Separation can feel overwhelming, so if you’re someone who thrives on being organised, Ella Hickman from Hickman Family Lawyers in Perth has put together a helpful checklist of what you need to do when you separate.
1. Make A Note Of Your Official Separation Date
Before you can apply for a divorce, you need to provide evidence that you have been separated for 12 months. So make a record of this date and start preparing your case.
2. Assess Your Financial Position
Before you can begin to plan for your future, you need to know exactly what your current financial situation is. List all your assets and liabilities, individual or joint, regardless of whose names they are registered. Assets should include cash, bank account balances, properties, investments, insurance policies, vehicles, personal belongings and your superannuation(s). Liabilities include all debts, credit cards, mortgage balances and personal loans. You will need these figures to negotiate your final property settlement.
3. Collect All Important Documents
Make two sets of copies (electronic and physical) of all your important personal and financial documents, such as salary slips (your ex’s too), bank account statements, mortgage agreement, title deeds, insurance policies, tax returns, superannuation, your will, passports, birth certificates (yours and your children’s) and marriage certificate. Leave a set of the documents with someone you trust.
4. Change Your Passwords
No matter how amicable your relationship with your ex is, things could change at any time. Change all pins and passwords of all personal accounts such as email and social media, and all your electronic devices. Close all joint accounts if necessary and possible, and open new ones in your name alone.
5. Set Up A New Postal Address
If you suspect your ex may look through your mail, consider setting up a postal box, or give the address of someone close you really trust for any important correspondence.
6. Living Arrangements
If you are the one moving out of the family home, it’s important to make new living arrangements that work for everyone. A most daunting task for any family, particularly when there are children involved.
7. Work Out A New Budget
Work out a budget to suit your new lifestyle. Begin by listing all your monthly income, including salary, spousal or child maintenance (if anticipated) and a separate list of all your projected monthly expenses. In the beginning, things are usually tight for everybody, so list only your needs and not your wants. This will give you a pretty good idea of what your new lifestyle will be like. Keep track of your expenditure, no matter how small the amounts, to help you live within your means.
8. Update Your Insurance Policies & Beneficiaries
Insurance policies may need to be updated, particularly if your ex is listed as a binding beneficiary.
9. Decide Who Will Pay Which Bills
This is something you have to agree on with your ex. In most marriages, there are usually some joint bills and accounts for which you are both equally responsible and when one person stops paying the other can become liable. Part of your property settlement will include such as who pays for what bill. Remember that under Australian Family Law, both partners have an obligation to support one another until you are both on your feet financially.
10. Talk To Your Debtors
All debtors must be notified that you are separating as early as possible, so they are aware of who will be repaying the debt. If you have not agreed as to who will pay the mortgage bond, by informing your bank, they may temporarily suspend payments, until an agreement is reached.
11. Review Your Estate Planning
Your Will and your Superannuation may also need reviewing to ensure your estate goes to who you want it to if you were to die suddenly. Perhaps your Executor and Power of Attorney too. Legal advice will be most useful as certain rules apply to a Will after divorce.
12. Childcare Arrangements
Taking care of children, whilst attending to so many issues can be so taxing during any separation. It’s important for you and your ex-spouse to engage constructively and make childcare arrangements in a manner that disrupts the children as little as possible. For example, between the two of you, arrangements must be made as to who takes and picks them up from school.
13. Apply For Government Support
If you are struggling financially, your family lawyer will be able to guide you as to whether you qualify for any Government Support Services. It may also be appropriate that you contact the Child Support Agency in relation to child support payments.
14. Get Legal Advice
If you’re finding all this overwhelming, don’t despair. There is no need to deal with it on your own. Obtain legal advice from a trusted family lawyer, family mediator or even free legal advice, which may be available from your local community centre or Legal Aid Agency. Obtaining legal advice removes much of the stress allowing you to concentrate on taking care of yourself and your children during this highly stressful period in your life.
She practices almost exclusively in family law in Perth and has a particular interest in parenting and children’s issues, matters arising from domestic violence in relationships, and property settlement cases.
Ella has a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Psychology) from the University of Western Australia and has been practising as a barrister and solicitor since 2014.