Once you and your partner have separated there are some simple, practical steps that should be taken to protect yourself and help amicably sever all ties with your former partner. This article aims to answers some commonly asked questions that we receive from newly separated clients.
What do we do about our joint finances?
- Open a new bank account separate from any accounts that can be accessed by your partner and have your pay deposited into this account.
- Close any joint bank accounts or joint credit cards and change pin numbers and internet banking passwords for security.
What if I own a home with my ex-partner?
- If you have a mortgage, let your lender know you have separated and work out a plan to cover repayments. For example, some banks may be willing to offer interest only repayments, or even offer a repayment free period. It is also a good idea to ask your bank to require joint signatures for any withdrawals.
- If your home is only in your ex-partner’s name, seek legal advice on whether or not a caveat may be needed to protect your property.
- If you are staying in your home, put all utility bills in your name. Similarly, if you are moving out of the home remove your name from all bills. If there are bills owing seek legal advice on how best to manage this, or for interim arrangements until your final property settlement.
- If you are renting and staying in the property contact your landlord and switch the lease and utility bills to be solely your name or if you are moving out contact the landlord to have your name removed.
What do I need to prepare to start my Family Law matter?
- Make a note of your separation date. If married, you need to be separated for one year before you can apply for a divorce. There are also important statutory time limits within which you must make an Application to the Court for a Property Settlement or Spousal Maintenance, these are one year from the date of your divorce if you were married, or two years from the date of separation if you were a de facto couple.
- Collect all important, relevant documents. Things such as your marriage certificate, birth certificates, passports, bank and super statements, insurance policies, tax returns, car registration paperwork, family business paperwork and any other documentation that you deem relevant to your family law matter.
- It is useful to make a list of all assets and liabilities of yourself and your partner whether separate or joint. At the same time, it is advantageous to work out your individual income and expenses.
I think I need financial support, what can I do?
- Talk to the Department of Human Services to find out what Child Support or Centrelink Assistance you may be entitled to. If you have children, you can also ask if you would be entitled to a private child support agreement.
- If you are already receiving payments from Centrelink, you should notify them as to your change in living arrangements as soon as possible.
- Spousal maintenance from your former partner may be an option, seek legal advice to see if this is suitable for your situation.
We have children, how do we manage this moving forward?
- Seek legal advice as to what parenting arrangements would be most suitable for your circumstances.
- Let your child’s school know that you have separated, update your contact details and give them a copy of any Parenting Orders the parenting arrangements moving forward.
How do we divide our property?
- Seek legal advice on how best to manage your property, entitlements and go through your options.
- Formalise your orders through consent orders, financial agreement or court orders.
Other things you should keep in mind:
- Set up a new email address or change the passwords on your current account. Consider getting a PO Box if you need to receive mail but do not want your residential address disclosed.
- Update your life insurance policy to ensure you have the right cover and check if the beneficiaries need to change.
- Update you will. Being separated does not necessarily void your existing will, so it is a good idea to seek legal advice.
- Update your binding superannuation nominee to ensure that the payout goes to the right person in the event of your death.
- Consider updating your powers of attorney, seek legal advice to ensure that this is done correctly.
For advice and guidance on any of the above steps book a free 30-minute consult with one of our lawyers to discuss your options and ensure that you are making informed decisions about your future moving forward.