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Separating? Wollongong’s Top Family Lawyers share all you need to know…

What to do when you separate – Family Law Separation Checklist

Here at Parents Guide Illawarra, we can provide helpful content for whatever age and stage of your family. The sad reality is that many relationships break down, you are not alone. But, getting access to great, accurate advice at this emotional and tumultuous time is essential.

We were lucky enough to interview one of Wollongong’s experienced, best Family Lawyers from ALG (Access Law Group in Wollongong),

They know that a family law separation will be one of the hardest and most traumatic things that you will experience in your life. So here is what is most important to do when you separate..

First, all families are different and unique. So are all Family Law matters. This separation checklist is a guide on what is most important to consider.

Please always seek advice from a family lawyer. As the list below may change depending on your personal circumstances. 

At Access Law Group, the team of dedicated Family Law solicitors are happy to assist. Simply call them to arrange a time that suits you on 02 4220 7100. 

  1. If you are a victim of family violence, you have concerns for your safety or you have concerns for the safety of your children, you should seek urgent support from the Police, or other organisations such as SAHSSI for access to housing assistance domestic violence support services.  
  2. Arrange an appointment with a lawyer immediately for advice. Seeing a lawyer quickly will help you to plan and know your rights. You can call Access Law Group on 02 4220 7100 to discuss further (in person, by phone or by video conference) with an experienced Family Lawyer.
  3. Take note of the date of separation. If you continue to live separated under the same roof with your former partner or spouse post-separation, keep note of what has changed in your relationship. Include shared finances, undertaking domestic duties for each other, changes to sleeping arrangements, changes to your sexual relationship and whether you are continuing to attend social events and functions together as a couple.
  4. If safe to do so, before leaving the home, ensure that you collect your important items including passports, birth certificates, marriage certificate and financial documents. Take photographs of the current state of the home if you have concerns that your former partner or spouse may damage the property or allow the property to fall into a state of disrepair.
  5. Decide where you plan to live. If you plan to continue to reside in the family home and pay out your former partner or spouse, make enquiries regarding your borrowing capacity with your bank or mortgage broker. If a property is to be sold, be careful to obtain advice from a lawyer about formalising the property settlement before the proceeds of sale are divided. If you are renting, decide who will stay on the lease and ensure that it is amended. 
  6. If you have children, plan future parenting arrangements. When will the children be in each parent’s care? Also consider arrangements for special occasions including birthdays, Easter, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and school holiday periods. Seek advice about the different types of parenting agreements such as parenting plans or consent orders. Seek advice from a lawyer about the suitability of your matter for mediation and the different options. 
  7. How to get help with parenting arrangements. If your matter is urgent or your matter is not suitable for mediation, or one parent refuses to participate in mediation, a Court application may be necessary. Please seek advice from a lawyer immediately.
  8. Provide emotional support to your children. You should minimise arguments and speaking about adult matters in front of the children. Reassure the children that they are safe and loved. Do not speak negatively about the other parent in the presence of the children and do not allow other people to do so. Do not lean on your children for them to provide emotional support – they are the children and you are an adult. You may wish to inform important people in the children’s lives such as teachers or other trusted adults so they can provide emotional support to the children if needed.
  9. Take notes of everything. Keep a diary. Backup screen shots of text messages, social media posts and emails. These may be helpful if Court proceedings are commenced and can be used as evidence.
  10. Look after yourself. Find time to be social and physically active. A family law separation will be one of the hardest things that you will experience in your life. If you are struggling emotionally, seek support from family and friends. Speak to your GP about obtaining a mental health plan and a referral to counsellor or a psychologist, if extra emotional support is needed.
  11. Update your privacy information including changing your passwords/pin codes for email accounts, social media, phones, computers, internet banking, bank cards and other electronic devices. If your family devices operate under a cloud, you should take steps to remove devices from the cloud to ensure that your former partner or spouse can no longer access the information contained on your devices.  
  12. Review your Financial Position. In some circumstances, it may be best to create a separate bank account in your sole name if you are concerned about your former spouse or partner drawing down on joint funds. If you are concerned about your former spouse or partner drawing down funds from joint or redraw accounts, you may wish to contact the bank to ensure that one person cannot draw down funds without the consent of the other account holder.   
  13. Update your estate planning documents including your Will, Power of Attorney and Enduring Guardianship documents. Update your Binding Death Nomination with your superannuation and your beneficiary details for your life insurance. If you own a property jointly with your former partner or spouse, seek advice from a lawyer about whether you should consider severing the joint tenancy.

We thank ALG and their dedicated team of Family Lawyers for sharing their expertise and sponsoring this article.

Access Law Group family law solicitors in Wollongong, Camden and Sydney are experienced in representing clients at all stages of parenting matters. If you have any questions about parenting, or any other family law matter, please contact them on 02 4220 7100 or email [email protected]