When parents decide to separate, emotions and tensions can run high. Once you combine the stress and heartache of the situation, navigating a whole new world of parenting and the challenge of dividing property, it can be enough to overwhelm anyone.
Jessica Koot, Senior Associate and the Family Law team at Access Law Group (Wollongong, Sydney and Camden) can help you navigate what is undoubtedly one of the most uncertain and challenging times a person can face.
That's why Jessica and her team have formulated the Family Law Separation Checklist below. The checklist is designed to take the guesswork,
time and stress out of family separation and provide clarity and focus about what to do next.
1. If you have experienced family violence, you have concerns for your safety and/or you have concerns for the safety of your children, you should consider seeking urgent support from the Police and/or other organisations such as the Illawarra Women's Health Centre HERE.
2. Arrange an appointment with a lawyer. Seeing a lawyer quickly will help you plan ahead and know your rights and responsibilities.
You can call Access Law Group on (02) 4220 7100, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a FREE one-hour consultation (in person, by phone
or by video conference) with an experienced Family Law solicitor. You can also visit their website HERE.
3. Decide where you plan to live. If you plan to keep living in the home and pay out your former partner or spouse, make enquiries about your borrowing capacity with your bank or mortgage broker. If a property is to be sold, make sure you obtain advice from a lawyer about formalising the property settlement before the proceeds of sale are divided. If you are renting, decide who will stay on the lease and ensure the lease is amended if necessary.
4. If you leave the home, collect your important items including passports, birth certificates, marriage certificate and financial documents. You should also take photographs of the current state of the home if you have concerns that your former partner or spouse may damage the property or allow the property to fall into a state of disrepair.
5. Write down separation date. If you are continuing to live separated under the same roof, keep note of what has changed in your relationship including sharing finances, undertaking domestic duties for each other, changes to sleeping arrangements, changes to your sexual relationship and whether you are continuing to attend social events and functions together as a couple.
6. Planning future parenting arrangements. If you have children, you will need to work out when the children will be in each parent's care. Consider arrangements for special occasions including birthdays, Easter, Christmas, Mother's Day, Father's Day and school holiday periods. Seek advice about the different types of parenting agreements such as Parenting Plans or Consent Orders. Seek advice from a lawyer about the suitability of your matter for mediation and the different options.
7. If your parenting matter is urgent and mediation is not suitable, a Court Application may be necessary. You should seek advice from a lawyer immediately.
8. Provide emotional support to your children. Minimise arguments and speaking about adult matters in front of the children. Reassure the children that they are safe and loved. Do not speak negatively about the other parent around the children and do not allow other people to do so. Do not lean on them to provide emotional support. Remember, they are children and you are the adult. Inform important people in their lives, such as teachers so they can also provide emotional support if needed.
9. Take notes. Keep a diary. Backup screen shots of text messages, social media posts and emails. These can be used as evidence if you go to Court.
10. Do not write or say anything that you would not want a Judge to read. Think twice before sending text messages or emails in the heat of the moment. Be careful what you post on your social media accounts. Once something has been said or written, you cannot take it back and a record may be brought before the Court in the future. You could also risk facing criminal charges.
11. Look after yourself. Find time to be social and physically active. A family law separation can be one of the hardest things that you will experience in your life. If you are struggling emotionally, seek support from family and friends. Speak to your GP about obtaining a Mental Health Care Plan and speaking to a professional, if extra emotional support is needed.
12. Update your privacy information. This can include changing your passwords/pin codes for email accounts, social media, phones, computers, internet banking, bank cards and other electronic devices. If your family devices operate under a cloud, remove devices from the cloud to ensure that your former partner or spouse can no longer access them.
13. Obtain advice from your lawyer about separating finances. In some circumstances (but not all), it may be best to open a separate bank account in your sole name.If you are concerned about your former spouse or partner drawing down funds from joint or redraw accounts, contact the bank to change the consents on the redraw facility.
14. Update your estate planning documents. Engage a lawyer to review your Will, Power of Attorney and Enduring Power of Guardianship documents. Update your Binding Death Nomination with your superannuation fund and your beneficiary details for your life insurance. If you own a property jointly with your former partner or spouse, seek advice from a lawyer about whether you should consider severing the joint tenancy.
Please note: As all families are different and unique so too are all Family Law matters. This checklist is a guide with some of the most common matters to be considered following a separation. You should always seek advice from a solicitor quickly as the important matters for consideration may change depending on your own personal circumstances.
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