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14 January 2020

What are some of the things to consider now I’ve decided to separate?

It is important to put in place a plan before talking to your partner about separating.

It is important to put in place a plan before talking to your partner about separating. We have put together a short list of some matters for you to consider before having that conversation.

Who will move out of the home?

If you are not working or are the primary carer of children, you would ideally remain living in the home and your partner would move out. This would place you under less financial pressure to find alternate accommodation.

However, you should not, of course, stay in the home if there is domestic violence or high conflict between you and your partner.

If you are to move out of the home and your partner is to stay with the children, first try to agree upon some care arrangements for the children.

What should I take from the home before I move out?

We often see clients who have little idea about their partner’s finances and the property pool to be divided between them. If you move out of the home, take with you copies of all financial documents including bank statements, tax returns, superannuation account statements, trust deeds, and financial statements of any trusts or companies.

While there is a duty to provide full and frank disclosure in property settlement matters, if your partner does not cooperate by providing documents, it can be difficult to obtain them post-separation. You will need these financial documents to understand what the property pool is and what an equitable settlement will be.

Take any furniture, jewellery and personal items you wish to retain. It can be expensive to replace furniture and difficult to arrange for its collection if your ex-partner does not cooperate in returning items to you. After you have moved out of the home, your former partner may change the locks. Unless your ex-partner invites you into the home, it may be an act of domestic violence for you to re enter the property, which could result in an Protection Order Application being filed against you.

How should I protect my wealth?

If there is a redraw facility on any joint loans, contact your bank and make sure that your former partner cannot redraw upon the facility without your consent. Do the same for any joint bank accounts. With respect to credit cards, close these or remove your partner as the secondary card holder.

If you will require some money to support yourself in the short term, first consider withdrawing money from any loan facilities or joint bank accounts, before changing them so they are subject to joint signatures.

If your partner has real property in their sole name and you are worried they may sell or further encumber this property without your knowledge or consent, seek advice from a lawyer about lodging a caveat over the title of the property.

Should I change my Will?

Separation does not revoke your existing Will or enduring powers of attorney. Talk to your lawyer about updating these documents to reflect your wishes post separation.

If necessary, you should also contact your super fund and insurance companies to arrange for your beneficiaries to be changed.

There are of course other matters you may need to consider depending upon your circumstances. If you need specific advice regarding your separation, please contact our family law team.

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This publication is for information only and is not legal advice. You should obtain advice that is specific to your circumstances and not rely on this publication as legal advice. If there are any issues you would like us to advise you on arising from this publication, please let us know.

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Justine Woods

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