Separation in the lead up to and over Christmas

Christmas can be very stressful for many, add the complicating factor of a separation and one can be left wondering where to start.

  1. You catch more flies with honey.

Separation is extremely stressful and in the heat of the moment harsh words can be spoken. Consider your future relationship. You may have to co-parent children for a very long time and the importance of being able to communicate civilly with each other is a skill that will need to be practised and mastered from the outset. Maintaining a civil relationship will ensure the best possible outcome when entering into negotiations.

  1. Consider your privacy.

Often, partners know each other’s passwords for banking, emails and the i-cloud. There are many reasons to protect your privacy including confidential communications with your lawyer or communications with a new friend you may be dating. Changing passwords for financial matters will ensure funds are protected and used for the purpose they were put in the account, such as a mortgage and bill payments.

  1. Protect your sentimental items.

Often used as bargaining tools, one party may retain or hide another party’s sentimental pieces such as inherited items and sports memorabilia. These are often irreplaceable and might not actually have much monetary value, but will be important for you moving on and you should take steps to protect these by leaving them with someone you trust.

  1. Protect your evidence.

Family Law cases succeed or fail based on evidence. Protect your important financial documents which prove your case or may reveal a hidden account your former spouse is attempting to hide. Recent bank statements and taxation documents can always be sourced from the bank or accountants, but consider those documents that once gone, cannot be found again. Leave them with your lawyer or someone you can trust.

  1. Protect your valuable documents.

Consider your passport, your children’s passports, Certificates of Birth and Marriage, Wills and Powers of Attorneys.

  1. Protect your assets.
  • Keep an eye on yours or joint bank accounts to ensure one party is not drawing down on accounts or credit facilities. If so, then you need to immediately contact the banking institution to let them know you are separated and consider options such as changing to joint signatories or other options the bank might have for you.
  • If real property is not in your name and the other party may sell it or raise a mortgage against it, then urgent steps need to be taken to protect your interest. It is vital that you get proper legal advice as incorrect lodging of caveats may have cost ramifications against you.
  • Access to credit cards can often cause issue when one party embarks on a spending spree buying new household goods, jewellery or holidays and then tries to include that as a debt of the relationship. Consider cutting access to a secondary cardholder.
  1. Consider your Estate planning.
  • Change your Will.

Many couples do mutual wills where they leave their estate to each other upon their death. This is quite often not the intention once separation has occurred. Have your Will reviewed or create a new Will with the assistance of your lawyer to ensure your wishes are most current.

  • Consider your superannuation benefit nomination.

Often superannuation entitlement has a nominated beneficiary. Call your super fund or look at your last statement to see who your nominated beneficiary is. If is it your former spouse, you are likely to want to change that nomination.

  • Did you appoint your ex-spouse as your Attorney pursuant to a Power of Attorney?

If so, you may consider revoking that Power of Attorney. Your lawyer will be able to explain this in more detail.

  1. Keep a diary.

In the aftermath of separation, clients can feel overwhelmed and confused. Whilst you may think you will never forget certain events, over time, your memory will not be as reliable as contemporaneous diary notes. Buy a note book or diary and jot down important events for that day such as conversations with your ex-partner regarding children and important facts as they come to mind.

  1. How is your health?

Let your GP know you have separated and talk to them about how you’re feeling. Yes, it’s “touchy-feely” and not very legalistic, but it is a simple step that can assist our clients to help cope with the initial stages of separation so they are able to clearly focus on the issues at hand.

  1. Get legal advice

Each matter is unique and advice cannot be given on an ad hoc or a “one size fits all” basis. An Initial Consultation is sometimes all that is required. Get answers to your specific questions, get advice that protects you and provides you with all the information you need to make an informed decision.

Author & Director: Sophie Pearson

Date: 07/12/16