Are you preparing for separation and divorce?
Find out what you need to do as you begin to prepare for your separation or divorce in Australia.
Assess your financial position
Finances play a big role in many divorces, so you need to get your finances organised. Before you can begin to plan the future, you need to know exactly where you stand financially.
Prepare a table of all your assets and liabilities. Assets can include the family home and other real estate, bank accounts, investments, businesses, vehicles, personal and household belongings and superannuation. Liabilities include all debt such as mortgages, personal loans and credit cards.
All this information is essential to the exercise of determining what the asset pool is that is available for distribution between you. So a full and complete disclosure by both parties of all relevant finances is necessary.
Get your paperwork in order
Make electronic copies of all your important documents, such as salary slips, bank statements, insurance policies, mortgage statements, super and tax returns. Do the same for all personal documents, such as passports, wills, lease agreements and birth and marriage certificates.
Understand the legal process
Going through a divorce is a most stressful and emotionally-draining process at the best of times. Not knowing or understanding of what you are about to go through, can only add to the problem. Take time to learn and understand the legal process and the options you have. Get legal advice if you need it – the better prepared you are the easier is will be to arrive at sensible and fair agreements with your ex.
Knowing and understanding what lies ahead will help you to prepare and feel more calm, confident and clear about the divorce process.
Think About Living Arrangements
Another important thing to consider is your and your children’s current and potential future living arrangements.
It is a legal requirement for a couple to have been separated for a year before applying for divorce. But this doesn’t mean you have to live apart to be legally considered separated.
Who goes and who stays in the family home – if anyone – is something only you and your ex can decide.
Work out your future financial needs
Before you finalise an agreement with your ex it is really important to work out your immediate and long-term financial needs. You should prepare a budget, listing all earnings and living expenses.
This will assist in determining whether you both can afford to live. It will also be relevant to child support issues.
Discuss how to tell your children
Breaking the news to your children is possibly one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. You should both discuss how you go about it and how much information to share. Keep it age-appropriate and avoid overwhelming them with too much information.
This is one time that you both need to put your differences aside and break the news calmly, without laying any blame on each other.
Plan for the cost of your divorce
Part of your short-term budgeting should include the costs of your divorce. The method of divorce and the time it takes to finalise will determine how much it will cost.
The more issues that you and your spouse can agree on, the less you’ll have to argue in mediation or in Family Court and the less costly it will be. Your lawyer or mediator should give you a rough estimate of the expected costs.
Create a safe support network
This is not the time to isolate yourself, but to surround yourself with close and positive-minded friends and family members. These are going to be your support network to get you through this difficult time in your life.
If you’re still feeling alone and overwhelmed, seek help from a professional counsellor.
Get legal advice
Regardless of which method you may eventually choose to resolve the divorce, it is important to know your options and legal rights as well as obligations. So seek legal advice as soon as possible in the divorce process.
Make a list of what you will need to update
Make a list of the things you will need to update before you actually apply to divorce. Things like wills, utility bills, bank accounts, lease agreements, insurance policies, beneficiaries, power of attorney, superannuation, etc.
Also consider changing passwords and pin codes to bank accounts and social media platforms if you have concerns around your ex trying to gain access to them maliciously.
Choose an amicable method of divorce
You have three basic methods when it comes to getting a divorce and settling your financial relationship:
- Doing it online yourself
- Hiring a family lawyer to represent you
- Coming to an agreement through family mediation
While doing it online on your own sounds like the easiest and cheapest option the family law and its processes can complex. Slugging it out in Family Court can be expensive, particularly if it drags on for months or even years. A Judge will make the final decision, which may not be what either party actually wanted.
If you have children under 18 years of age, you must first attempt mediation before applying to the Family Court. Family mediation is the most successful, quickest and least costly method of getting things resolved in Australia.
Mediators remain impartial offering legal guidance to both parties, reducing the level of conflict and enabling them to reach their own agreements they can both comfortably live with.