Dealing With Divorce or Separation? Here Are Some Practical Steps to Take

by | Feb 28, 2024 | Blog, Divorce

Separation, whether in marriage or a de facto relationship, can present emotional challenges and overwhelming feelings. In such difficult times, it is crucial to understand practical steps to protect yourself and your children, even if the separation is amicable. We recognise the complexities involved in separation, and our research provides an inclusive checklist to guide you through this process and make it more manageable.

This checklist is not exhaustive, as everyone’s circumstances are unique. However, implementing these practical steps can provide a starting point for important tasks during this period.

1. Seek Legal Advice From A Family Lawyer

Emotions can sometimes cloud judgement during the early stages of separation. It is essential to make sound and rational decisions. Consultation with an experienced family lawyer will help navigate this process while comprehending the long-term consequences of parenting arrangements and property settlements. On evaluating your situation, a family lawyer can advise on the best course of action and inform you about your legal entitlements regarding property and parenting matters.


2. Organise Parenting Arrangements

If you have children, addressing their needs is one of the most critical steps in the separation journey. In many cases, parents successfully reach agreements without resorting to court proceedings. Consider temporary arrangements before working towards more permanent solutions such as parenting plans or consent orders. Key factors for consideration include living arrangements for children, visitation schedules, schooling plans, and custody of essential documents.


3. Establish An Official Separation Date

Clearly establishing your separation date holds significant importance in family law matters. For marriages, a minimum separation period of 12 months is necessary before pursuing divorce proceedings. For de facto relationships, you have a two-year window from the date of separation to apply for property settlements. Ensure you maintain a written record of when you communicated the end of the relationship to your partner.


4. Decide on Living Arrangements

Deciding on living arrangements during separation can present challenges; having an open and respectful discussion with your partner about this matter is important. Working together on a financial plan that will cover expenses is also advisable. If you and your partner choose to continue living in the same home, it is called “Separation Under One Roof.” In this situation, providing evidence of separation for future proceedings is essential.


5. Gather Personal Belongings

When moving out, gathering important family heirlooms, sentimental items, and personal belongings is crucial before leaving. It is recommended to reach an agreement with your partner regarding the items you intend to take to avoid future disputes.


6. Change Passwords

To protect your privacy and confidential information. Changing passwords for email accounts, social media platforms, financial accounts, and any other online platforms is important. If you previously shared an email account with your partner, consider setting up a separate one.


7. Update Your Postal Address

Updating your postal address will ensure you have private access to your mail. If you are staying in the same home but wish for privacy regarding your mail, consider redirecting it to a trusted friend or family member’s address or obtaining a PO Box.


8. Open a Separate Bank Account (If You Don’t Have One Already)

If you do not already have a separate bank account, opening one after separation can help maintain financial independence. Redirecting post-separation income, such as wages and government payments, into this account can be beneficial.


9. Review Joint Finances

Joint finances should be reviewed collaboratively with your former partner. This may include cancelling joint credit cards and closing joint bank accounts. It is crucial to redistribute savings into individual accounts while being mindful of joint accounts that cannot be closed. Additionally, contributions should be discussed and agreed upon to cover expenses adequately.


10. Gather Important Documents (Either original or copies)

Gathering essential documents in original form or as copies will significantly assist you throughout the legal process. Ensure you collect documents such as marriage certificates (if applicable), proof of separation date, birth certificates, passports, bank statements (joint and separate accounts), credit card statements, and superannuation member statements.

Having these documents readily available will enable you to navigate legal procedures effectively. When going through a divorce or separation. It is important to gather certain documents related to your finances and assets. These documents include cryptocurrency statements, payslips for you and your ex-partner, proof of joint bank accounts and credit cards, insurance policies, and tax returns. Property documents such as lease agreements and mortgage agreements. Additionally, wills and estate-related documents should be included, as well as utility bills and vehicle registration information for cars, boats, or motorbikes. Government benefit documents and receipts of valuation for significant assets are also necessary.

