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07 April 2021
Ending a long-term romantic relationship is usually a difficult process which can appear daunting.
Lives quickly become entwined in a relationship and the process of undoing that is complex, particularly in the case of divorce or separation.
Each couple’s situation will have its own complications, sensitivities and needs but here are some steps to consider.
Take your time and consider seeking professional support and advice as you go, particularly as you tackle the challenging conversations around division of assets and care of children.
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Where there are dependent children, their care arrangements will likely be central. Throughout this process, try to ensure they feel physically and emotionally secure throughout this process and, where possible, ensure they continue to have access to people they love and who care for them.
The need for different living arrangements will likely arise early. However, getting finances in order first can help ensure an outcome that reflects what is required for each of you, your children and pets, plus what’s possible with your financial situation.
Start by collating your relevant financial documents, including payslips, bills, bank statements, plus your loan, wills and property documents.
Find your utility and any other bills, registration papers, as well as super statements, insurance paperwork, investment statements and tax information. Also find identity documents like birth certificates and passports. Collate this information and, where relevant, make a copy for the other person.
Use this information to do and document a ‘stocktake’ of your financial situation, including incomes, expenses and assets. This will help inform decisions about new living and care arrangements but can also be used to assist you in your first appointment with your solicitor in relation to negotiating a property settlement.
Based on this information, what do your new living arrangements look like? Do you need to sell assets to facilitate the next step? Do you need additional financial advice? Have you closed joint accounts and cancelled joint credit cards?
Keep records of this ‘stocktake’, decisions made and your income and expenses as you move forward. If you are leaving a marriage, mark the date your separation officially began – you can’t get divorced until you have been separated for a year.
After you have undertaken this joint financial task, you will likely need to open a new bank account and update payroll and super fund details.
If you have moved and changed address, ensure you have updated your bank, mobile phone provider and others.
Ensure you have your own individual email account with a unique, private password. You will also likely need to update your will to ensure it reflects your change in circumstances.
This is general advice, designed to help you prepare for the first steps, but please seek advice on your individual circumstance.
• Patrick Smith is the principal of O’Brien and Smith Lawyers. This article is intended to be used as a guide only. It is not, and is not intended to be, advice on any specific matter. Neither Patrick nor O’Brien and Smith Lawyers accept responsibility for any acts or omissions resulting from reliance upon the content of this article. Before acting on the basis of any material in this article, we recommend that you consult your lawyer.
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