As any mental health professional will tell you, a break-up is one of the most stressful experiences in life.
If you’re facing a bad break-up or divorce , it’s important to get the best possible legal and financial advice. It’s also important to lean on family and friends for emotional support, especially when you feel overwhelmed. But there are also some things that you can – and should – do on your own prior to separation. Here are some tips to get you started.
Before you do anything rash, make sure you really think everything through to ensure that separation is the only solution. If you are not in immediate danger and you can still communicate with your partner or spouse, consider exploring methods for reconciliation. Seeking help from a marriage counselor or similar professional who can help you resolve misunderstandings, identify and change negative behaviour, and facilitate effective communication may save a lot of heartache, time and money in the long run.
If the behaviour of your spouse or partner has jeopardised the safety of either yourself or your children, or if your marriage simply can’t be salvaged, there are certain important decisions that need to be made sooner rather than later.
- Make sure your finances are in order. Specifically, you should make sure you have enough money – or access to enough money – to meet your own immediate needs and your children’s immediate needs. If you and your spouse or partner share bank accounts, be sure to access any funds you’ve contributed and use them to open your own accounts. You should also take this opportunity to establish your own credit if you haven’t already done so.
- Make sure you (and the kids) have a place to live. If you’re solely responsible for the rent or mortgage, you’ll probably want to stay in your current home. And ideally, your husband, wife or partner will simply agree to move out. If he or she refuses to leave, don’t be afraid to move out yourself; ultimately the law is on your side.
- Who “gets” the kids? If you have children, their welfare will obviously be one of your chief concerns. This means you’ll have to make certain decisions about where they’ll live when you and your spouse or partner are no longer together. In other words, you must decide who will have primary custody, and if possible, come to terms about visitation for the non-custodial parent. When making these decisions, keep in mind that the court will also view any agreements and issue relevant orders based on the child’s best interests.
- Be proactive about “your” belongings. As far as the Family Court is concerned, both of you own the furniture and personal belongings accumulated over the years. If you are staying in your current residence, take steps to safeguard ‘your’ belongings. Legally, you can even change the locks to prevent your husband, wife or partner from returning to take anything that belongs to you after they’ve moved out. On the other hand, if you’re moving out, you should be sure to take as much of your stuff as possible.
- Make sure all relevant paperwork is organised. While going through separation and divorce, you will be legally obligated to make certain information available to your former spouse, relevant professionals (your lawyer) and the court. Therefore it is critical that you put important legal and financial documents in order as soon as possible. Specifically, you should make sure you have immediate access to your marriage certificate, tax returns, bank statements, any documents related to the acquisition or sale of real property and so forth.
Additional steps you can take
Further things you should do as soon as possible include changing your life insurance or superannuation details if your spouse is designated as a beneficiary, and amending your Will if they are named as the executor or a beneficiary.
You should also take steps to protect your personal information, especially the information stored on electronic devices such as your home computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone. This is especially important if your spouse or partner knows or can access your passwords or personal identification numbers (PINs).
Be aware this is not an exhaustive list. The other issues requiring your attention prior to separation will depend on your unique circumstances. For more information about separation, and the steps you can take to protect yourself and your children, contact us today and have a conversation with a family lawyer.