Months of lock down, home schooling, financial stress and everything else that the pandemic has thrown at us, has meant that many couples have decided that it’s time to part ways.
The uncertainty surrounding the COVID crisis, along with the reality of borders being closed and restrictions being in place, means that while many have reached the conclusion that it is ‘over’, they’ve decided to sit tight for the time being. In some cases there is an understanding in place, but in others, one person has made their mind up, but has decided to wait it out until things get a bit more ‘normal’.
While everyone’s circumstances are different, if you have decided that you want to separate once things settle down, there are some steps you might want consider taking now.
Talk to a reputable family lawyer
Talking to a good family lawyer is the first thing you should do. When it comes to separation, divorce and family law, there are lots of grey areas. You can’t afford to rely on Google or other people’s experiences to get an idea of how things ‘might’ play out for you. Just because Doug and Marg split everything 50/50 doesn’t mean that you and your partner should. Nor does the fact that Josie got full time custody of kids, mean that you will.
Just as every couple is unique, every family law case is unique and there is certainly no ‘one-size’ fits all approach to working through the different arrangements – from property to parenting. Getting advice from a reputable family lawyer, especially with what is going on in the world, will mean that you have a clear picture of how the law applies to your set of circumstances.
Start documenting your financial position
Before you separate, you want to know and document your financial position as a couple, and as individuals. It is well worth taking the time to:
- draw up a list of financial assets and liabilities – including any property, debts, investments, superannuation and other assets.
- make copies of relevant documents – from bank statements, to tax returns, trust deeds, superannuation statements and company financials if relevant.
If you have little knowledge of your financial position (or your partners) – doing this now could save lots of headaches down the track. Sometimes it can be hard to get hold of these documents after you’ve separated and having a clear record of what the assets and liabilities were at the time of separation, can help to avoid a host of hassles down the track.
Consider what parenting arrangements will be best for the kids
As parents, we all want what is best for our kids. While you probably have a good idea of what you would like to see happen, it’s important to do your research. Research developmental guidelines for children, and perhaps even get advice from a child counsellor or psychologist about what arrangements might be best for the children given their ages and the practicalities.
If you think care of children is likely to be an issue, keep a diary of the level of care and sharing of parenting duties between in the months before separation occurs.
Set up a separate bank account
Open a personal bank account in your name and start putting aside money for when you separate – especially if there’s a chance you may need to leave quickly.
If you are planning on leaving, you should aim to put away enough for some bond, a couple of weeks rent and moving costs. If you’re planning on your partner moving out, you still want to make sure you have money to cover basic expenses like groceries and rent.
If you and your partner have money in a joint account, you could consider transferring some to your personal account right before you separate.
Get an idea of what your future income might look like
It always helps to have a feel for what your financial situation is going to look like once you separate. You might like to talk to:
- organisations like Centrelink and the Child Support Agency to see what entitlements you may be eligible for.
- a financial planner or accountant, who can assist you with budgeting and managing your expense – pre and post settlement.
Change and protect your passwords
When it comes to separation and divorce, ensuring your privacy is protected is important.
You want to make sure that your partner can’t access your email, social media accounts or documents. Changing passwords on these accounts and any online cloud storage accounts, along with personal computers, tablets and your phone only takes a few minutes and is well worth doing.
Consider personal counselling
The very idea of separation can be daunting and unsettling. For many people facing separation (or just thinking about it) personal counselling can be incredibly valuable in helping and supporting them through the process – especially with everything else that’s going on right now.
If you’re thinking about separating, feel free to get in touch – we’re here to help you understand your different options, how the law applies to your situation and offer valuable advice.