Top tips for when you first separate

Catherine here – Following is a guest blog from Samantha Baily, who joined my law firm Leach Legal recently. I hope to share her thoughts with you from time to time…..

When a couple decide to separate it can be a very stressful and emotional time, and sometimes it is hard to see through the clouds and think clearly.

I know this is just going to sound like I’m drumming up business, but I believe it is always wise to get good legal advice straight away so that you know what your legal rights are in relation to your children and finances. When you think about it, we’re talking about spending less than $400 so you can understand the process and the legal parameters which you have found yourself in. It’s certainly not going to make Catherine or I rich, but could save you thousands down the line.

If you and your partner can come to an agreement early on, it can greatly reduce your legal costs and any costs associated with the separation that arise from conflict or a lack of understanding of the legal process.

The Home. There are so many things to consider when you separate, one of the first is who will remain in the family home and who will move out. If there are children, then it is usually best that they remain in the family home with the parent whom will care for them, for the majority of the time, pending a final financial settlement. If you do not have any children, then you need to consider who is most likely to be able to afford the family home in a final property settlement, that person then should remain in the home, pending a final financial settlement. This will cause as little disruption as possible, and remember, leaving the family home does not mean you are giving up your right, title and interest in the property. That’s a divorce myth that pops up quite regularly!

Paperwork and records. When you separate it is important to gather together all of your paperwork and records, such as tax returns and bank statements, this will assist you when you obtain legal advice. If you are leaving the family home then take these records with you as they can sometimes be hard to retrieve later on.

Expenses. The next thing to consider pending a final resolution is who is going to pay the mortgage and expenses that may have been joint in the past. It is important to sort this out early on and to obtain advice from your bank or lending institution as to your liability under any mortgage. If you have complicated finances then you must get independent financial and accounting advice. However, it is important to keep your finances in check as this will help a financial settlement occur more efficiently.

Children. Children often complicate a separation, especially when both parents want the children to live with them. It is important that parents remember not to place any pressure on the children during this hard time, and they should not be used in “tug a war” games. Common sense should prevail and the children’s best interests should always be the number one consideration. Think about things like – who has the time to care for the children’s needs on a full time basis? Is a “shared care” regime appropriate? And who has cared for the children in the past?. We have a form to help you formalise your family needs here.

Animals. Do not forget the family dog or cat, they need to be cared for during these hard times as well.

You! Do not forget to look after yourself and ask for help when needed. There are many good counsellors around to help people going through these situations. If you are thinking clearly then it will help your family law matter be resolved more quickly and easily.

Once you have sorted out the interim issues you need to try and work hard at coming to a final agreement with regards to children and the division of property.

We don’t all know a family lawyer, so ask around for a recommendation and read up on them to ensure your philosophies fit. I’m delighted to have recently joined Leach Legal, who are very mediation orientated and love helping their clients achieve an outcome and resolution without the need for court proceedings.

Thanks Catherine for the space on your blog, and wishing the readers the very best in what is a trying time.