The separation and divorce process can be emotionally and financially challenging and failing to prepare and educate yourself may result in prolonging the process, increasing financial costs, and adding extra stress and personal conflict to the already strained situation. People often underestimate how intertwined their long-term relationships are, and it can at times be difficult to separate yourself from each other’s lives, especially when children and valuable assets are involved.
Despite the fact that you may not communicate effectively under the circumstances, being prepared at such a time when you, your spouse or long term partner, decide to terminate a marriage and apply for an official divorce order, can significantly reduce the overall discomfort.
Divorce is dealt with under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (the Act) which defines the various legal obligations that need to be met by married or de facto couples who consider a divorce, irrespective of the fact that each couple’s situation is different. To ensure that the divorce decree can be handed down without significant delay there are three factors couples need to consider in preparation for the dissolution of their marriage, namely
- Having a clear understanding of your circumstances – this will significantly influence the outcome
- Making sure you know everything you need to know about your divorce case – knowledge is power
- Being clear about the legal process – and save on money, time, and stress.
In addition, Shanahan Family Law deems the following five factors essential to consider before you get divorced:
- Separation and Living Arrangements
The separating couple needs to prepare children and other dependents for separation by considering who is going to live where, and with whom. The number of variations can include families living together without the parents being a couple to a complete fracturing of the family unit supported by a written agreement that establishes everyone’s living and visiting arrangements in advance.
Consider the following:
- A divorce decree requires that the separating couple must have been separated and not lived as a married couple, for twelve months or more. This does not mean they needed to live at separate addresses to declare that they are separated for the purposes of the Act.
- When children or pets are involved, determine what minimum accommodation standard is required to provide a stable, healthy environment for all, and work toward that goal.
- Determine the best outcome for everyone considering the level of animosity and discord in the home, and whether the parties’ financial situation will allow for two residences. This may mean for one party to relocate immediately or for the family to continue living together.
It goes without saying that children’s needs, regardless of they were conceived jointly or are children from previous relationships, are dependent on the relationship and are the most critical of all considerations when you prepare for separation and divorce. Consider the following points carefully:
- Courts tend to deal harshly with people who put their own interests ahead of their children, as children are dependent on both parents for physical and emotional security. It is therefore essential and crucial that children are always and as much as possible, protected from the ill-feelings generated by the separation. Ensure that both parents put their personal differences aside when dealing with their children.
- The Court will not allow one parent to refuse access to the other unless there is a danger to the children from domestic violence. It is children’s right to have access to those they love and those who care for them, including grandparents and other family members. A couple who has physically separated must as soon as possible establish a regular arrangement to access the children. This agreement does not require to be initially formalised but does need to serve the best interests of the children. Resisting access to a former spouse usually results in the divorce process becoming increasingly more difficult and costly.
Life depends on documentation and it is essential to prepare a portfolio of all the relevant documents that are required to support your decision to separate. Gather and prepare these as early as possible, and especially as soon as one spouse exerts commanding control over the family or has the intention to derail the divorce process by refusing to cooperate or provide information. These documents include:
- Passports, the marriage certificate; any Wills or other post-mortem instructions; naturalisation and/or change-of-name papers; driver’s licenses, Medicare cards, and other personal identification documents; bank books and statements; lease documents for the primary residence; and any mortgage documents or Certificates of Title to the primary residence or any other real assets; lease documents for any investment properties with tenants; and copies of any prenuptial agreement.
- Where possible, photocopies need to be provided if original documents are not available.
Finances usually become one of the most divisive and contentious matters as the potential separation may place a significant burden on their joint and separate finances which neither party is prepared to accept. Separating couples should consider, address, and resolve the following financial matters:
- If the family finances are dire get immediate financial advice.
- Draw up a budget to estimate whether you can afford to live separately, care for the children, and pay the bills.
- Close joint accounts, credit cards or other debt channels to prevent future arguments about who spent what.
- Get a comprehensive audit done of all joint and separate finances, with the details recorded in writing as the Court will use this information to assist with the settlement process.
- Draw up a detailed list of all major assets including an estimated or real valuation. This includes cash revenue from investment properties, stocks, or other assets including superannuation holdings by both parents.
Separating couples should endeavour to keep their lines of communication with each other as open as possible.
- Agree and manage what information you share with others
- Do not discuss details of your divorce, especially anything of a sexual or financial nature, in the public domain or on social media as these will be scrutinised by the Court as deemed necessary and may have a negative effect on the divorce settlement.
- Never make accusations or defamatory statements about your former spouse.
- Avoid bad-mouthing the other spouse to your children – even if you are being abused and criticised.
By educating and preparing yourself on these five essential considerations before you get divorced will help you mitigate many of the problems and minimise the cost and harm associated in obtaining consent orders and a property settlement. Ensure you are represented by a law firm that truly cares about your situation and that you fully understand your legal position so as to experience fewer complications as the process unfolds.
Shanahan Family Law recognises that break-ups are tough, both emotionally and financially. We exist to assist and support you every step of the way. As expert divorce lawyers
- We Care: Working with our team of experts will give you a clear plan to see the light and feel confident to move forward with your life.
- We Listen: We understand how to resolve differences in a dignified manner and take great care to understand your unique needs.
- We Get Results: With a 98% case success rate, we offer the most cost and time-effective solution on the Sunshine Coast.