I’ve Just Separated… Now What?

by Peter Magee on October 8, 2016

Anne-Louise Pham

Without a doubt, the most important thing you can do after you have separated (or when you are thinking about separating) is to seek independent legal advice about your rights and entitlements. However, there are some practical ‘self-help’ tips which can make your life easier and reduce tensions between you and your ex-spouse. Here are our top ‘self-help’ tips:

Change all your passwords

It is important to change all your passwords, pin numbers and passcodes for all your personal accounts and details. This includes your passwords for any social media accounts such as Facebook. You should also change your secret question answers to something your spouse does not know. Without doing these things, it is possible that your ex-partner could go snooping through your personal information or withdraw funds from your bank account. Changing all your passports and secret answers will provide you with peace of mind.

Limit any redraw facility on all joint accounts

It is important that you advise your bank that you have separated. Where possible, all joint accounts should only be able to be accessed with joint signatures. This is particularly important in respect to home loan accounts and off-set accounts. It is not uncommon for parties to withdraw all funds held in a joint account post-separation. Once the funds are gone, it is very difficult to recover them. Best practice is to change all joint accounts to joint signature access only. Make sure that this limitation is also in place in respect to online banking as well.

Remove all valuables, important documents and financial documents from your spouse’s reach

Following separation, it is not uncommon for valuables belonging to a party to go ‘missing’. This also applies in respect to financial documents and important documents such as the marriage certificate or birth certificates of the children. It is important that you safe guard your important and valuable belongings and documents. Consider storing these items at a friend or family member’s home or at work.

Update your Estate Plan

Following separation, parties will often focus their attention on dividing their property, making arrangements for the children and applying for divorce. But what is often forgotten is updating your Estate Plan. This is very important particularly if you have nominated your ex-partner as a beneficiary under any existing Will or as an attorney under any existing Power of Attorney. You should also review any binding death nomination you have made to your superannuation fund(s).

Consider the following scenario, Mark and Lilly finalise their property settlement and arrangements for their children. They are successful in obtaining a Divorce Order. Both consider their family law matters to be settled. Years pass and both have re-partnered. Mark passes away suddenly. Mark has not updated his Will, which leaves everything to Lilly.

With life having so many unknowns, planning for the future is key following separation.

Be respectful to one another

It is important to be polite in all communication with your ex-spouse. Bear in mind that your communication might be used against you in Court. Live by the following mantra: “Dance like no one is watching, text and email like it may be read in court someday”.

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