Going through a separation or a divorce usually takes a large emotional toll, especially if there are kids in the picture. Add in the factors around splitting up assets and divvying up child responsibilities and you have a recipe for a pressure cooker. However, with the help of experts who understand the law, you will have someone on your team who can help navigate you through this difficult situation.
Amy Davies, lawyer at non profit family law firm New Way Lawyers, shares the common mistakes people make when going through a separation:
1. Not understanding that what you came into the marriage with, does not necessarily solely belong to you when you split
One of the most challenging things that splitting couples struggle with (other than the issues around the children) is that often when there is a separation, all of your assets, even the ones that you had before the marriage, get put under the microscope. Even with a pre-nup, if the person who you are divorcing decides to claim a share in your assets, it is something that can end up in court. If you are worried about anything asset wise when splitting, make sure you address it with your lawyers so they can help structure a plan so that you can get the best deal possible, however be aware that it is possible that assets will need to be split up.
2. Not changing your passwords
Even if your relationship and your separation is amicable, your privacy and confidentiality is imperative. A common mistake is that people don’t change their passwords and then their ex partner gets access to their emails, correspondence and personal information. You want to be able to be as honest as possible with your lawyer and having your partner see information that you have shared if not productive. Change those passwords.
3. Not knowing your important dates and information
It is very important that you write down all of the key dates, ideally in order of incidents and/ or key milestones. For example, if there has been domestic violence incidents, make sure you have the key dates and incidents written down, similarly if you have started a business or bought a house yourself. Have the dates, figures and copies of any paperwork available just incase they are needed.
4. Not collecting your key documents
When separating, you will need a bunch of key documents on hand. Get them together as soon as you can so that you don’t slow up the process. Especially if you are heading into a hearing .
Those documents will be:
- marriage certificate
- birth certificate (and birth certificate of your child/children)
- passport for you and the children
- tax records (tax returns and tax file numbers)
- car registration
- bank statements
- property documents (lease, deeds, mortgage documents)
- superannuation account statements
- investment statements (for example, managed funds, share dividends)
- government benefit documents
It is important to store this documentation securely as all of this information will be crucial in divvying up assets for the split.
5. Not being forthright about your safety
If your safety is at risk, it is important to bring that up with your lawyer as separating with someone who is prone to commotion violence can put you in extra danger and it can also deter you from getting a fair settlement.
You, the police or your lawyer can apply for a domestic violence protection order if there have been instances of domestic violence and you are concerned they will reoccur. There is always help available in these situations and your safety is vital. If you need a protection order urgently, please phone the police on 000 or for non-urgent matters, contact your lawyer.
6. Not checking if your place of work has a program that can help you
While many people going through a separation like to keep it to themselves, there are employee programs that some companies have introduced to help those going through a separation or family issues.
New Way Lawyers, has formulated a new Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that specifically responds to the challenging issues of domestic violence and family law.
Under the EAP, covered employees can meet with an experienced family lawyer and receive tailored legal advice and clear options for how to resolve their individual situation. Employees will also have access to complimentary services such as membership to Lunch with a Lawyer, a free online platform providing legal information, resources and answers to questions about domestic violence and family law and free access to New Way Lawyers client care program. Ask HR if your place of work offers a program like that. The Lunch with a Lawyer FB group is also free for everyone to join regardless.