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November 23, 2014
What Should You Do When You Separate?

By Sue Holgate

What should you do protect yourself once you decide to separate from your partner?

Here are some suggestions:

1. Keep Things as Civil as Possible

If you have children, remember them.  While it may be difficult at this time, you will remain parents for the rest of your life.  Often the biggest victims in conflicting parents are the children and the best thing to do is to try and keep things as friendly as possible for the sake of your children.

2. Protect your Bank Accounts and Assets

You should check any bank accounts regularly. If you have joint accounts you should let your bank know that you have separated.

Ensure you protect any redraw facilities and joint bank accounts. It is hard to recover funds if your partner has withdrawn a very large sum of money from your redraw facility or joint accounts. You should act quickly by contacting your bank if you think your partner may deplete your accounts.

Check your accounts regularly and if you are concerned that large sums will be withdrawn without your consent, talk to your bank and see if they will change the account to require two signatures.

When in doubt, inform your bank in writing that you are separated and do not consent to any money being withdrawn from your redraw facility.

If you still have concerns about assets being depleted contact Sue Holgate, Partner at LB&H on sholgate@lbandh.com.au urgently.  You may need to obtain an urgent order from the Family Court to protect your assets.

3. Consider Changing Your Postal Address

If you are concerned that your former partner will read your mail, consider obtaining a postal box or redirecting your mail to a friend or family member.

4. Change All of Your Passwords

It’s important that you change your bank PINs, internet and telephone banking passcodes and email passwords to ensure money can’t be withdrawn from your account.

You should also change your social media passwords and have strict privacy settings in place.

5. Ensure That You Obtain/Keep Copies of Any Important or Financial Documents

Keep all your information documents safe.  You will need them if you cannot resolve your matter and you need to see a lawyer.   It is not uncommon for these documents to disappear after separation.  Take them to work or leave them with someone you trust.

6. Keep Your Sentimental Items and Valuables Somewhere safe

Some of the hardest disputed matters in separation are over sentimental items. While sentimental items may not be valuable if it is a gift from someone special and you can’t live without it, put it somewhere safe so it can’t be taken or broken.

Often negotiations and reaching settlement is crippled with arguments over sentimental items.  If you are leaving the house take any sentimental items that belong to you with you.  It is often quite difficult to get the items back once you have left them in the possession of the other party.

7. Review Your Important Documents

• Change Your Will

Most people do not realise that separation does not affect Wills, which means your partner is still the beneficiary of your assets if you pass away.  A Will is only effected on Marriage or Divorce.

• Update Your Insurance Policies and/or Superannuation

You should also consider whether you want to change the beneficiaries listed in your insurance policies and superannuation fund.

• Appoint Power of Attorney/Guardianship/Advance Health Directives

If you have appointed your spouse or partner to make important decisions on your behalf you may wish to reconsider those appointments by  revoking any documents including your Power of Attorney, Power of Guardianship or Advance Health Directive as soon as possible.

If you do not have these documents, you should consider making them to appoint a suitable person to make important decisions if you cannot. In the absence of the document, your spouse may still be deemed the appropriate person to make those decisions.

8. Keep a Diary or Journal

You may need to recount events to a lawyer including conversations you had with your partner. Maintaining a diary will help you with that task.

9. Consider if You Need Protection

If violence, intimidation or harassment are in issue make an appointment with LBH or go to your Local Police to ascertain whether you should apply for an Violence Restraining Order.

10. Get Legal Advice

While it is best you resolve your issues by negotiation, you should obtain legal advice to know your entitlements before you agree to division of assets or arrangements for the children.

You did not need to involve us in every step but we can assist you sort through your issues as needed. You should make sure that you are fully informed before making life altering decisions.

Contact Sue Holgate, Partner at LBH on sholgate@lbandh.com.au