When a marriage or de facto relationship breaks down, one or both members of the relationship must decide when to separate. Planning in advance is not always possible, particularly when the separation is necessary to avoid violence. If you are able to plan, however, this article will help you focus on the things you need to think about.
If you have children, the law requires you to put their needs ahead of your own. You should separate in a way that minimizes harm to your children.
Before you separate, both parents should explain to the children that the separation is not their fault. You may also want to work with a professional to assure that the children are not placed in the middle of a power struggle between their parents.
You should decide upon the following issues as soon as possible, preferably before you separate:
Where will the children live?
When will the children spend time with the other parent?
Who will take the children to their after-school activities?
What vacations will the children take with each parent?
What time will the children spend with grandparents and other relatives on each side of the family?
How will decisions be made about raising the children, including decisions about health care, religious activities, and education?
If you are not communicating well with the other parent or are having difficulty reaching agreements, a dispute resolution service (mediation) can help you.
You might not be able to work through an entire property settlement before you separate, but you should at least try to make a temporary agreement. The first question is usually a practical one: Which of you will stay in the current residence and which one will leave?
If you share one bank account, at least one spouse (and probably both) will need to open an individual account. How will funds in the existing account be divided?
If the two of you have only one car, who will use it? What furniture and other household goods will be taken by the person moving out?
Eventually you will need to make a final property settlement that resolves these questions and more. Keep in mind that personal property often ends up becoming the property of the person who possesses it immediately after the separation occurs. The person moving out should give serious thought to the property he or she wants to take.
If both parties are self-supporting, they may not need to discuss maintenance at the time the separation occurs. If one party depends upon the other for income, the party who does not work may need financial support from the party who is employed. If you cannot come to a prompt agreement about the payment of temporary maintenance, even after using a dispute resolution service, the party who needs income should talk to an attorney about applying for a financial order.
Child support is handled administratively. The parent who is in need of child support to meet parental obligations should apply for child support as soon as the separation commences.
There are certain other tasks that both parties should consider when a separation occurs. They include:
Changing Wills so that the other partner will not inherit.
Making a Will if you do not have one to prevent your spouse from inheriting if you die before a divorce becomes final.
Changing the beneficiary of your life insurance and superannuation unless you have agreed otherwise.
Sometimes a spouse will decide not to change beneficiaries if the other spouse will be caring for the parties’ children after a party dies. Another way to handle that is to create a Trust and make the Trust your beneficiary. You should talk to a lawyer or financial planner about the best way to handle your finances after a separation.