Separation, oftentimes, is not as simple as taking some space from your partner and changing your living situation. There are various factors you should take into consideration before separating in order to protect yourself and your family, safeguard your assets and save yourself the stress and time of potential divorce proceedings. Here are our top suggestions on what steps you can take to get started.
Establish What Is Best For The Children
A child has a right to access those who love or care for them. This refers not only to their parents but also grandparents, half-siblings and other family members from both sides. Set yourself the intention of serving your child’s needs first and not antagonising their other parent or jeopardising their relationship by withholding them from seeing or contacting their other parent and family members. Where there are safety concerns this may not be as easy or even possible. If there are safety concerns for your children you should seek legal assistance for advice to manage this and ensure your children’s best interest.
Failing to maintain the relationship between the children and the other parent can be judged harshly in court and can have a negative impact on your child’s emotional wellbeing. So, make sure to discuss your living arrangements with your partner or a mediator so that they satisfy the needs of the children and ensure that they have access to both their parents.
From the legal end, be sure to seek advice from an experienced family lawyer as soon as you can to explain and clarify your rights and legal options.
Consider Your Pets Living Arrangement
Similarly, you will need to arrange the custody of any pets you may have had together as a couple. Many treat their pets as cherished members of the family but there are limitations with how Australian law handles the living arrangements for pets during separation. For example, in Case Law they are treated as property.
Usually, it is in everyone’s best interests that pets stay with the party they have a stronger attachment to, who takes on more care duties and financial care responsibilities. If you cannot determine who this is, then sharing pet custody, although rare, is not unheard of.
Can You Actually Afford To Live Separately?
This is referring to practical and financial affordances. It is often not practical for one or both parties to relocate immediately after the decision to separate, especially if you share ownership or tenancy of your home or don’t have close friends or relatives in close proximity.
If you do have the means to relocate, get the necessary conversations and questions sorted, papers signed, payments or bond paid and any other preparation arrangements made first before you separate physically so that you can move comfortably rather than rushing and then struggling.
In some cases, couples will reside together for a period during separation due to the financial situation, or to better meet the needs of the family and accommodate a more organic transition. This does not suit all situations and will depend on the discord in the home and how each party treats one another.
A major exception to this is for circumstances where a party or their children’s health, safety or wellbeing is at risk by staying in the family home. In these cases, you should seek the fastest, safest route to relocation or reach out to a relative or organisation. If possible, make sure to retain your passports, identification and any legal documentation that may be important.
Secure Your Valuables and Sentimental Items
This includes anything from silver and gold, jewellery, vehicles and heirlooms to photographs and items that hold sentimental value. Ensure that items you cannot keep in your possession are stored securely, perhaps in a safe or storage unit. It is often hard to get items once you have left the home, so take anything that is very precious with you.
Gather and Copy Your Documents
For efficiency and security sake, collecting all forms of important documentation and making copies before separating or any big transition in life is always good practice. This means:
- Any forms of identification for the family: passports, children’s birth certificates, licenses, Medicare, change of name certificates
- Marriage certificates
- Mortgage documents, title certificates for the primary residence, lease documents
- Any documents related to any other shared assets or investments
- Any binding financial agreements or prenuptial arrangements
Preparing for separation is not always as straightforward as preparing for a more positive event, the timelines are not always set in stone and emotions may be running high and clouding judgement. Take some of the pressure off your shoulders and aim to complete as many of the above preparatory steps as you can and prioritise speaking with a reliable legal professional to help guide you through your rights.