Separation advice: Before you go

30 Mar 2011 - Family Law 

We find when client’s come to Journey Family Lawyers for the first time, there are two prominent issues that we need to look at;

what will be the final outcome and

what is going to happen in the short term.

This article gives some practical tips for what to do before you go and what to do once you’ve left.

Understand your finances.

One of the biggest problems we have with client’s coming to see us for the first time, is that they just don’t understand their finances. It’s very common to hear, “Oh, but so-and-so always paid the bills, I have no idea how much we have.” As painful as it is, you need to learn the basics.

After speaking with us for the first time, we will often recommend that you go and speak to a financial planner. Why? Because we can’t give you financial advice. They can give you advice on:

  1. Budgeting (very important in the interim);
  2. Life insurance;
  3. Mortgage payments;
  4. Savings accounts;
  5. Retirement;
  6. etc.

We can work with your financial planner to let them know how much money you have to work with so that a manageable budget can be planned.

Get Organised

Often, people just walk out of the house with nothing more then the clothes on their bank. Sometimes however, you have the opportunity to do a little pre-planning. If you can, take a copy of all your useful documents (bank statements, superannuation statements, share statements, tax returns, pay slips, etc.) to provide to us to give us a better understanding of your property pool.

And once you do leave, get organised! Put a binder or folder together of your most important information. You can include in it account numbers, contact information, policy numbers, correspondence from your solicitors and any other important documentation. It’s simple, but effective and helps you to focus.

As well as this, if you are leaving and you’re worried about personal items, take them with you. Photo albums are not easily replaced but copies can be made later.

Get Support

Divorce adds pressure to your already busy life, so to get through it, you need a good support system. Find a solicitor that you can relate to. Having a good relationship with your solicitor is absolutely fundamental. If you don’t trust or feel comfortable with your lawyer, you will never feel ok with the outcome. If you need to, speak to a psychologist or counsellor. Remember, we are all professionals in different arreas for a reason. Just like a counsellor can’t give legal advice, there are certain issues that solicitors aren’t trained to deal with. If you feel like it’s becoming too much, speaking to a professional will often help with this pressure.

Speaking with a financial planner, accountant or real estate agent often helps as well. Ask your family and friends for a good recommendation.

Your Journey file

We lawyers absolutely love paperwork! And if you think your paperwork pile was big before, a complicated divorce matter makes things so much worse. It can be tempting to simply through everything in a box and leave it there, but we recommend getting a file or system in place that allows you to keep everything organised. That way, you’ll know where everything is when you need to access it and you will make your life much easier.

Who pays the bills?

There is a time lag between a person first applying for Centrelink payments and Child Support and the date of the first payment. This can leave one party in dire straits for a few weeks, especially if they do not have any funds in their own name.

In these circumstances, most people continue to take mortgage payments and other living expense from whichever salary funded them in the past. It is usually only later, when Child Support payments are being made that the person living in the house assumes liability for the mortgage and outgoings. The Court expects a person living in a property to pay for the costs associated with that property on the basis that the other parent will have other living expenses involved in renting.

If no agreement can be reached then it may be necessary to bring an urgent spousal maintenance claim to cover day to day living expenses.

Who lives in the home?

Many times the Father leaves the house and the children and their Mother stay in the home. This is usually the sensible course of action as it is easier for one person to relocate than for several people to relocate. Difficulties arise however, where neither party will leave the home and resulting conflict makes life hell for both parties and the children.

In these circumstances, it may be necessary for one party to apply to the court for an order granting them “sole occupancy”. Decisions on this point are made by the Court based on the balance of convenience and fault, amongst other things. Generally the person who has somewhere else to go and the money to fund the move will be asked to leave. Unless he or she can convince the Court that there is no reason why they should leave. It is not unusual for people to continue to live under one roof but separately if they are unable to afford alternative accommodation for one party.

Where will the children live?

At the early stages, unless there are serious emergent circumstances, the parties will need to negotiate interim parenting arrangements either directly between themselves, or with the assistance of solicitors. Family Relationships Centre or Relationships Australia offer a free mediation for parties to discuss parenting arrangements.

Remember, unless there is an exception, parties must attend (or have sought to attend) compulsory family dispute resolution prior to commencing proceedings.

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