When a long-term couple decides to separate or get a divorce, it’s just one of many life-changing choices they have to make before they can pick up the pieces and get on with life.
Depending on why the relationship ended, it can either be very easy or hard for both parties to reach to an agreement on how they wish to consolidate all their shared assets. Unfortunately, if the relationship ended on bad terms, the lingering tension can bring the negotiating phase to a grinding halt and leave both parties in a state of limbo.
And it’s not just the separating couple who is affected by these changes either. If children are involved, the couple has to decide who will be the primary caretaker and how they will split up parenting duties.
If an agreement cannot be reached, either both or one of the partners may need to seek family mediation and/or legal advice. By talking to a family lawyer, you will gain a better understanding of your legal rights and obligations and receive tailored advice on how to achieve a successful outcome.
But, before you take this crucial step, here are 5 things to consider to make the separation process a bit easier.
Let Go Of The Past
The aftermath of a separation or divorce can be tough. It’s perfectly normal to experience a range of conflicting emotions. One day, you may feel happy and carefree and then – out of nowhere – you begin to feel hurt, lost, and rejected by the world.
In times like this, having someone you can open up to can make all the difference. By having a strong support network you are more likely to let go of the past. Even just a casual chat with a close friend, relative, or colleague can help brighten up your day.
In a legal context, being positive will help your case too. Unfortunately, some people use their separation proceedings as a way to ‘get back’ at their former partner. But by doing this you are only causing more pain (to yourself, and your former partner) and dragging out proceedings. Instead, focus on the present, and do whatever you can to make things better for the future.
Sort Out Your Finances
Do you and your former partner have a joint bank account? What about your credit/debit cards? Are utility bills attached to both of your names? Do you share ownership of any property, investments, or company stocks?
If you replied ‘yes’ to any of the above, you both need to reach an agreement on how to divide your financial assets.
Your first priority should be to establish a pool of money only you can access. Create a new bank account in your name only and direct all sources of income to this account. Obtain a new sole credit/debit card. If you fear the worst, change your online banking passwords and card PIN too.
Once you have both come up with a fair plan, be sure to cancel all joint bank accounts and associated credit/debit cards.
Prepare Living Arrangements
If both you and your former partner have separated on (relatively) good terms, it may be possible to keep living together – at least for the time being – until the settlement is over and you are both ready to move on.
In this case, you need to define the relationship as it now stands. Will you sleep in separate rooms? How will you both interact with the children? And, this is perhaps the root of any post-separation dispute, are you allowed to see other people? By establishing these ground rules, you will have an easier time living under the same roof and going about your day-to-day activities.
If moving out straight away is the only option, make sure you have the financial means to do so first. If it is unsafe to keep living with your former partner, and your financial circumstances are poor, contact a local support service like the Salvation Army or VincentCare for further assistance.
Neither you nor your former partner can force the other person to leave the house – even if part or all of the property is under your name. But you may be able to obtain an Intervention Order from the Magistrates Court. Alternatively, consult a family lawyer for expert legal advice.
Consult a Family Lawyer
Whether your circumstances are simple or complex, talking to a family lawyer can make the transition go smoothly.
By taking the time to understand your unique case, they use their in-depth knowledge of family law to help you better understand your legal rights and obligations, and advise you on how to reach a satisfactory outcome.
If there is a chance of success through mediation, your family lawyer will arrange this service for you and guide you each step of the way from start to end. If you have to attend court, a lawyer will tell you exactly what to expect so that you are prepared.
Best of all? Your family lawyer can take care of all the paperwork so you don’t have to. With all of these services, you will finally be free to plan your future.
Look After the Children
Regardless of age, the act of separation can be devastating to a child’s personal development, health, and wellbeing. By working together with your former partner, you can both make the transition easier.
Tell your children that you are both separating and certain things in their life will change. Make it clear to your children that you both still love them no matter what happens. Never try to shift the blame onto your children either.
From there, both you and your former partner need to establish a care plan for your children. This can either be a casual verbal agreement, or set in writing in the form of a Divorce Settlement Agreement, where both parties have a legal obligation to carry out the duties set in the agreement.
While each circumstance is unique, some of the ways you can help your child through this process is to:
- Allow your child to keep going to the same school, hang out with the same circle of friends, have the same job etc.
- Always be respectful to your former partner. Never fight or argue in front of children.
- Understand that your children may go through periods of sadness or distress.
- Give them the space to deal with the gravity of the situation and reassure them everything will be okay.
- Make every decision based on what is in the best interest of your children – not what is convenient for you, or your former partner.