The early stages of separation can all seem a little overwhelming. It can become a bit of an information overload after receiving legal advices, the advices of your family and friends and after undertaking your own online research. We have prepared an outline of issues (as outlined below) relevant to most separated couples, which may assist in bringing to mind the matters that may require your attention. We are aware that no two relationships are the same and as such, not all the issues will be relevant to your circumstances. For this reason, it is essential that you seek legal advice regarding your rights, entitlements and obligations very early on in your separation. In some separations, parties are unable to make such calculated decisions/steps, particularly when a party is a victim of domestic violence. In these instances, the safety of you and your family are first and foremost.
- If there is a risk of your Children being removed from Australia by your former spouse, seek urgent legal advices regarding the lodgement of an Airport Watchlist Order;
- Consider arranging counselling for yourself and/or your Children to assist in the post-separation period. Your GP can assist in making such arrangements;
- Inform Doctors, Accountants, Schools, Daycares, Employers and any other necessary individual or organisation of your updated address, next of kin and emergency contact details;
- Inform Banks, Service Providers and any other necessary individual or organisation of your updated address and billing details;
- Consider changing your nominated beneficiary of your superannuation fund in the event of your death, should your current nominated beneficiary be your former spouse;
- Consider changing your Will and seeking legal advices regarding same, particularly if your former spouse is named in your Will;
- Consider changing your email, online banking and other passwords or pin numbers;
- Consider changing the locks if you are remaining in the former family home, should you have concerns for your safety;
- Gather all your sentimental items such as photographs and take them with you or store such items with a close friend or family member, as we often find that due to separation being an emotionally fuelled period, that out of spite, such sentimental items can often be destroyed by the other party;
- Take copies of the financial records in the home, for instance, bank statements, superannuation statements and the like, together with your personal documentation such as Marriage Certificate, Birth Certificates, Passports and the like, as this will assist your Solicitor in providing advice to you in the early stages of your matter and quite often, once you vacate the home, the other party is unwilling to provide such documentation to you, or it may conveniently go missing if such documentation does not further the other party’s case;
- If you are remaining living in the former family home, whilst being separated under the one roof, be mindful of the other party’s personal space and be aware of situations that may result in arguments or allegations of domestic violence;
- Contact Centrelink to inform them of your separation and your financial circumstances to determine whether you may be entitled to any financial benefit. If you have children in your primary care, you should also lodge a case with the Child Support Agency to enable an assessment to be undertaken as to the amount of child support you should be receiving;
- You may need to arrange mail redirection to ensure that your personal mail is not being sent to the former family home and should contact Australia Post to organise such service;
- If there is a risk of the other party selling a property or any other asset, or accessing their superannuation entitlements, which may impact your property settlement entitlements, you should seek immediate legal advice regarding the potential of seeking an injunction in Court, lodging a Caveat in the Land Titles Registry and/or a Superannuation Flagging Order in Court;
- If there are monies remaining in redraw in a loan account or monies contained in a joint bank account, you should seek immediate legal advices as to whether you should withdraw part or all of the monies, being aware that you will be required to account for such expenditure, or seek that the bank puts in place a requirement for both parties to sign to deal with the account;
- Consider how the mortgage and associated expenses are going to be paid following separation. It is important to seek advice regarding what you should be paying towards other expenses, as a failure to make such repayments by either you or your former spouse may impact upon your credit rating. Should you be unable to meet your reasonable living expenses, you should seek legal advice regarding whether you are able to seek spousal maintenance from your former spouse;
- Following separation, rather than the respective incomes of both parties servicing one household, two households need to be maintained. It can be difficult to budget in such circumstances, particularly in the early stages of the separation. The ASIC Money Smart Budget Planner https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/tools-and-resources/calculators-and-apps/budget-planner may be able to assist;
- If you are having financial difficulties in making mortgage repayments, discuss your difficulties and your separation with your bank. They will usually have options available in such circumstances.
To obtain advice tailored to your individual needs, please contact our Gold Coast office on (07) 5679 8016 for a free fifteen minute telephone chat with one of our Solicitors.