Whether you have been planning a separation for some time, or you have been taken completely by surprise, separation can involve harsh realities and unwelcome changes for all involved. In the early stages you may feel isolated, grief-stricken and unable to make plans, however, it is essential to get organised and take control to protect yourself, your children and your money.
Get legal advice from an experienced Family Lawyer
Each individual that goes through a separation has a unique set of circumstances arising from their background, the arrangements during the relationship, their age, health, earning capacity, ages and number of children and so on. Once their former partner’s individual circumstances are added to the mix, what’s left to sort is a truly one-of-a-kind web of interrelated interests. Generic advice is often unhelpful, if not damaging.
Timing is crucial in many respects in a separation action plan and where there are delays, or where someone has taken the wrong action post-separation, it is often very difficult to undo what is already done. This can make the legal resolution of your separation much more complicated and expensive that it needed to be. If possible, you should get specialist Family Law advice before or as soon as possible after separation.
Most experienced Family Lawyers offer a one-off, no obligation, initial consultation for a low fixed fee. During this consultation, a Family Lawyer should provide you with all the information you need about your rights and obligations, the next steps you should take and offer some handy pointers about services that are available to you. This meeting is essential to creating your post-separation action plan.
Take care of the essential must-do tasks straight away
Your Family Lawyer will have given you lots of work to do. Make a list and start checking it off. These tasks might include:
- Making parenting arrangements
- Attending Mediation
- Protecting your safety, privacy and financial position
- Accessing property and/or spousal maintenance payments
- Accessing Child Support payments and/or Centrelink benefits
- Which debts to pay and which debts not to pay
- Accessing documentation
- Updating your Will and other important documents
- Keeping file notes and records
If in doubt about what to do, contact your Family Lawyer. I provide my email address to all of my clients with an invitation to contact me at any time for assistance at this stage. The separation process is dynamic and confusing; it can help to know you have individualised legal advice on hand.
Take care of yourself
Once you have done the hard work, go easy on yourself. Give consideration to what you need to cope with the separation so you can look after yourself and your children. Give yourself time to adjust, access online resources about separation, reach out for support from friends, family or counselling services, maintain a routine, look after yourself physically and stay connected with your social network. With your action plan in place, you are likely to feel better equipped to deal with separation issues or at least know where to find help, leaving you ready to make a fresh start.
Anna Roberts is an experienced Family Lawyer, an accredited Family Law Mediator and Director of Roberts Legal. She has over 15 years’ experience assisting clients to get things sorted and to make a fresh start following a relationship breakdown. Anna and her Family Law team offer an initial 60-minute appointment to new clients with immediate availability at their Adamstown and Newcastle offices.