Are you thinking about separating from your spouse? Before you do, make sure you’ve thought things through – emotionally and practically. Hickman Family Lawyers have put together a list of questions you need to ask yourself before you separate from your partner. These will help you prepare for your separation and minimise the stress it may bring.
Is this a trial separation?
The first thing you should consider before separating is whether you have finally made up your mind to pack your bags and call it quits, or you aren’t quite sure yet and may rather want a trial separation.
Whatever the reason, there can be no doubt that it’s is going to be one of the hardest decisions you will ever make.
When one is in a state of uncertainty and confusion, it makes sense to seek personal advice as early as possible, from either a close family member or friend, or better still, from a counsellor or a reputable family lawyer to help prepare you for the challenges that lie ahead.
Do either of you hope to reconcile?
Not all separations end up in divorce, as couples often just need some time apart to work things out, and, they often do. If it does turn out that way for you, then that would be good.
But if after the separation you finally decide to go ahead with getting a divorce, it would not have been a wasted exercise, as Australian Family Law requires couples to have been officially separated for at least 12 months before finalising their divorce.
Where will you live?
There is so much you have to think about before you separate, and it is no doubt a daunting task.
First and foremost, would be where would you live? If you are the one that will move out, where will you go?
Will you be able to afford the extra expenses, such as rent, and buying new furniture and household goods? Will your partner contribute? The list is endless.
Although Australian Family Law allows a couple to be separated while living “under one roof”, it can become awkward, particularly if there is a history of any form of abuse.
Where will the kids live?
In many separations, there are children involved and this can complicate the situation further.
Discussions with your spouse need to take place and decisions be made as to who moves out, where the kids will live, with whom and who will fetch and who will take them to school and other activities.
If it is you who is moving out with the kids, then try to choose a home close to their current schools and to their other parent as well. This will ensure both you and your ex do not spend unnecessary time picking up and dropping off kids and keeps their routine and school life relatively unchanged.
All these issues need to be agreed upon by both spouses, prior to anyone moving out.
How will your children’s life change?
Australian Family Law demands that the best interests of children must always be taken into account, so the separation needs to cause as little disruption for the children as possible.
That will mean that every effort must be made for them to continue attending the same school and do the same activities as before to minimise the trauma.
Will your job allow you to split your time with your kids? If you do need to move areas or schools, have you considered the practical aspects and emotional aspects that will come with this decision?
How will you split your finances?
This is where many separations, which may have been fairly amicable so far, can suddenly escalate into open warfare, if not handled correctly and sensibly.
Undertaking a thorough audit of your finances is an absolute must and do not hesitate to seek professional financial or legal advice if you find this to be a daunting task.
If you have joint bank accounts, personal loans, or credit card debt, you will have to separate your finances. There are numerous other financial matters that need to be resolved, such as vehicle registration and life and health insurance for you and the children.
How you do all that will depend entirely on the relationship you have with your partner. Either by mutual agreement or with the assistance of a professional.
Can you both support yourselves financially?
Finances should never be the reason for remaining together, but you also need to ensure that you can both cope financially after the separation.
What lifestyle will you, your partner or your children have? Will you need to work longer hours to maintain your lifestyle? Are you prepared adapt to the lifestyle changes you may experience as a result of your separation?
Do you have a good support network?
Having a good support system is absolutely vital for any separated person. Lean on your family and close friends, especially during the early stages.
Choose your support base wisely and never be too proud to ask for help.
Is it time to get legal advice?
As you would have surmised by now, there is so much to think about before you separate and when you are also dealing with so many emotions, it is easy to be overwhelmed and make regrettable and costly choices.
By being proactive and engaging trusted family lawyers, you will receive invaluable advice, enabling you to make the most informed decision when it comes to your separation and divorce.
Ella Hickman is the owner and Principal of Hickman Family Lawyers, one of the leading family law firms in Perth. She practices almost exclusively in family law in Perth and has a particular interest in parenting and children’s issues, matters arising from domestic violence in relationships, and property settlement cases.
She has a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Psychology) from the University of Western Australia and has been practising as a barrister and solicitor since 2014.