When your marriage breaks down you and your spouse may separate from one another by taking up separate bedrooms or separate homes. In order to be officially ‘separated’ not only must you consider yourself to be separated from your spouse, but you have to communicate your intention to separate to your spouse. You must then act consistently with that assertion.
It would be expected that you would change your behaviour once you are separated for example:
you may cease to sleep in the same bed as your spouse,
you may inform your friends and family that you are separated, or
cease travelling together etc.
You need to be separated for at least 12 months before you can apply for a divorce.
When you separate it may be necessary to discuss:
who will live where;
who will pay for what;
who the children will live with;
arrangements for you or your spouse to see the children;
issues relating to child support and;
division of your property.
There will be lots of things to consider and decisions to make, generally:
Both Parents have equal shared parental responsibility for the children;
If you fear for your safety you should contact the police;
If you move out of the home you do not ‘lose your rights’ to that property but there may be consequences which will have a negative impact on your case. Discuss moving out with your solicitor before you take this step.
There are some things you can do straight away once you and your partner have separated. You will need to take action, be decisive and be sensible. For example you could:
- Take some money out of the joint bank account so that you will be able to maintain yourself for a period of time as well as fund your legal case.
- Change the password on your email or set up a new email account.
- Contact your bank and ensure that neither of you can draw down on the mortgage without joint signatures, all cheques should be signed by both of you and all withdrawals from all accounts needs to be authorised by the two of you.
- If you do not already receive correspondence from the bank yourself, request that you receive all correspondence relating to your accounts directly.
- Any items in the house that are important to you or sentimental to you, you should remove.
- If your partner has left the matrimonial home, then you may wish to change the locks. Discuss this with your solicitor beforehand.
- Collect/Copy as many financial documents as you can.
- Copy your marriage certificate and the children’s birth certificates
- Take the children’s passports;
- You should let the children’s school know what is happening so that the children can get the necessary support they need.
- If possible, keep communication between you and your partner open and keep your separation as amicable as possible.
- Don’t say negative things about your partner in front of the children.
- Don’t make any threats, be intimidating, send nasty text messages or aggressive voice mails to your spouse. If you do then your spouse may apply for an Apprehended Violence Order and those messages will be used as evidence against you.
- Don’t sign anything! Take all documents to your lawyer to peruse first so you can get advice.
- Make an appointment to see a specialised family lawyer and if necessary make an appointment to see a psychologist to get the support you may need.
- Most importantly, be fair. If your partner is the one leaving the home, then let them take some of the items that are duplicated within the home.
- Remember everything that you do at this very emotional time will impact upon the way your matter progresses in time to come so don’t do anything you will regret.
We understand that this is a stressful time in your life. We are able to guide you through this with our skill and experience. It is important to see a lawyer when you separate or are thinking of separating. Getting practical advice early on will give you an understanding of your rights and obligations. This is a very emotional time of your life, you may not have been expecting it, the reality of dealing with all the decisions that need to be made can be overwhelming.