When you make the big decision to escape a difficult relationship, to minimise the emotional and financial stress on you, seek out separation advice and have a clear plan in place as to what you are going to do. Read on to learn 8 things you need to do before you separate with your ex partner.
1. Know where you are going
If you are in crisis and you have been exposed to family violence, you may not have time to do this. Your safety is always priority. Just get in your car and leave.
However, if you have the time to make a plan, decide where you are going to go. Do your research. What you can afford, what you can’t. Find a place that you can stay at long term (at least until the financial issues are resolved) that fits your budget and needs and that will have room for the children.
If you are in an abusive relationship and you do not have the financial means to leave, there are options for you. Click the link to check out our video for tips and strategies as to what you can do: Leaving a relationship with no Money.
If you do not have any other option, call the police and they will put you in touch with a shelter who can assist you with emergency accommodation.
Make sure you talk to your employer in advance and let them know what is going on. You are entitled to 5 days unpaid family and domestic violence leave each year.
2. If you are concerned about your safety – get a safety plan in place
If you are worried about your safety after your separate, getting a safety plan should be your priority.
Speak to your local police or a domestic violence counsellor service and your family lawyer about the safety plan.
Things to consider about your safety plan are:
- Where can I go that is safe from my ex partner?
- How can I ensure that my ex-partner cannot find me?
- How can I stop my ex partner from contacting me/stalking me after we separate?
It is very important that you apply for a protection order (DVO) immediately after you separate in order to protect your safety and your children’s safety. Speak to your family lawyer about the process of doing this or click the link for more information on filing an application for a DVO:
- Do’s and Don’ts when applying for a DVO to succeed;
- Common mistakes made in an application for a DVO;
- What you need to know about DVO’s.
3. Take a copy of your marriage certificate, the children’s birth certificates and all financial documents
You will need your marriage certificate when you apply for divorce and you will need the children’s birth certificates when arranging your own health insurance for them.
It is also important to take copies of financial documents.
Financial documents are documents relating to the assets, liabilities and financial resources in your name and your former partner’s name. They include, for example, bank account statements (including personal accounts and mortgage statements), pay slips, tax returns, superannuation statements, share statements, credit card statements and the like.
One problem we often encounter when a client comes to see us is that they were kept in the dark about the finances and they do not have any financial documents so they do not understand their financial situation.
If you can provide us with a copy of all relevant financial documents or at least if you have a reasonable understanding of what the the assets, liabilities and financial resources are, it will give us a better idea of the property pool that exists and each parties financial situation which will enable us to give you more refined advice at the outset as to your property settlement entitlements.
If you do not take a copy of the financial documents with you and your ex partner digs their heels in and refuses to negotiate, it may be a lot more difficult if not impossible to access documents for assets and liabilities in the name of your former partner after you have left, without the commencement of a court action to force your former partner to the bargaining table and legally obligate them to provide you with a copy of his/her financial documents. Court proceedings are costly and we only recommend them as a last resort.
4. Get Legal separation advice
It is ideal to remain in the family home, to protect your right to occupy it, particularly in circumstances where you are not working and/or the children are living with you as it will be less disruptive for them and will reduce financial pressure associated with sourcing alternate accommodation, pending a property settlement taking place.
However, this may not be possible in all circumstances, particularly if your safety is at risk and if your former partner refuses to leave.
Importantly, you do not lose your right to a property settlement if you leave the family home, just potentially your right to occupy the property (i.e. you cannot or at least you should not come and go to the property as you please).
Nonetheless, it is a good idea to get legal separation advice before you separate, to answer all the important questions that may influence your decisions as to what to do next.
Ask your lawyer:
- will leaving affect my custody of the children?
- If my ex-partner is unemployed, do I have to pay spousal maintenance to them?
- What are my rights to re-enter the house after I have left?
- Can I take money out of the joint account to support myself with?
- Can I take the children with me?
