The weeks following separation are often the most difficult. People find themselves in a highly emotional situation and struggling to determine what they should do next, who they should speak with, how to protect their assets and re-establish themselves.
There a few simple things we suggest a person does straight after separation and even before seeing a Lawyer.
If you have children:
- If your children are under the age of 18 and are living with you post separation, applying for assessment by the Child Support Agency will ensure that your ex-spouse will continue contributing to the children’s expenses. There is a ‘child support estimator’ available at servicesaustralia.gov.au. You can enter basic financial information about you and your ex-partner and it will provide you with an estimated child support figure that you may be entitled to.
- Likewise, if the children are not living with you, we recommend that you use the child support estimator to get an idea of how much you may be obliged to pay in Child Support. This will help you determine whether any requests made by your ex-partner for financial assistance are within a reasonable range.
- If the children are living with you, you may also be eligible to certain Centrelink benefit such as a health care card, single parent pension or family pension.
- Avoid arguing or making threats with your ex-partner over text message or email. The screenshots may be produced as evidence if Court proceedings are initiated later on.
- Advise your child’s school that you are separated so that the school can monitor the child for any changes in behaviour and offer them support. Often the school will recommend that the child meet with the school counsellor to help them cope with the changes at home and allow them to speak freely about their feelings.
To protect your finances:
- If you have a joint mortgage account with a redraw facility, contact your bank and cancel the redraw option. This will avoid your ex-partner drawing down on any existing mortgages without your knowledge and increasing your joint liabilities.
- If you have a joint mortgage with an offset account contact the bank and request for the account to be frozen. This will avoid your ex-partner withdrawing any joint funds from the account without your knowledge or consent.
- If you have a joint mortgage, savings, offset or loan account, consider contacting your bank and asking to make these accounts ‘dual signatory’ so that you both have to consent to any funds coming out of those accounts.
- If your salary is being deposited into a joint savings account we recommend opening a new savings account in your sole name and redirecting your salary into that account and any other income you receive.
- If the property you were sharing with your ex-partner was a rental property and you have moved out, contact the real estate agent and arrange for your name to be removed from the lease.
- If you are moving out of the home you shared with your ex-partner take with you any items that you consider to be yours or which have sentimental value to you. It is easier to take them with you in the first instance when you move out rather than asking for them later and risking not getting them back or your ex-spouse having thrown them away, sold them or ‘misplaced’ them.
- If you are managing a company or trust ensure that your tax returns and financial statements are all up to date. It is likely that you will be required to provide these documents to your ex-partner or their lawyer when negotiating a property settlement.
- Arguably one of the most important things to do after separation is to update your Will and Testament. People often think that just because they have separated or Divorced from their partner that the person will no longer have any rights to their estate if they were to suddenly pass away. This is incorrect. If your partner is named as a beneficiary under your Will you will need to have them removed so that if something were to happen to you, your estate would be protected from any claims from you ex.