What to do if you're speparating

Separation affects the personal, financial and legal aspects of your life.  When you have just separated from your spouse or partner, legal issues may not be the most important things on your mind.

However, if not addressed properly, the legal issues associated with separation can affect you for years into the future.  If dealt with incorrectly, these issues are expensive, can affect how you communicate with your former spouse or partner (particularly if you had children together), impact new relationships, and have a detrimental effect on your physical and mental health.

What should you do if you are planning to separate?

If you are planning to separate – think ahead.  We advise you as to how you can prepare for separation and protect your and your children’s interests.  Legal advice is confidential – your spouse or partner doesn’t have to know that you have contacted us.

If separation has been unexpected or initiated by your spouse or partner, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.  We provide advice that is practical, easily understood, relevant, protects your interests, and enables you to make an informed decision as to how your matter should progress.

Some basic principles apply to everybody, before, during and after separation.

  1. Take your documents and important personal possessions with you.  You will need them – you don’t want your spouse or partner to retain these items and use them as bargaining levers.  If you can, make a list (and take copies of supporting documents) of your and your spouse or partner’s assets and liabilities and make a note of their income.  If you can’t obtain exact figures, approximate figures are ok.  This information is valuable – obtaining it at a later stage from an uncooperative party can be difficult, time consuming and expensive.

  2. You should ensure that you have sufficient cash reserves and income to cover your living expenses.  You may be eligible to receive maintenance from your spouse or a “partial property settlement” to cover these expenses.  However, it is best to plan ahead – we recommend that you seek advice from a financial planner or financial counsellor as to how to balance your income and expenses.

  3. Ensure that proper arrangements are in place for your children, regardless of whether they are coming with you or staying.  If the children are staying with your spouse or partner, make arrangements to communicate and spend time with them before you leave the family home.  The status quo matters – it is harder for the other parent to “dictate” your time with the children if you have an established parenting arrangement in place.  For most parenting matters, Family Relationships Centres can provide valuable advice and assistance in a constructive and cost effective manner.  If, however, you are concerned that your partner will deny you time with the children, then you should plan ahead and seek legal advice.  You don’t want to be in a position where your spouse or partner can dictate to you the terms on which you spend time with the children. 

If you have concerns that your spouse or partner has mistreated or abused your children, then seek legal advice and contact the Police or a Child Safety Authority as a matter of urgency. In family law, timely legal advice is an investment.  Legal advice can give you peace of mind and can assist you to deal with the unexpected.