- Can I take furniture/chattels with me when I leave?
- Do I need to tell him/her I am leaving?
A brief initial consultation in advance with one of our experienced Brisbane Family lawyers is vital to ensure that you make smart decisions following separation that will reduce your emotional and financial stress. Contact us to book a reduced rate clean slate consultation sooner rather than later.
5. Choose whether to tell your ex-partner you are leaving, what to tell them and decide what the end goal is
Know your ‘why’. Knowing why you are leaving the relationship helps you be clear with yourself and your ex-partner about your reasons for the separation when they question you about it or attempt to draw you back in.
Know your goal. Is it to have some physical/emotional space? Or is this the first step towards a divorce? Knowing your goal helps you to stay focused on what the steps are that you need to take in order to get there.
If safety is a risk, you may decide not to tell him/her you are leaving.
Otherwise, figure out what the message is that you want to send your ex partner. Do not have the conversation in person. Put it in writing in a letter or an email. You do not need to send them a detailed story justifying your decision as your ex partner will likely be emotional and will have difficulty processing what you are saying. Keep it short, to the point and unemotive.
6. Talk to your kids
Unless your safety is at risk, plan what you are going to say to your children. If possible, give them a few weeks’ notice of your intention to move out and what the plan is. This will give your children time to manage their shock, to consider your plan and to process their grief, and the disruption to their life and their routine that the change in circumstances is going to cause them.
Children grieve separation just as much if not more than the parents do. You need to give them time and the emotional space to process the loss of having their parents separate, without anger, disappointment or judgment. Ensure they know that you are here for them always, if/when they want to talk about the situation. Give them the opportunity to express their views and concerns about the separation, without fear of judgement.
Make sure you explain the separation to them in a child focused way, without involving them in the adult conflict – e.g. do not tell them all the reasons why the other person is not a good partner. This will leave the children feeling confused and feeling like they need to take sides, or that they need to take care of you. If you involve your children in the adult conflict, it will be harmful to their emotional health. It is one of the top things people do wrong in child custody matters. Click the link to learn more about the Top 10 things people do wrong in custody matters.
Focus on the plan – give them some certainty. When will they see you? how? Are they going to go to the same school? Mapping out the plan and allowing your children to feel heard in relation to their views about the plan will help them feel like they still have a little bit of control in their life in a situation where they probably feel they have lost control.
Allowing your children to express their view and to feel heard, importantly, does not mean that you should involve them in the decision or let them think that it is their decision where they live. You should always make clear to your children that the decision about their living arrangements is a decision for mum and dad to make. No child should have the heavy burden on their shoulders of having to choose a preferred parent and having to choose the time that they will spend with the parent whose side they have not chosen. No child should feel like they need to ‘pick a side’. These are parenting decisions that you and the other parent need to make.
7. Plan out the arrangements for the children to spend time with the other parent and set some clear boundaries
Consider what your proposal will be for when the children are to spend time with the other parent.
Consider what contact you want with your ex-partner. Setting clear boundaries about the way you are going to communicate with them is important, to minimise your emotional stress. If your ex partner is a narcissist, it is vitally important you set up firm boundaries about your communication with them. Click the link to learn more about Communicating with a Narcissist.
You can also learn more about divorcing a narcissist by clicking the link: Narcissistic Abuse & How to divorce a narcissist.
Be proactive not reactive in putting together your custody plan. Start with your non-negotiables and then consider what you are willing to compromise on.
Obtaining legal advice from an experienced family lawyer is vital at this point before coming to any final agreement about these issues. Your agreement should be detailed and finely tuned, to ensure it covers everything. You should also consider the type of agreement you want and whether you want something flexible or an agreement that is legally binding: How to formalise an agreement.
8. Build your winning team & work out how you are going to pay for them
You will need funds to pay your lawyer, a counselor and other professionals to assist you through your separation journey.
Think of it as an investment for your future as the outcome of your divorce, custody and financial settlement determines your future and the futures of your children.
