The end of a marriage or de-facto relationship is one of the hardest things you will go through. While everyone's situation is different, there are a number of things you should and shouldn't do when separating from your husband, wife or de-facto partner. In this post, Tonkin Legal Group Partner, Shane Williams shares his top 10 list of things to remember when separating:

  1. Make sure you understand your entitlements and obligations and have a plan before you separate

    If separation is on the cards but hasn't actually happened yet, it is very helpful to understand your specific legal and financial entitlements and obligations before you separate.  Come and see one of our family law team for some pre-separation advice. For a fixed fee we discuss your situation and work with you to develop a sound plan to manage the painful process of separation that will protect your best interests and those of your children. This investment can save you a lot of heartache and money down the track.

  2. Record the fact that you have separated

    Send a simple email, noting the date that you, or your partner, made it clear to the other that you are separating. This can be relevant in any later court proceedings – eg. for divorce.   

  3. Take the children when you leave

    If you want the children to live mainly with you, take them with you when you leave. Otherwise, it may be difficult to get them back from your partner, especially as it can take a long time to get into court. Your partner could then say the children are settled with them and should stay there.

  4. Don’t 'clean out' the household contents

    Take what you need, for yourself and the children. Cleaning out the house will inevitably upset your partner and may make negotiating with them about the children, money and property more difficult, and expensive.

  5. Don’t 'disappear'

    Unless there is domestic violence and you have left the home for your/the children’s safety, let your partner know where you and the children are living. That will assure them that you and the children are safe.

  6. Open communications and keep talking

    Again, unless there are safety issues, let your partner know how to communicate with you and the children – phone, email, SMS and by video. This is especially important so the children can keep in touch with their other parent.

    Once you have separated, keep talking to your partner, about the children, money, property. There used to be an old saying – “The family that prays together, stays together.” Today, it can be said, “The family that talks together, even when the relationship is failing, stays out of court.

  7.  Make temporary access arrangements for the children

    It may seem hard to believe, but many people, even if they have been planning to separate for a long time, leave without thinking about arrangements for the children to spend time with the other parent. Something as simple as sorting that out, at least on a temporary basis, will save a lot of upset, and legal fees.  Consider mediation if you can’t agree - Relationships Australia in Greensborough can help.

  8. Agree financial arrangements

    People rarely seem to discuss, or even think about financial arrangements until after they separate. Who will pay the mortgage ? School fees? Child Support? It’s important to try to sort those things out before separating. We can help you plan for this discussion as part of our pre--separation advice.  Again, mediation can help with disagreements on financial issues.

  9. Use Intervention Orders carefully

    If you and/or the children are the victims of violence or the threat of violence, call the police on 000 if it’s urgent, or contact the Heidelberg Magistrates Court. The Court can issue an Intervention Order. That can mean  your partner, while allowed to stay in the home with you, is not allowed to harm you or the children, or it can order the partner to leave the house – the police arrive, give your partner a few minutes to collect their belongings and escort them off the property. Such orders often include the children, preventing the partner from seeing them for months. So, the situation escalates, the children’s relationship with the other parent is harmed – sometimes permanently. Keep yourself and the children safe, but remember that an Intervention Order can be a good friend, as well as a dangerous weapon.

  10. Be careful what you say on social media

    Anything you put on social media about your partner, their family or their new partner can be used against you if you and your partner end up in court, especially over the children. And anyone who is offended by what you say about them can sue you for defamation. No matter how you feel about your partner, remember that what you say on social media may come back to bite you in court.

The takeaway advice from this is that Family Law, like brain surgery or rocket science, is a complex area and not something to try doing by yourself. Here at Tonkin Legal Group, our Family Law team have decades of experience to help you plan for separation,  guiding you through separation and divorce, ensuring that your best interests (and those of your family) are protected.