The first stages of a family breakup can be a haze for everyone involved. Whether the separation is expected or sudden, the many practical elements and emotions are overwhelming for even the most organised.
For this reason, we’ve put together a list some really simple things you can do that will:
- Help pave the way for an easier separation process
- Make you feel in control of the situation
- Educate you for what lies ahead
- Encourage a proactive path forward
Working your way through this list when you first separate and taking action on each point will keep you a step ahead, whilst cultivating a more positive mindset.
MAKE A NOTE OF YOUR SEPARATION DATE
The exact date of your separation might seem fairly irrelevant right now, but you will need it later.
Your separation date is the day that both you and your partner agree to separate, or the day that one of you ends the relationship. Note: You can still be living together at this time but not as a couple.
Ensure you have a record of this date, such as a text or email confirming it which can be used if things get hazy further down the line.
This date could be requested by government agencies such as Services Australia, Child Support and/or Medicare. It will also be relevant in your property settlement and when you apply for a divorce.
Fact sheet: Divorce vs. property settlement.
CHOOSE YOUR SUPPORT TEAM
Having support during this difficult time is crucial. Making sure it is the “right” support is even more important.
No one expects you do this alone.
Reach out to friends and family members who are able to help you on a practical level with things such as helping care for your children, moving to a new house or even just cooking dinner one evening.
In addition to this, you will need emotional support. Remember that some friends and family members are too involved in your separation and may be bias in their emotional support offering. Others have experienced their own separation which they drawn upon to offer advice which is not relevant to your circumstances.
People who genuinely care and listen with open hearts and minds will be your rocks at this time.
Further reading: How to build a support system as a single parent.
UPDATE BANK ACCOUNT DETAILS
If you don’t already have a bank account in your name only, now is the time to open one. Ensure that only you have access to the account and redirect your wages into it.
Next, cancel any joint accounts or credit cards. Before doing so check for autopay’s and make arrangements for them to be paid from a different account, usually from the new banks accounts that you and your ex will have opened in your own names.
Remember, if you have recorded your separation date, all payments made by either party after separation but before settlement can be taking into account when agreeing on the financial split.
MAKE AN INTERIM PARENTING PLAN
Whether you chose to live separately straight-away, or you stay living together for a period of time, it will be in your children’s best interests to decide how this will work from a parenting point of view.
Ultimately, such arrangements can be drawn-up into a parenting plan and then, if required, parenting orders which are legally binding. However, working out what will happen from now until then is very important.
There is nothing more important right now than making sure your children are ok. This means giving them a clear picture of what they can expect over the next few months. Showing a united front as parents now will set the scene for your co-parenting relationship henceforward.
WORK OUT HOW TO COMMUNICATE
Good communication is the key to success in any separation. It will smooth the path for your property settlement, making it amicable, less stressful and more cost-effective. It will also do wonders for your co-parenting relationship which is likely to continue for many more years.
When it comes to communication, start as you mean to go on. This means finding the communication that works best for you and your ex-partner. For most, this is a written form such as email, parenting app or text. Anything that allows you time to think before hitting send and that keeps emotions at bay is good.
Choose the mode for contacting each other and then stick to it, whilst maintaining respect at all times.
GET YOUR PAPERWORK TOGETHER
Now is the time to get important documents organised and in one place for easy reference throughout your separation process. They can be hard copy or electronic, so long as they are easily accessible and shareable.
Getting on top of personal administration is good for peace of mind and is also the first step to create your assets pool ready for your financial separation. An asset pool is the total value of assets e.g. houses, cars, savings minus liabilities e.g. debts that arise out of a marital or de facto relationship.
Such documents include but are not limited to:
- Bank, loan and credit card statements
- Superannuation statements
- Insurance policies
- Tax returns
- Utility invoices
- Car registrations
SECURE UP YOUR LOANS
However amicable your separation is, it will be in both your interests to secure any loans you have in both your names, including your home loan.
Contact the lenders to see if there is a redraw facility on any of the loans. If there is, explain to the bank that you have separated and would like to amend the facility so that funds can only be withdrawn with the written consent of both parties to the loan. If they are unable to facilitate this, then cancel the redraw facility.
TALK TO YOUR KIDS, AND TALK SOME MORE
Alongside the practicalities of co-parenting such as who has the kids when and where, it is crucially important to ensure that your children’s emotional needs are being met.
This could mean both mum and dad talking together with the kids about the separation, or just one parent explaining it.
Make sure you talk to children about separation at an age-appropriate level and reiterate these two points, whatever their age:
- Both parents love you just as much as ever, more if that is possible
- This is not your fault
Depending on your children’s age, they only need to know the basics but make sure they understand they can ask questions and talk about it whenever they need to.
Further reading: 8 Ways to help your children deal with divorce.
FIND A MENTAL HEALTH ACTIVITY
Amid the chaos of a separation, you can be forgiven for dropping that yoga class or pottery lesson.
Yet, now more than ever, you need mental, physical and emotional strength to be able to cope with what the next few months may bring. Taking a little time out for self-care, whatever this may be for you, is essential.
Although it might seem crazy too chill in the downward dog position for three whole minutes when you family is falling apart, anyone who has experienced separation will encourage you to do this.
PICK YOUR PROFESSIONALS
Nearly all separations need some level of professional support. However, it is a common misconception that you must hire lawyers.
Using a family lawyer can be a contentious, long and expensive path. They can also create more conflict around your breakup by the very nature of hiring a separate lawyer to represent each party. However, family lawyers are essential if your case involves complex child custody, domestic violence or other essential legal needs.
Here at Divide, our mission is: To find the very best and most cost-effective outcome for both of you in a non-aggressive space, without using lawyers.
Find out more about how we can help you here: Tricks for a financial property settlement (that your lawyer may not mention).