You are now single, and there are loads of decisions you are going to need to make during this transition period. These decisions are important — they will shape your future and the future of your children. You need to be able to make clear decisions that are free from influence, duress or pressure from your ex-partner. If you are feeling controlled, under duress or harassed, you may need to consider seeking a Domestic Violence Order in an attempt to stop your ex-partner from imposing this upon you. In the section Clarity, there is more information regarding domestic violence.
Some of the clever decisions you will need to make on your own and uninfluenced by your ex-partner concern the following.
The matrimonial home
What do you do with your home when you separate? Do you stay in the home or will you be required to sell it to reach a property settlement? This will become clearer as you work out your finances, but sometimes people don’t even consider refinancing their property, even when it is possible. Other times, it is a possibility, but one of the parties is opposed to your keeping the property for emotional reasons such as the memories, or that it was originally owned by the opposing party before the relationship, or even that one of the parties renovated it with their own hands.
Your future home
Once you separate, where are you going to live? If you move out into a new property, this is a decision for you to make. Find a new home that is comfortable, affordable and convenient for you and where you feel safe. It is not for your ex-partner to influence you in this decision; you are free to live where you choose now you are separated. If you have children in your care, you should remain close to their usual school and routine unless it is agreed and consented to between you and the other parent that you make a significant move away from the children’s usual geographical location.
Banking on your own
Can you set up a new bank account once you are separated? Yes! Open a new bank account in your own name. You are entitled to do this, and, if you do not already have your own account, you should do this. You can choose any bank you wish. Be aware that in your property division process, you may need to provide disclosure about all your bank accounts, including any new ones that you open after separation.
Directing your salary or income
Direct your salary or income to your own account. Again, you are entitled to do this; however, you may need to provide disclosure at some point. If you are not working, you should attend Centrelink to see what support they may be able to provide. There is support offered after separation, in some cases, even when you are living under the same roof while separated.
Contacting Child Support
Seek child support by contacting the Child Support Agency (CSA). You are entitled to seek child support if you have children in your care. Time and time again, I see clients become upset that their partner called the CSA, but child support is an obligation, and it is a reality of being a separated parent.
Protecting your assets in separation
If your ex-partner is disposing of assets or doing anything underhand with any assets that either of you has, you will need to decide about what steps you will take to protect the assets. In this situation, you should seek immediate legal advice, either through a private practice or government-run legal services in your area, so that protections such as caveats or injunctions can be put in place if necessary.
Retaining a lawyer
How do you retain a family lawyer? Many clients say that they were warned by their ex-partner not to retain a lawyer, but often, having a lawyer on your side will help you to resolve your matter faster and more smoothly. Staying calm about that kind of intimidation is difficult, and having a professional stand between you and an aggressive ex-partner can make a world of difference. More importantly, the legal system is challenging for an outsider; good family lawyers function as interpreters and guides and, if there is disagreement between you and your ex, will make sure that your settlements are in your best interests and your children’s.