1.Keep a note of your final separation date.
This date is important for a couple of reasons. If you intend to get divorced, you cannot file an application until one year and a day after your separation. Contributions, both financial and non-financial, may be important, in some instances, both before and after your separation date. The date of separation means the date you finally decided the relationship was over, even though you may both decide to remain living separately under the one roof.
2.Make a list of your assets and your estimate of their value.
You and your former partner may be able to agree on the values of your assets. If there is no agreement, then the asset in dispute will have to be valued. Real estate and businesses must be valued by a jointly appointed expert valuer. The “Red Book” valuation of a motor vehicle is helpful, otherwise a written valuation should be obtained. The values of shares will differ day by day, and are published in most newspapers. The latest superannuation statements are helpful, in some cases a Form 6 will be required from the relevant superannuation fund, particularly if there is to be a split of superannuation entitlements.
3.Make a list of your debts and gather documentary evidence.
You will need to gather evidence such as loan statements, credit card statements, hire purchase statements, or any relevant document to prove the outstanding debt.
4.Make a list of your financial contributions throughout the relationship.
Generally your last three income tax returns will suffice to prove your income. List all the assets you had at the commencement of the relationship (initial savings, shares/investments, motor vehicle, real estate, business etc) List any lump sum contributions such as personal injury or workers compensation payments, termination or redundancy payments, gifts from family, inheritances etc. Alongside these lump sum contributions, note how these funds were used (eg paying off mortgage, renovations or extensions to property, furniture, holidays etc. Find any documentary evidence of these lump sums and the date they came into the relationship.
5.Make a list of your non financial contributions throughout the relationship.
This will include things you did to maintain or improve your joint assets such as your home, investment property etc.and would include looking after the gardens and mowing lawns, repairs or renovations to the property, cleaning the property, maintaining the family and caring for children.
Collect your latest superannuation Member Statements. Depending on the length of the relationship, it may be prudent to collect Member Statements as at the date of the commencement of the relationship….this will clarify what each party had by way of superentitlements at the commencement of the relationship, and at separation.
7.Seek legal advice
Most legal firms offer a first consultation package for a one hour consultation to give you initial advice. The more detailed information you can give your lawyer at this time will assist your lawyer to give you the most helpful advice.
8.Don’t Listen to Friends
Friends or relatives who have gone through a divorce property settlement (or who know of others going through this experience) will offer you advice. Keep in mind that in each settlement the circumstances are different….what occurred with a friend’s settlement may be quite different to yours. Incorrect information may cause you to have unrealistic expectations, or cause you unnecessary worry and stress.
9.Don’t Involve your Children
Separation of parents will cause anxiety and stress to children, who will often blame themselves for their parents’ decision to separate. Depending on the age of the children, they should be excluded as much as possible from that trauma. Demonstrate to them that they are safe and secure, that both parents love them, and allow them to spend time with each parent.
10.Look After Yourself
Seek help as soon as possible if you have trouble coping with your situation, or with your children…..professional counselling is readily available (even online) and is guaranteed to assist you to deal with your problems.
Lyn Lucas is the owner of Online Divorce Lawyer. With over 20 years experience in family law Lyn empathises with couples going through a separation and a property settlement. Her focus with Online Divorce Lawyer is to reduce the pain and deliver excellent results in the process of a property settlement. With a negotiated fixed fee for this service, couples have certainty as to their legal costs. Visit Lyn’s site and opt in for a complimentary e-book “Guide to Saving Money with a Divorce Property Settlement”