Are you considering how to legally separate from your spouse while you still live together under the one roof? It sounds like a daunting prospect but there are some things you can do to keep the process straightforward for you, your ex, and your children.
There is no legal definition of separation – it happens when one or both parties advise the other that the relationship is over and that there is no realistic prospect of resuming co-habitation.
Here are some tips on how to separate from your spouse while living together after you’ve made the decision to separate.
Note Your Separation Date
Our family law requires that you have been “separated” for at least 12 months before you can apply for a divorce. Therefore, it’s pretty important to note your actual separation date.
The law also accepts the fact that a couple may be effectively separated while living in the same residence. This is often referred to as “separation under one roof”.
However, there are several requirements to be met to satisfy the Family Court that a separation has, indeed, taken place. Meeting these conditions might be complex and, where you are in doubt, it might be safe to seek sound legal advice. There are various tests that the law might apply where there is doubt as to whether you are really living separately under the one roof.
Separate Your Financial Responsibilities
Conducting separate finances is a sensible first step after separating from your spouse.
Closing joint bank accounts, including credit card accounts, might be the best option for both of you, but, before making any hasty decisions on how to conduct your ongoing financial relationship, get legal advice.
You should also consider removing your ex as a beneficiary to your will, insurance policies and as a nominated beneficiary of your superannuation entitlements.
Separate Your Chores
While you would be sleeping in separate rooms and having minimal emotional or intimate contact, normal living chores like cooking, cleaning and shopping should also be carried out separately.
Each party should be responsible for their own household chores like cooking meals and doing their laundry.
You need to be presenting to the outside world that you are no longer conducting your relationship as a married or de facto couple.
Separate Your Childcare Responsibilities
Your respective childcare responsibilities are also something you should discuss and agree.
Who takes the children to school or picks them up? Who will care for them if you’re both working?
You need to be clear about how you share these responsibilities and who pays for what.
From now on, you need to present yourself as single and avoid socialising with your ex as a couple. Family and close friends should be made aware that you are a no longer a couple for legal reasons, let alone avoiding socially awkward situations.
If you’ve been receiving any Centrelink benefits, you are legally obligated to inform them of any change to your marital status. This may also be a positive thing as you may be entitled to a greater entitlements as a single person.
Attend Family Mediation
By attending family mediation as early as possible, you’ll be informed of the conditions required to show that you are effectively separated while still living under the one roof.
Family mediation is also the quickest, least costly and least stressful way of divorcing in Australia and is a pre-requisite if you have issues regarding children under 18 years.
Unlike going to Court where each party engages their own lawyers and pay separate fees, the costs of a single mediator (usually a one-off fee which is a small fraction of what you’d expect to pay a lawyer while you fught things out in Court) are commonly shared between parties. The mediator can provide general legal guidance to parties to assist them to negotiate and reach an amicable settlement that is specifically suited to their circumstances.
This is almost certainly far better than dragging the issues through the Family Court for years to have a Judge make the final decision, which neither party may be happy with.
Hopefully this has given you some insights on how to separate from your spouse while living together. If you’re ready to move on with family mediation, get in touch with me for a confidential discussion today.