separated partner. Should you pass away before you have a legally binding property settlement, there is a considerable risk that your assets will go to your former partner, and not how you would wish. Taking the time to make a will can provide you with peace of mind knowing that your loved ones are taken care of.

    Evaluate Financial Situation

    Separation often brings financial challenges. Take the time to review your financial situation, including joint accounts, debts, and assets. Consider closing any joint credit cards or bank accounts to ensure financial independence. Seek financial advice to manage joint debts, personal loans, or credit card accounts accumulated during the relationship.

    Secure your bank accounts

    It is crucial to protect your financial interests during this time. Change any passwords associated with your bank accounts to prevent unauthorized access. If needed, consider opening new accounts solely in your name to establish your independent financial identity.

    Contact your superannuation fund/insurance agency

    With most people, the biggest asset that they have, apart from their home, is their superannuation.  You should change your death benefit nominations with the superannuation fund if your partner is listed as the beneficiary.  There are two types of nominations when it comes to superannuation when you die, non binding nominations and binding nominations.  

    A non binding nomination is one which the superannuation fund will take in o account but will conduct their own investigation as to the circumstances of the parties and decide what is the most appropriate distribution.

    The same advice applies to life insurance if you have any.  Make sure that you update who the beneficiary is.

    Change your Enduring Power of Attorney

    If you have an Enduring Power of Attorney, it is wise to remove your partner from the document.  Separation does not prevent a partner from acting as an attorney if they are listed in it.  You must either revoke the power of attorney or execute a new one appointing new attorneys.  Otherwise, your partner will retain the authority to make decisions particularly about your financial affairs depending on the terms of the document.

    Keep a diary

    This may be useful in helping you to recall events that have occurred.  Separation is a difficult time and does not need to be made more difficult by being unbale to recall important events or facts.  This can be particularly useful in matters relating to children.

    Financial Assistance

    If you are facing financial hardship or need support to meet your financial obligations during the separation process, various forms of financial assistance may be available. Consider reaching out to government agencies such as Services Australia to inquire about available support programs or financial assistance options. Additionally, financial counselling services can provide guidance on managing your finances and help develop a budget during this transitional period.

    Spousal Maintenance

    You may also be entitled to spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance is a form of financial support provided by one spouse to the other following separation. It is typically awarded when a spouse is unable to support themselves adequately due to factors such as age, health, or caring responsibilities. The amount and duration of spousal maintenance depend on various factors, including the financial resources and needs of each party.

    Child Support

    The well-being of children is a top priority during a separation. Child support is designed to ensure that both parents contribute financially to their children’s upbringing and day-to-day expenses. The amount of child support payable is typically calculated based on each parent’s income, the number of children, and the amount of time they spend with each parent. It is essential to communicate and cooperate with your ex-partner to determine a fair and realistic child support arrangement

    Consider the long-term implications

    While it’s essential to address the immediate financial concerns arising from separation, it’s equally important to consider the long-term implications. Take into account factors such as future financial goals, retirement planning, and the potential impact on your financial stability. Working with a financial advisor can help you develop a strategy to secure your financial future.

    Understand Family Law Property Settlements:

    If you were in a de facto relationship or married, a property settlement is a critical aspect of separation. Consult with your family lawyer to understand the legal implications and explore options for dividing assets, debts, and financial resources. Ensuring your rights and entitlements are protected during this process is crucial.

    Financial disclosure:

    Transparency is key when it comes to financial arrangements following separation. Both parties must provide full and accurate financial disclosure to ensure a fair outcome. This includes disclosing all assets, liabilities, income, expenses, and any relevant financial documentation. Failing to do so can negatively impact the resolution process and potentially lead to legal consequences.

    Division of assets and debts:

    When it comes to dividing property and debts, it’s advisable to approach this process with an open mind and a focus on fairness. Work together with your ex-partner, if possible, to negotiate a mutually satisfactory arrangement. If amicable negotiations are not possible, legal intervention may be required to determine a just division of assets and debts. Remember that factors such as financial contributions, future needs, and the welfare of any children involved will be taken into account.

    Discuss Parenting Arrangements:

    If you have children, creating a practical and child-focused parenting plan should be a priority. Collaborate with your former partner to determine arrangements for custody, visitation rights, and important decisions regarding the children’s upbringing. Family dispute resolution or mediation can be helpful in reaching a mutually agreed-upon plan that benefits the children.

    Time Limits and Court Procedures

    When going through a separation or divorce, understanding the time limits and court procedures associated with legal processes is essential. One of the first things to consider is the time limit for filing important legal documents. For example, if you are seeking a divorce, a party must be separated for a period of twelve months before you can file an application for divorce. When it comes to a family law property settlement, there are also time limits that apply:

    1. A party to a marriage must obtain a legally binding property settlement within 12 months of a divorce being made final; and

    2. a party to defacto relationship has two years which to obtain a legally binding property settlement.

    Failing to adhere to these time limits may result in a party losing their right to a family law property settlement, causing significant hardship.

    Participate in family mediation

    Separating couples are encouraged to participate in mediation to try and resolve their parenting and property issue and so avoid the trauma of going through the court process.  Mediation (more commonly known as family dispute resolution or FDR in family law) involves the parties voluntarily working with an independent  mediator.  The mediator’s task is to assist the parties to safely communicate and negotiate with each other to resolve their differences. 

    Mediation can in many cases result in agreement between the parties without the need to go to court.  Unfortunately, the process does not work for everyone.  Where agreement cannot be reached, parties will need to explore other options to settle their parenting and property issues.

    Formalise any agreements

    If financial arrangements for a family law property settlement have been agreed upon, it’s essential to formalise them legally under Australian family law. This may involve obtaining consent orders or entering into a binding financial agreement. Seek legal advice to ensure that the necessary legal requirements and documentation are met. Formalizing the arrangements provides certainty and protects both parties’ rights and interests.

    While these are important first steps to consider remember, every separation is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Take the time to consider your individual circumstances, seek professional advice, and find the support you need to navigate this challenging experience. With the right resources and support, you can move forward and create a new path for yourself after separation.

    Consulting with an experienced family lawyer will provide tailored guidance for your situation and help you navigate the complexities of separation with confidence.  ReesLaw has many years’ experience as Toowoomba family lawyers, providing advice to parties who have already are about to separate.  If you require advice about separation call our office today for a consultation.

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