Separation is a very stressful time. We are often asked by clients what to do when separating from a partner. There are some important steps that anyone should take to try and make this difficult time a little bit easier on themselves and those around them. From long years of experience the following list is a good start for anyone considering separating from their partner.
The most important step you can take is to speak to a lawyer about all of your rights if you separate from your partner. Experienced family lawyers are very familiar with what needs to be done to protect you and your assets when separating. It is better to see a lawyer at the outset so that you are able to protect yourself and your assets immediately, rather than waiting until after the fact. It is much easier and cheaper to protect your assets when they are still present than after realising they are gone.
Your partner probably knows all of your passwords and has access to your accounts. This needs to be addressed as soon as you are going to leave. All passwords and Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) should be changed. Do not use words or numbers that your partner could guess. Random letters and numbers are you best protection in these circumstances.
Any money that you have is joint funds. You are entitled to retain sufficient for your needs in a bank account in your own name. It is not advisable to take all of the funds from joint bank accounts and leave the other party with nothing. In most circumstances this can cause significant ill will and financial hardship. If funds are required in joint bank accounts to service mortgages or other debt requirements then those funds should remain there unless you will be in significant financial hardship without them.
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 This can be particularly important if there is a redraw on a mortgage and those funds are available to be withdrawn.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.
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.
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.
If you are going to leave, 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.
One of the first things you should do after you separate is make a new will. Separation on its own does not prevent your partner from having rights against your estate.
No one knows what the future holds. In the worst-case scenario, if you pass away suddenly after separation, your partner will have legal rights to administer your estate (if you do not have a will) and will be entitled to a significant portion of the estate, even if that was not your intention.
By having a will you will be able to organise your affairs and make sure that your assets go to whether you want them to, whether it is to children or other family members rather than your partner. Remember however, a partner will retain rights to make a family provision claim against your estate.
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 supernation 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 int 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.
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.
This may be useful in helping you to recall events that have occurred. Separation is a difficult time and dose 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.
It is very easy to fall into the trap of having very bad relations with your partner when you separate. It is tempting to fight and argue about all manner of issues from the very important to the very trivial.
The best advice that can be given in these situations is to try to avoid this at all costs. The more ill will there is between you the more difficult it will be to try and resolve parenting and or property matters with your partner.
It is much cheaper and less stressful if you are able to maintain a working relationship with your partner. Remember, your partner will be much less likely to reach an agreement to settle if you are constantly fighting with each other.
This is the first and also the last piece of advice you should consider when separating. That is how important this point is. If your partner has engaged a lawyer, you will be at a significant disadvantage if you do not. A lawyer’s responsibility is to obtain the best outcome possible for their client only. Your partner’s lawyer will not consider your needs or interests. Their only focus will be on the outcome for their client.
We at ReesLaw have many years of experience dealing with separation and protecting client’s property and rights in those circumstances. If you are considering separating the above suggestions are a good starting point for protecting yourself.
This advice however is only general and does not address your specific circumstances. By making an appointment with one of our experienced family lawyers you will have the confidence in knowing that every step will be taken to protect you. Please call today.
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