The breakdown of a marriage or de facto relationship is a difficult time for all involved. With complex laws and emotions running high, it is easy to become stressed and overwhelmed. Whilst a stress-free separation may seem ambitious, the following tips are likely to alleviate some of the strain associated with a separation.

1. Determine What is Important to You

Each separation is different, so it is essential that you take the time to identify what you seek to achieve from your separation. Some separations will involve minimal issues, such as a property settlement, whilst others may involve a range of complex issues involving children, large property pools, family businesses, trusts or family violence.

Family’s Welfare
If a family member has been subjected to family violence, your top priority is the victim’s safety. Often this will include applying for a Violence Restraining Order, however this issue is also considered by the Family Court in the settlement of property disputes and ordering for the care of the children.

Division of the Assets
After a separation, one of the major issues is determining how to split the assets. Contrary to popular belief, there is no presumed distribution of assets. Each parties’ contributions before, during and after the relationship are taken into account. Contributions are not limited to financial contributions, but also include homemaker contributions and childrearing.

Spousal & Child Maintenance
The partner with the primary care of any children is entitled to child maintenance from the other partner. They may also be entitled to spousal maintenance depending on the difference in incomes, future earning capacity and other various factors.

Binding Financial Agreements
Binding financial agreements can be entered into before, during or after the end of a marriage or de facto relationship to settle the division of property, spousal maintenance, child maintenance and other issues privately. They are extremely useful for couples with large asset pools or those entering a new relationship after the dissolution of another.

2. Keep Your Emotions in Check

The legal process of separation can be emotionally draining. However, being aware of this from the outset and formulating a plan to nurture your emotional wellbeing will aid a more practical and effective decision-making process, whether that be with the assistance of a professional or a confidant

3. Communicate Openly and Efficiently

Often when couples separate communicating effectively becomes difficult and tiresome. By having realistic expectations about the process and remaining open to suggestion, most couples find some common ground. Even if only one minor issue can be agreed upon, this can vastly decrease the costs and stress for all involved.

4. Conflicts Cost Money – Negotiate

The legal costs associated with separation can be large and accumulate rapidly. Reaching a negotiated agreement with your former partner is almost always preferable to commencing legal action and provides the following advantages:
• it greatly reduces the financial and emotional costs of legal proceedings,
• where children are involved, it nurtures a committed, continuing relationship for parents,
• it enables you to move forward faster,
• it improves communication and respect for your former partner, enabling you to better resolve future disputes should they arise,
• because no two families are the same, it allows for a broader consideration of your particular circumstances.

If your separation is complex, it is often sensible to pursue dispute resolution with the assistance of a family lawyer who is experienced in alternative dispute resolution processes.

5. Keep the Children’s Best Interests in Mind

Separation is also difficult for children, who may feel confused, hurt, angry or upset. The child’s interest is of paramount importance, as emphasised in the Family Law Act 1975. Ensuring communication avenues are open and available for your children often includes reassuring them that both parents are willing to communicate with each other.

This short article provides general information about the subject matter. We recommend seeking professional legal advice from a lawyer experienced in family law about your specific circumstances.

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