8 Steps To Take When Separating
Bruce Provan, Accredited Family Law Specialist | 31 October 2012
“I have seen my clients make some terrible mistakes…
…when choosing to separate”
Having practised in Family Law for over 20 years, I have seen my clients and their former partners make some terrible mistakes when choosing to separate. Unfortunately sometimes these mistakes prove costly. Here are 8 simple things to do to avoid common mistakes:
1. TAKE ACTION
Many people persist in unhappy, stressful and even sometimes violent relationships far longer than they should. Life is short. If you are in an unhappy relationship you need to either do something significant to improve the relationship (such as counselling) or decide to terminate the relationship, sort out parenting, property and child support arrangements and then move on with your life
If you decide to separate I usually advise clients to take steps as soon as possible to try to sort out those arrangements so you can close that chapter of your life and move on to the next. Unfortunately many people don’t and this usually just prolongs their misery and keeps them awake at night.
2. GET LEGAL ADVICE
Knowledge is power. If you are contemplating separating or if you have chosen to do so it won’t cost you much to consult with a lawyer. The lawyer will be able to advise you of your rights and entitlements and the best way to move forward to get things resolved with your former partner. Once each party has a good idea of their rights and entitlements they can usually come to some agreement. If you don’t get good legal advice there’s a good chance you’ll be duped by your former partner or you’ll have an unrealistic of idea of what your entitlements are, which may lead to further conflict and court.
3. CHOOSE THE RIGHT LAWYER
Once you have chosen to consult a lawyer, find the right one! Richelle Hampton’s article on “How to Find a Good Lawyer” on this website is a great start! Look for a lawyer who is experienced and practices exclusively in family law, preferably one who has gained the additional qualification of being an accredited specialist. Having a specialist lawyer can save a lot of money and time, because they know what they’re doing.
4. BE SELECTIVE WITH ADVICE FROM FRIENDS AND FAMILY
If you are contemplating or if you have chosen to separate, friends and family are an enormous support. It’s a difficult time of your life. Chances are the more emotional support you receive the better you will cope. Sometimes well-meaning family and friends overstep the mark by giving advice (often legal advice) which is wrong or inappropriate. Sometimes it’s because they’ve been through a separation themselves and they assume whatever advice they received is automatically going to apply for you. This usually isn’t the case. Every relationship is different. Every separation is different. You need advice which is tailored to your situation, from experts such as counsellors and lawyers.
5. BE HONEST AND OPEN WITH YOUR LAWYER
The lawyer you consult can only properly advise you if they have the full story. If there is something embarrassing about your story it’s better that your lawyer knows about it and can try to minimise the damage. Sometimes something you find embarrassing (for example if you had an affair) might not affect your lawful rights and entitlements. If you aren’t honest and open with your lawyer, there’s a good chance that the embarrassing matter will come out in court anyway (often at the worst possible time!). Not being honest and open will often lead to you receiving incorrect advice because the advice is not based on all of the facts.
6. PROTECT THE CHILDREN FROM CONFLICT
Research shows that conflict between parents before and after separation causes most damage to children, not the separation itself. If you choose to separate it is desirable for the parents to have a co-operative relationship, communicate with each other well and to make joint decisions regarding the children. Often this is not possible. If that’s the case try to protect the children from conflict as best you can. Counsellors can often assist. This doesn’t mean tolerating harassing, abusive or manipulating conduct from your former partner just to “keep the peace”.
7. LOOK AFTER YOURSELF
Going through a separation is stressful. It might be the most difficult time of your life. You will get through it! There’s a good chance you’ll be a happier person in the long term. But in the meantime you need to look after yourself. Separation often triggers depression or other mental illness. Don’t be afraid to consult a counsellor, doctor, psychiatrist or other mental health professional. Don’t try and do it all by yourself.
8. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ENOUGH MONEY
If you are planning to separate there is probably going to be a period when you don’t have much money. Sometimes where a couple are in a difficult financial position there simply isn’t much cash to divide. At other times there is cash but the other party takes it. You’ll need money to support yourself and perhaps also your children. You also need money for other expenses such as a bond if you were going to rent and for legal fees. You may be eligible for Centrelink entitlements and for child support, and possibly also spouse maintenance. However there’s often a delay before you start receiving these payments and where possible you should make sure you have enough money to be able to support yourself and the children during this period.
It is essential to find the right professional and get good advice early on, even before you separate.
Accredited Specialist in Family Law
Harrington Family Lawyers
Bruce Provan is a partner of Harrington Family Lawyers, one of Brisbane’s oldest boutique family law firms. Admitted in 1991, Bruce has been an accredited family law specialist since 1999.
This article contains only general information, and may not apply to your situation. You should obtain information about your situation from an experienced qualified professional.
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