Why do this before you separate?
People who wait months after separation to obtain legal advice, often wait until things hit the fan, when they are under emotional and financial stress. By being proactive and seeking legal advice from an experienced family lawyer prior to your separation, we can give you invaluable advice about what to do and what not to do and the tools to avoid a disaster in the first place.
So who are your team members that you need on your winning team…?
Team Member 1 – A powerhouse lawyer
Hire a powerhouse lawyer who will fight for you, who understands narcissistic abuse and who knows how to communicate with a narcissist, how to negotiate with them and how to beat them.
Whilst your solicitor is not going to label them as a narcissist to the Judge (that would be inappropriate), it is important that your solicitor understands the disorder so that they can help you behind the scenes when it comes to communication, your need for boundaries, and your need for a very detailed parenting plan / consent order, to reduce the prospects of conflict in the future with the narcissist.
A solicitor who understands narcissistic personality disorder will understand that negotiations and mediation are usually a waste of time and money.
Ultimately, the goal is to take your power back, to achieve financial independence and an outcome that is in the best interests of you and your family. To do that, you need a powerhouse lawyer who is empathetic but who is willing to fight for you and your future.
Team Member No. 2 – A Counsellor / Psychologist
Everyone leaving a relationship should reach out and seek mental health support from a counselor or psychologist. Separation is never easy, especially when children are involved. But if you are divorcing a narcissist, you will have your work cut out for you. Divorcing a narcissist can be harder than being married to one.
Your lawyer is there to support you and to fight for you to help you to achieve the best practical outcome for you and your family. But first and foremost, you need to get mentally ready for the battle that is about to begin.
Hire a counselor or psychologist who understands narcissistic personality disorder. They are hard to find. In our experience, most counselors/psychologists who understand narcissistic personality disorder and how to negotiate with a narcissist are those who have experienced a narcissistic person in their own lives.
8. Develop an Action Plan
In addition to the above, there are a number of other things you should be doing post separation, and the time to start planning them is before you separate.
Write yourself an Agenda as to what you need to do if and when you separate and a strategy as to how and when you are going to do it. You should consider doing the following:
- Work out where you are going to live;
- Determine how you are going to pay the rental bond and rent in advance;
- Work out what furniture and belongings you are going to take from the home when you leave;
- Take copies of financial documents/marriage and birth certificates before you leave;
- Open up a bank account in your sole name;
- Apply for Centrelink and child support;
- Book in a counselling appointment;
- Obtain legal advice;
- Acquire some funds to support yourself and the children;
- Consider how you are going to protect your finances and your equitable interests
- Change your passwords;
- Talk to your ex partner about your proposal for the children’s living arrangements;
- Change your will;
- Change your power of attorney;
- Change ownership of real estate.
Separation Advice – Want more information?
Check out our family law videos:
- What to do and what what not to do when you separate.
- How to formalise a property settlement agreement
- When is my separation date?
- Time Limits on property settlement
- How a court determines property settlement entitlements
- Leaving a relationship with no money;
You can also check out the following useful articles for more separation advice:
- What to do and what not to do before you separate.
- Hiding assets in a divorce : How do I uncover them?
- Injunction to stop my ex selling assets
- My ex is selling assets, what can I do?
- Protect your assets and family post separation.
Contact us for Separation Advice
If you are on the verge of separation but you are not sure where to start, contact us today for separation advice, before things hit the fan, to book a reduced rate initial consultation with one of our family law experts to have a confidential discussion about your individual circumstances. In your reduced rate initial consultation you will receive advice about your situation and a strategic plan that enables you to make smart decisions following separation that save you money and emotional stress.
Be one of the 5% who come to us prior to separation for separation advice. It is those people who we can help the most by giving them strategically advantageous advice to avoid a conflict in the first place.
Let us help you to move on with your life with the least possible financial, emotional and time costs.