If you have a business, gathering financial documents such as business tax returns and BAS statements is crucial. Financial statements, trust deeds, business bank statements, general ledger accounts and reconciliations should also be included.

Having these documents readily available can protect you in the event of disputes and prevent any attempts to hide assets.


11. Keep a Diary

It is advisable to maintain a detailed diary during this time as well. This diary can serve as valuable evidence in court proceedings. Keep track of discussions, interactions with your ex-partner or spouse along with agreed upon arrangements regarding children or finances. Record any removal or selling of assets along with all financial transactions that take place. Detailed descriptions including time, location and any witnesses involved are vital pieces of information.


12. Inform People and Relevant Organisations

Informing relevant organisations and individuals about your separation is crucial in ensuring a seamless transition. Notify the school where your children attend classes along with banks where joint accounts may exist. Inform family members and friends about the situation too. Other organisations that require notification include Centrelink (if applicable) Medicare services providers like doctors’ offices or hospitals where you receive care from them; the Child Support Agency if applicable; the Australian Tax Office; your workplace; shared accountants or financial advisors if involved.


13. Update Your Insurance Policies, Superannuation and Registrations

Updating insurance policies and registrations is an important step to consider after a divorce or separation has taken place in order to protect yourself from potential claims by your former partner. Transfer policies into the name of the responsible party or cancel joint policies and take out new ones in your name only.


14. Notify Schools, Daycares and Extra Curricular Activities Providers Of Changes and Any Orders In Place

If you have children, even if the split has been amicable, it’s important to let your children’s education providers know the situation. Make sure they have a copy of an interim or final orders in place, and that they have clear information surrounding who can pick the children up, who to notify if there is an emergency and where billing and educational correspondence needs to be sent to.


15 Update Your Next Of Kin and Emergency Contacts

Make sure that your next of kin and emergency contacts are updated if necessary, especially for medical procedures, work and any educational or medical contacts for children involved.


16. Update Utility Accounts

Utility accounts should also be updated accordingly if you or your ex-partner has moved out of the residence. Remove your name from the accounts if necessary and inform your partner about these changes.


17. Update Lease Agreements

Make sure to update the lease agreements with your landlord or property manager if you or your partner are moving out. Additionally, discuss the division of the bond if applicable.


18. Review and Update Your Beneficiaries or Authorities

Review and update your beneficiaries or authorities by updating your will to reflect your current circumstances and changing beneficiaries if needed. Also, take the time to review and modify life insurance policies and superannuation funds accordingly. It is advisable to consult with an estate planning lawyer for proper guidance.


19. Advise Of Name Changes If Necessary

If you (or your children) are changing names, advise all relevant parties – including schools, and financial institutions and update legal documents to reflect this. If you have used a hyphenated surname or changed your surname, you will either need to provide copies of your birth certificate, marriage certificate and divorce paperwork, or seek a formal change of name if it was originally changed through the Births, Deaths and Marriages registry.


20. Review and Update Automatic Payments

It is essential to review and update automatic payments for subscriptions and services. Determine who will be responsible for each account and make any necessary changes.


21. Create a Detailed List of All Assets and Liabilities

Create a detailed list of all assets and liabilities regardless of ownership. This comprehensive list will be crucial during property settlement negotiations.


22. Create a Record and Supporting Evidence of Financial & Non-Financial Contributions

Create a record and supporting evidence of financial and non-financial contributions made during the relationship. Keep track of payments, household expenses, and any improvements made to assets. This information will be helpful in property settlement discussions and potential claims for spousal maintenance.


23. Work Out a New Budget

Work out a new budget that reflects your new financial reality after separation. Consider income, potential support payments, and projected expenses to ensure you can live within your means.


24. Seek Assistance & Reach Out for Support

Remember that seeking assistance during this challenging time is essential. Seek counselling services individually or as a couple to help navigate the process. Connect with community groups and organisations that offer support services as well.

Lastly, if you or your child are facing domestic violence issues, reach out for assistance from organisations like 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 737). At Testart Family Lawyers, we provide expert legal guidance and support during this difficult time. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and ensure you receive the fair treatment and settlement you deserve.