Going through a separation is one of the hardest experiences that most people will ever go through, even for those who are amicable. But having an understanding of what steps you should take can help make the process a whole lot easier for both of you. We have created this step-by-step guide based on our experience in dealing with separated couples and what we have seen that works, and what doesn’t.
Step 1: Seek Legal Advice
The first and often the most important step is to seek initial legal advice. Getting the right advice early on will give you the confidence you need to move forward. The initial meeting with your lawyer may cost you a few hundred dollars but it could save you thousands in the long run.
In an initial meeting, an experienced family lawyer can:
– help you understand your legal rights and responsibilities;
– explain how the law applies to your relationship (every relationship will be different and it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach);
– give you the knowledge and understanding you need to make the right decisions for your specific situation; and
– set out some options to help you reach a resolution.
Step 2: Negotiations
This involves discussions with your ex (or their solicitor) to reach an agreement. To prepare yourself for negotiations, ask yourself the following questions:
– “What is most important to me moving forward from the relationship?”
– “How can I show my ex that I want to work with them, not against them?”
– “What am I willing to compromise on if it means we can reach a resolution and avoid a Court battle?”
– “When I picture my future, what do I see making me happy?”
– “What can I do to make sure the kids don’t get involved in these adult issues?”
Being clear from the beginning and identifying what’s most valuable to you will frame the discussion during the negotiation process.
If you aren’t comfortable negotiating directly with your ex, then you can have a lawyer negotiate on your behalf. When we are engaged to help you negotiate with an ex or their lawyer, our role is to help you achieve the outcome you want as quickly, amicably and cost effectively as possible.
Step 3: Legal Documents
If you are able to reach an agreement through negotiations with your ex regarding your property settlement and/or care arrangements for your children, you should then legally formalise this agreement in Consent Orders. You can read more about Consent Orders here.
We always recommend that you engage a lawyer to draft these documents. This will ensure they are drafted in a way to protect each of your interests and avoid the risk of the documents being rejected by the Court due to an error.
Step 4: Carrying Out The Agreement
When the agreement is approved by the Court, you and your ex will be required to take steps to carry out the agreement. For property settlement matters, this could include selling, transferring, or disposing of assets, debts and/or superannuation. Your lawyer will be able to help you carry out these steps as these are standard procedures when finalising a separation.
Once all steps have been carried out, the matter will be complete.
If you have separated, you and your ex should try to reach an agreement about how to divide your assets and what the future care arrangements for the children will be. We then recommend that this agreement be documented in Consent Orders. In our experience, having Orders in place provides clarity for you both and the children. It also helps to reduce the potential for any future conflict.
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By Tegan Martens
Director & Principal Family Lawyer
The information contained on this site is for general guidance only. No person should act or refrain from acting on the basis of such information. You should seek appropriate professional advice based on your particular circumstances.