Let’s be honest, separation is a terrible time in a relationship for anyone. Whether you and/or your partner have decided to go your separate ways, the end of a relationship brings many fears, uncertainties and questions.
What makes dealing with all of this so much harder is the emotional toll separation takes on the people involved. If there are kids from the relationship, this will add to your levels of anxiety as you work out the best way for them to feel safe and protected during this major change in their young lives.
The questions can seem never-ending when separation first occurs, such as with issues like Financial and living arrangements property, what needs to be done to start divorce proceedings. Sometimes these things can be addressed in a peaceful and calm way with your former partner, if the separation was mutually agreed and relatively amicable. Obviously, the issues can become a lot more complicated where the separation is less ‘friendly’ and you are not really on speaking terms with your former partner.
One thing you should do as a priority is to source some trusted legal advice from professionals who have experience in this area of law. By doing so you can help both clarify and simplify your next steps after separation and help isolate some of the emotional toll while helping you make the right decisions in this next phase of your life.
Remember that getting some advice about what happens in a separation doesn’t mean you have to go through with the split. Many couples will actually reconcile and make it work when they realise some of the implications of ending the relationship, which can become clear after consulting an experienced family lawyer Sydney.
We should note that the law relating to de facto couples and married couples differs slightly when it comes to the timing and effect of separation, which reinforces the importance of seeking legal advice.
What are some of the questions you need to ask yourself?
If you decide to separate from your partner there are a number of questions you need to ask yourself at the outset. These are important because they are both practical but they also deal with the emotional wellbeing of the people around you impacted by the decision to separate. Some of these include:
- How do my former partner and I tell the children about the separation? And how can we minimise disruption to their routines in terms of living arrangements, school, etc.
- How will we ensure the children maintain a meaningful relationship with each of their parents in terms of how they spend time and live or even communicate with the child or children (previously called access and custody and then changed to contact and residence)?
- Is there any common ground between us as a basis for answering the questions above and also deciding how to deal with any pressing financial decisions, such as a jointly owned vehicle, a joint bank account, or joint contributions to a mortgage? What arrangements can we make between us until a proper settlement of all financial issues can be reached?
- Do I need child support and maintenance payments from my former partner?
- How do I even apply for a divorce?
- Will I have to go to Court?
- How do we reduce the possibility of conflict in deciding these issues?
What about counselling or mediation?
Many of the answers to the questions above can be sorted out with the help of a family counsellor or mediator. One of our experienced Family Lawyers can help you through this process, creating a forum in which you and you former partner-partner can both express your fears, emotions and wishes for what you want to happen now the relationship has ended.
In particular, mediation helps take some of the anger and grievance out of the process and assists both parties to make their way towards the solutions needed in order to get on with life. The process helps clarify the issues and encourages creative ways to solve problems whether they are immediate or longer term.
This process may be separate from, or done in connection with, reconciliation counselling, which will help you work out whether separation is actually the best way forward. Perhaps there are issues which need to be addressed and resolved to help pave the way to getting back together?
How can an experienced family lawyer help?
One of the best things about speaking with a legal professional if you are going through a separation is that they can discuss issues with them in a confidential way. A family lawyer will not contact your estranged partner without your consent, though may need confirmation of their name and birth date.
A Lawyer can help you work through some of the issues raised here, such as whether marital counselling will help, what to do about jointly held property and accounts, and issues around child support, parenting and living arrangements.
If the relationship appears irreconcilable there are several critical issues that need to be discussed with you including whether your former partner may be volatile or if you suspect they may try to undermine you with parenting and financial issues.
It is sadly the case that some parents use the children as pawns in order to achieve various objectives including by way of a revenge or by trying to get more in a financial settlement .The other party may try to hide or dispose of assets.
If domestic abuse or violence has been a reason for the separation, ensuring your safety and the safety of your children may also be part of the discussion. A family lawyer can advise you on important things you should do in this situation, such as changing account passwords, informing relevant government agencies (such as Centrelink) or protecting your property.
All this kind of behaviour is distressing and at times even dangerous.
The first things we will recommend as any parenting and / or property dispute unfolds and efforts are made to try to resolve it, is that you:
- Seek support of a close friend(s) to be by your side who has no allegiances whatsoever with your former partner and you are fully confident will never breach your confidence;
- It is important to try to keep legal advice including about strategy confidential;
- Seek support of a private counsellor (for both you and or children, if you have any) with expertise in children and family breakdown issues:
- if you are experiencing mental health problems if your doctor agrees that you need additional support, you and the doctor can make a Mental Health Care Plan. If you have a plan, you will be entitled to Medicare rebates for up to 10 individual and 10 group appointments with some allied mental health services in a year. After the first 6 appointments, you need to see your doctor again for a mental health plan review and another referral;
- You might also obtain a referral to a psychiatrist. Some psychiatrists may bulk-bill. This means Medicare covers the cost of the appointment and you have no out-of-pocket fee. Otherwise after spending over a certain amount in a calendar year, Medicare will give you a higher amount back under the Medicare Safety Net.
- Primary Health Network (PHN) mental health care services PHNs provide a range of services for people with a diagnosed mental illness. This may include access to a psychologist, nurse, occupational therapist, social worker or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health worker. Services may be available if you: are in hardship; are living in a remote area; have suffered serious trauma (for example homelessness, bushfire or earthquake).
- The Supporting Children after Separation program through services like UNIFAM provides support services for children and young people of all ages who need some help coping with and understanding their parents’ separation. These services can help them to adjust to the changes that arise from separation and to express their feelings and thoughts about separation. The services use a range of age appropriate interventions, such as individual counselling or group work.
- There are also a range of other services available to both men and women and children and which we refer to in our Family Law Guide.
- We know its hard but trying your very best to stick to daily routines including with work, health and exercise is critical;
- Start to try to collate documents and prepare a detailed statement with our assistance to begin a process of providing you detailed advice and also if need be addressing any urgent issues in Court such as involving your former partner disposing of assets or with concerning issues such as child abuse.
Ivy Law Group
What you need to know is that separation can take several forms, and it does not require both parties to agree before a separation can take place. You can even be ‘separated under one roof’, and still living together because of your children or for financial reasons. This brings its own set of challenges which a family lawyer can advise on.
Whatever your circumstance, an initial no-obligation, first appointment free appraisal with one of our experienced Sydney lawyers can do wonders in helping you work out where you stand, what the future might hold, and the best way to proceed in order to get your life back on track.
At Ivy Law Group we are committed to sharing useful information regularly. We understand for some people the importance of getting some context around your legal issue before engaging legal help!
Family Law Articles
Marital separation (including divorce) and de facto separation is an unfortunate reality of the world that we live in. While some manage to navigate the emotional minefield with minimal anguish, most end up embroiled in bitter legal proceedings. While financial concerns are often of great importance when separating, far more important are matters of the heart: children. When making arrangements for children in a divorce, the Court will place the greatest amount of importance on the “best interests” of the child. But do those best interests include the child’s own wishes?