Separating from a partner is usually a difficult time.
At Bell Legal Group our sympathetic lawyers can help direct you in the legal aspects of separation.
In Australia the legal definition of separation as far as married couples are concerned is found at section 49 of the Family Law Act 1975 which reads as follows:
- Meaning of separation
(1) The parties to a marriage may be held to have separated notwithstanding the cohabitation was brought to an end by the action or conduct of one only of the parties. (2) The parties to a marriage may be held to have separated and to have lived separately and apart notwithstanding that they have continued to reside in the same residence or that either party has rendered some household services to the other.
So in a legal sense separation can come about mutually or by only one party’s action or conduct and the parties are deemed to have separated even if they share the same residence afterwards.
See below a checklist we have prepared to give you some ideas about what you should do to protect your interests upon separation. Please note that not all of these will apply in every case and you should get legal advice tailored to your unique situation.
- Get legal advice early on from a lawyer who practices in Family Law
- 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 certficates, marriage certificate, education certificates, passports (including children’s passports), statements from banks, superannuation companies, insurers, car registration, tax returns, business papers
- Take copies – 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
- Try to reach arrangements for post-separation parenting if the relationship with your ex is still amicable. These could form the basis for a Parenting Plan or consent orders (talk to your solicitor about these)
- Find out about your Child Support obligations or entitlements by contacting the Department of Human Services.
- Tell any school(s)/kindergarten(s) about the separation, how the children are coping and any changes in day to day arrangements or contact information
Bank Accounts, Credit Cards, Mortgage and other loans
- Tell the bank(s) about the change of circumstances. Agree payment plans for the short term if needed.
- Change your PIN numbers and Internet banking passwords
- Open up a new account in your sole name (if you don’t already have one). Ensure payments of salary, pensions etc go to this new account.
- Consider closing joint accounts – including drawdown or redraw facilities – or at least make sure any debits need the authority of both account holders.
- 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 – as later on this may be used as evidence in their case against you.
- 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
Any queries about separation?
If you have any queries about separation and how you may be affected legally please get in touch with us.
We can advise you about how a separation may impact on your legal rights and obligations. To find out how our Family Law team can help you, call us now on 07 5597 3366 or complete the ‘Contact Us’ form below.
Please note that the above is general information only. It is not legal advice and should not be taken as such or relied upon.