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Separating? Some practical tips on what to do next.

Bell Legal Group Separation Checklist

At Bell Legal Group we have a dedicated Family Law team with lots of experience of helping people through the legal minefield of breaking up. If you have separated or know someone who has, you may find the following helpful.

Make a checklist

Generally

We recommend that you get legal advice early on from a lawyer who practices in Family Law. There is a lot of information on the web and some of it is unhelpful and inaccurate. Even the useful information out there may not apply to your situation. Until you obtain your own legal advice some practical steps you might consider include:

  • Review your Will, Powers of Attorney and Binding Nominations
  • List in detail all assets and liabilities whether owned solely by either party, jointly or even by a third party (e.g. company)
  • Work through your new budget.
  • Set up a new email address.
  • Set up a PO Box for mail.
  • Safeguard important documents such as:
    • Birth certificates, marriage certificate, education certificates, passports (including children’s passports), statements from banks, superannuation companies, insurers, car registration, tax returns, business papers
  • Take copies of important documents – you could even store scanned copies online
  • Keep the originals of your documents in a safe place where they cannot be accessed by your former partner
  • Change all of your passwords for e.g. computers, tablets, phones and online accounts.
  • Backup your phone messages and emails.
  • If you are moving out, contact the utility companies (e.g. electricity, gas, telephone) to remove your name from the account.
  • If you are renting advise the letting agent about the new circumstances and look to get any updated lease in your sole name (if you wish to stay)
  • If you receive or could receive any government benefits contact the agency concerned about the separation (e.g. Centrelink)

If there are children of the relationship

Keep children out of grown-up disputes

Try to reach agreements for post-separation parenting if the relationship with your ex is still amicable. Think about who the children should live with and what time they should spend with the other parent. Make the children’s best interests your paramount consideration. These arrangements can be documented and could form the basis for a Parenting Plan or consent orders (talk to your solicitor about what these terms mean).

Find out about your Child Support obligations or entitlements by contacting the Department of Human Services. You can access information on their website here:
https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/subjects/parents-guide-child-support

Don’t forget to tell any school(s) about the separation, how the children are coping and any changes in day to day arrangements or contact information.

All things money – Bank Accounts, Credit Cards, Mortgages, Loans

Australian money

Take control of your money

Start by making a list of all of your bank and other accounts. Contact your bank(s) to tell them about the change of circumstances. Try to agree payment plans for the short term if needed. Banks deal with the financial fallout of separation every day and often have dedicated staff to help their customers.

  • Remember to change your PIN numbers and Internet banking passwords.
  • Open up a new account in your sole name (if you don’t already have one). Then ensure payments of salary, pensions etc go to this new account.
  • List your regular payments then organise direct debits to be taken from the correct account(s).
  • Consider closing joint accounts – including drawdown or redraw facilities – or at the very least make sure any debits need the authority of all account holders.

Social media

Avoid using social media such as Facebook if you can. But if you must stay online, then we suggest you don’t post anything negative about your ex-partner – this rarely helps resolve matters and later on could even be used as evidence against you.

Safety

If you have experienced domestic violence or are worried that you may be then contact 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) for advice. If you are in danger contact the police on 000

Obtain tailored legal advice for your situation

Not everything mentioned in the above checklist will apply in every case. Everyone’s situation is unique and you should always obtain professional legal advice tailored to your circumstances.

Disclaimer

This checklist is for general information only and is not legal advice nor should it be
taken to be. To obtain legal advice specific to your circumstances please contact
Alex Wynn, Senior Associate – Family Law, Bell Legal Group on 07 5597 3366 or by
email to awynn@belllegal.com.au