When considering whether to separate from your spouse or partner, there are some big ticket questions to consider before proceeding with the separation process.
Below we list a few practical tips that may be helpful for you when considering separation:
- Communicating separation with your partner
If you are considering separation, it is imperative that you communicate this effectively with your spouse or partner. Not only will this provide a clear date of separation if required to be relied upon in the future, but it expresses your intent and affords the other party an opportunity to fix things that are broken in the relationship. Whilst this conversation may be uncomfortable, this may also be an opportune time to attend relationship counselling to communicate effectively and provide you with skills to improve your relationship.
Also consider whether you are separating with a view to reconciling in the future. If you are trialling a period of separation, we recommend that you and your partner discuss a timeline to assess whether or not you wish to continue the relationship. A trial separation is valuable to assess the issues you have with your spouse and whether these frustrations are reparable.
It is also important to discuss with your spouse or partner whether you will begin seeing other people whilst separated, particularly in a trial separation period.
- Consider your living accommodation
A further consideration is whether you and your spouse will continue to reside in the family home together as a separated couple, or whether one party will relocate elsewhere.
If you decide not to reside in the same home under the same roof, it is worth deciding ahead of time which party will remain in the family home and who will find alternate accommodation, i.e. at a family member’s home or in a rental accommodation.
Further, we recommend that you and your partner clarify what expenses will be paid by who until a property settlement is undertaken. This can include home insurance, health insurance, mortgage repayments, water and rates bills.
- Consider your co-parenting relationship
It goes without saying that the breakdown of a relationship affects any children of the relationship, particularly the change of living arrangements, a change of a parent’s career or working hours, and the time spent with each parent moving forward.
It is imperative that discussions between parties are guided around how to help the children navigate the changes to the family dynamic and what is in the best interests of the children. We recommend that parents consider how they will remain a united front for the children and how they can shelter the children from conflict about adult related issues. Children from families that separate amicably with low levels of conflict are able to adjust better than those who are exposed to high conflict. Further, it is important to consider the age of your children and how you will explain the separation to them in an age appropriate way.
- Consider how you are going to split your finances
It is important to consider the state of your financial affairs prior to separation, particularly where there may be a large marital debt and unknown property pool. We recommend that parties be aware of all their assets – particularly what each party solely owns and what is owned jointly as a couple.
Alternatively, if this process is not undertaken and parties are forced to separate suddenly, there is a risk that one party has insufficient knowledge of the other party’s financial affairs, or that a spouse may be opportunistic in hiding finances away from them. Knowing your assets and financial responsibility prior to separation, and keeping a close eye on expenses, will help you prepare you for life after separation.
Further, we recommend that parties pay off joint debts as soon as possible, as this will only assist to reduce debts and liabilities in the property pool, and cut any financial ties that you may have with your spouse in the future, particularly post-separation liabilities.
- Consider support services that can assist
There are many useful support services and free websites that are able to assist you during a separation. These include:
- Family Relationships Australia;
- Federal Circuit Court of Australia;
- Family Court of Australia;
- Department of Human Services.
Reflecting on how you will handle the above areas is an essential step to be taken prior to separating, and should not be avoided in the chaos of separation.
If you are contemplating separation, information is key to how you choose to move forward. Best Wilson Buckley Family Law offers a completely confidential, no obligation, fixed fee, initial appointment with an expert family lawyer in Toowoomba to discuss your situation and explore your options. Should you require our assistance in preparing for a separation, please contact us and our firm will be happy to walk you through the process, at your pace.