The breakdown of a relationship or marriage, whether by choice or circumstance, can be complex and challenging. In Australia, the Family Law Act 1975 sets out the legal framework for divorce, the division of property and parenting arrangements after a relationship breaks down. An experienced family lawyer can provide valuable legal advice and guidance when it comes to navigating these laws.

Family law matters are not just legal problems, in addition to navigating the law and the emotional aftermath, addressing the practical side of marriage separation can be equally important to transition into your new phase of life. There are a host of considerations, many of which will need immediate attention. Following are some typical practical matters that may need to be dealt with.

Living Arrangements

  • Accommodation and housing will naturally be a concern. You’ll need to decide who stays and who leaves the family home which might be influenced by employment needs, children’s schooling, and nearby family support.
  • If you are renting, decide who will stay in the current home, notify your landlord and have the rental agreement updated. If you have a mortgage, inform your bank of your separation and any decisions made regarding mortgage responsibilities.
  • If you are moving out, you will need to explore housing options that fit your budget and lifestyle, which can be particularly difficult in the current market. Ask friends and family for referrals and support.
  • If you are relocating, make sure you change your address with various organisations, and for added security, you may want to consider renting a post office box.

Children and Schooling

  • For families with children, their well-being and continuity in learning and development are paramount. Keep your children’s best interests in mind – try to put differences aside to work out arrangements that will cause them the least disruption and, where possible, foster a meaningful relationship with both parents.
  • If you can, establish a temporary agreement as a starting point, which can lead to a more formal arrangement later. Maintaining consistency is likely desirable in most cases. If possible, stick to your children’s current schooling and childcare arrangements to maintain stability in their lives.
  • Meet with school and childcare administrators to inform them about the separation and keep them notified of any changes so they are aware of the situation and can help. Schools often offer support and resources to help children cope with the change.
  • Coordinate with your ex-partner to work out a plan for childcare/school pickups, extracurricular activities, and parent-teacher meetings. Consistency and cooperation in these areas can significantly reduce stress for children.

Banking and Accounts

  • Contact your bank to discuss your mortgage, joint loans, savings accounts, credit cards, and every other aspect of your banking. You will likely want to open a separate savings account and close or put a hold on credit card facilities, lines of credit, etc. Major banks generally have online resources and checklists to help those who have separated to work through their banking needs.
  • Protect and help safeguard your privacy by updating passwords and login details for online banking accounts, email, social media platforms, etc.

Property and Record-Keeping

  • Secure your personal documents and items. Ensure you have all necessary identification, financial records, and personal valuables in a safe place. Obtain originals or copies of important documents like passports, marriage certificates, birth certificates and insurance policies.
  • Ensure that your property (your home, other real estate, motor vehicles, boats, etc.) remains insured. Failing to retain insurance, should the unforeseen happen, can have devastating financial effects. Work out with your ex-partner who is paying for what and keep accurate records.
  • Prepare a list of assets and liabilities (and account balances as of the date of separation). Property, shares, investments, bank accounts, superannuation, mortgages, loans, and credit card accounts will all be relevant when it comes to finalising your property.
  • Document your agreed date of separation and keep a journal to record other significant events and timelines. This is important information when it comes to applying for a divorce and determining deadlines for filing court proceedings, if this becomes necessary later.

Support and Assistance

  • Contact the Department of Human Services to learn about child support and whether you are entitled to financial assistance.
  • Create a trusted support network and enlist help from friends and family as well as professional counselling or therapy, if needed. Contact us and we can provide you with a list of trusted professionals.
  • Lean on your support network. Friends, family, support groups, and professional counselling can provide the emotional support needed during this challenging time. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help, and reaching out for professional guidance is a prudent way to navigate the complexities of separation.

Moving Forward

Don’t put off getting quality legal and financial advice from qualified professionals.

Consider making or updating your Will and other documents such as a power of attorney. You should also review your superannuation and life insurance policy, as relevant, as you may wish to make changes to the beneficiaries. Your lawyer can provide guidance and advice in these important estate planning areas.

Separation demands both emotional and practical resilience and working out some of the preliminary steps to take after a relationship breaks down can be difficult when you are emotionally charged. Fortunately, there are resources available to help you navigate these difficult times. We understand the sensitivity and intricacies inherent in family law matters – the legal and the practical issues – and our goal is to provide comprehensive support and guidance to all our clients.

This is general information only and you should obtain professional advice relevant to your circumstances. If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please contact us on 02 6230 0199 or email [email protected].