When couples separate, it can be a highly emotional time for all involved. Often simple matters can be overlooked or ignored. Below we have compiled 7 practical tips that people should consider when going through the separation process.
Try and access counselling services as soon as possible. Ideally, it would be great for couples to attend counselling together, as this could provide an opportunity to see if a reconciliation is possible or try and reach an agreement on immediately pressing issues such as contact with children or which party stays in the matrimonial home etc. However, if couples’ counselling is not an option, sole counselling could still be advantageous as it may help you to think about how you are going to move forward in the separation and what outcomes you would like to aim for at the end of the process.
2. Compile Legal and Financial Documents
Compile all your legal and financial documents in one place. This includes documents such as your marriage certificate, copies of tax returns, bank statements, and documents in relation to purchasing properties and/or other assets such as cars etc. You will need these documents readily available when going through the legal process of dividing assets.
3. Deal with Joint Bank Accounts
If you have a joint bank account, you might want to think about splitting any savings you have so that mortgage and car payments can be maintained and/or the person leaving the matrimonial home can use some of the funds to set up living arrangements elsewhere. It is MOST important, however, to make a note of how any funds are split so that this can be taken into account when reaching a financial and property division down the track. We would also suggest opening up your own bank account so that any future earnings can be paid into this account as soon as possible.
4. Notify your Superannuation Fund and Life Insurance Provider
Get in touch with your superannuation fund and life insurance provider as soon as possible and let them know you have separated. You will then be able to nominate an alternate next of kin, such as your children or parents. This is vital as if anything unfortunate was to occur, your superannuation and/or life insurance entitlements could end up being paid out to your ex-spouse.
5. Draft a New Will and/or Power of Attorney
Estate planning is another issue that people often forget about during a separation. We highly recommend updating your Will and appointing an alternate executor and beneficiary if your current Will nominates your ex-spouse in either of these capacities. This also applies to any financial or medical Power of Attorneys you may have too.
6. Notify Centrelink and Child Support Agency
If you are receiving any Centrelink payments, you will need to contact Centrelink and let them know that you are going through a separation as this may alter the amount of money you receive. If there are children of the relationship, you should also notify the child support agency as they can start looking at assessing any applicable child support that could be paid to the primary carer of the children.
7. Access Legal Advice
Seek legal advice as soon as possible. This will assist in ensuring you are aware of all legal avenues available to you and hopefully enable an agreement to be reached without issuing proceedings in the Family Court. As always, we would highly recommend accessing a family lawyer.
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This article is written by Karen Finch and was first published on the Legally Yours website.
This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to practising lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Legally Yours Pty Ltd accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.