If you have made the decision to separate, what are the first things you should do?
At MDV Family Lawyers, we believe early advice is crucial, so we suggest you book an initial consultation with us straight away. Getting advice early can help you take the necessary steps with a clearer understanding of your rights, responsibilities and possible outcomes after separation.
In your initial consultation, we will go through your current family and financial position. This allows us to get a good understanding of your situation and identify the next steps you can take.
If children are involved, their care is very important.
We will discuss the possibilities for their care with you, including who could be their primary carer and how this would work. For example, if your separation is amicable, this would look differently than a situation where you and your former partner do not get along.
We recommend you prepare for the initial consultation in advance. This will allow you to get the greatest benefit from the meeting. Examples of what to prepare include:
You are free to bring a support person with you to the initial consultation.
It is also a good idea to contact Centrelink and Child Support as soon as possible after separating. Centrelink and Child Support should be informed of the change in your relationship status so they can make any adjustments accordingly.
Even if you do not currently receive any Centrelink payments, you may become entitled to payments as a result of your separation. As it can take many weeks for Centrelink to process your details, contacting them as soon as possible will minimise any financial stress for you.
We understand raising children is expensive and so making contact with Child Support early to at least start the assessment process will also help minimise any financial stress for you.
If you only have a joint bank account, it is very important to consider how you will access cash if you need it. Settling your finances after separation can take time, so you may need to have access to accounts in your own name.
You may also need to contact your bank for advice on what to do with any debts in joint names.
If you are renting your home, update your lease as soon as possible with the name of only the person who will remain in the home.
If you own your home, this will form part of the asset pool to be settled. Start thinking about who should remain in the home or whether it will be sold.
The next steps
It is natural for you to want to finalise the separation as quickly as possible. Therefore, if you and your former partner do agree on the care of children and division of assets without legal advice, you should still contact us.
Informal and verbal agreements can be very difficult to enforce. If for any reason things change in the future, your rights under the agreement are more protected if you have orders to support your agreement. We can help you obtain these orders.
Finalising a separation takes time. However, by getting early advice, contacting Centrelink and Child Support, arranging access to cash and considering your home, you are on your way towards negotiating a settlement.