Separation and where to start – 5 first steps towards untangling the financial relationship

13-August-2020 Family Law By Simone Green

One of the most common statements Family Lawyers hear from their clients is “I’ve never done this before. I don’t even know where to start!” Breaking down tasks into small steps can help. Streeterlaw’s Accredited Specialist Family Lawyer Simone Green explains what you need to prepare, preferably prior to your first meeting with your family lawyer, for discussions about property settlement.

Separation and where to start

Step 1: Make A List (Lists Are Your Friends!)

  • Make a simple list of the ‘big ticket’ items, for example properties, bank accounts, shareholdings and vehicles.
  • Obtain current balances for all your bank accounts including loan accounts and credit cards.
  • If there is real property (houses and units) do you know the approximate current value? Have a look at the recent sales data of similar properties in the area or even better, ask a local real estate for a market appraisal.
  • As motor vehicles depreciate, check the make and model, year and specifications of your vehicle and use an online appraisal tool to estimate its likely second-hand value.

Step 2: Gather Documents

  • Along with your newly made list, gather the following documents as a starting point:
  • Your last 3 pay slips (if you are employed)
  • The last 3 months (at least) of all of your bank statements, credit card and loan statements (you may be asked to provide 12 months of statements but gather what you can).
  • Your last 3 taxation returns
  • Copy of child support assessment (if any)
  • Copy of any Financial Agreement (if any)
  • Copy of any Trust documents (if any)
  • Copy of tax returns and Financial Statements for any company (if relevant) for the last 3 financial years.
  • Your passport (you will be asked to bring this to your first visit with a lawyer for verification of identity purposes)
  • Your marriage certificate (if married)

Step 3: Your Needs (Make Another List!)

  • Consider what you want to achieve both in the short and the long term.
  • For example: Where is it you want to live? How much money do you need to accomplish that? Do you need to pay rent? Do you need to consider accommodation for children and/or pets?
  • Make a list of your common recurring expenses so you can plan a budget.
  • What are the needs of your former partner?
  • Do you have any special medical needs which may affect your ability to work now or in the future?
  • Have you been out of the workforce for a significant amount of time? Do you need some back to work training?

Step 4: Next Steps

  • If you can still effectively communicate with your ex-partner you may wish to consider alternate dispute resolution to assist you to reach final agreement on the division of property. Alternate Dispute Resolution includes mediation and Collaborative law.
  • Any agreement reached within Alternate Dispute Resolution can be drawn up by your family lawyer as an Application for Consent Orders and filed on the papers with the Family Court, without either of you having to attend Court. It is the most time and cost-effective method of obtaining binding Court Orders.
  • Where communication has broken down to a great extent or family violence is involved, negotiation via solicitors may still achieve out of court settlement.
  • Filing an Application in Court is usually the final option.

Step 5: See A Family Lawyer

  • Choosing a family lawyer is probably one of the most important decisions you will make in this separation process. Choosing the right one for your needs is paramount.
  • All lawyers are not created equal. Think of it in the same terms as the medical profession. You do not see a General Practitioner for heart surgery; in the same way, you should not consult a general practice lawyer without the necessary expertise in Family Law.
  • An Accredited Specialist Family Lawyer, particularly one who is trained in Collaborative Practice is most equipped to guide you towards resolution of your family law disputes, and where possible, avoid further deterioration of the relationship between yourself and your ex-partner.

At Streeterlaw, our Family Law team include an Accredited Specialist in Family Law also trained in Collaborative Practice and an Accredited Specialist in Commercial Litigation. Call us today on 02 8197 0105 and let us help you to take the next step with confidence.

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