Marriage or long term relationship; whatever it is, it can be hard when it falls apart. Here are ten steps that lawyers and doctors recommend that you do, as soon as you feel capable.
Self care first
Well, that’s good advice when you’re going through a separation and divorce. You need to look after yourself before you can look after your family or children and so on. So what that means is obvious. Eating well, getting good sleep, getting exercise, finding some spiritual nourishment such as meditation or religious help or getting some help through a counsellor or therapist.
You need to ensure you’re safe, and your children are safe, especially if there has been any domestic violence in your relationship. So if there has been domestic violence or if you feel there is risk of some domestic violence, I recommend that you speak to the people at your local shelter, and they can help you develop an emergency plan so that you can extricate yourself in the event of a risk of violence erupting in your family.
Change utility bills, joint accounts etc
Some people come to us and they say they have got joint bank accounts, joint credit cards and so on, and they’re worried that their spouse is going to run up the credit after separation. Well, if that’s the case, you can always freeze your credit cards and freeze the joint account so that that doesn’t happen.
Communicate in writing
It is always wise, just in case things end up taking a legal turn, to ensure that everything is in writing wherever possible. No late night phone calls, no face to face meetings without witnesses. Ideally, letters, emails and messages are it. Don’t allow yourself to be in a position that it becomes a “he said, she said” scenario.
Focus on the kids
We always recommend that you not tell the children about the separation until you have that plan together so that your children will know when they’re going to see each parent and how that’s going to work.
Then, some of the messages that you want to convey to your children are that it’s okay for them to love both parents. Both parents love them deeply and they’re going to have a meaningful relationship with both parents. They’re going to see each parent on a regular basis. A family coach can also help you with a more detailed approach to making sure that your children have the least amount of impact by the separation.
Start listing assets
The least important, household contents. If you own a small business, then those assets may be at risk as well. As well, you need to start thinking about what items of the house you want and why. Make a list and put a couple of notes down beside each item as to why it’s important that you receive those items and think about the items that you’re willing to give up to your spouse.
There’s a lot of compromise in any separation, so start thinking about what are your priorities and what you want to give up.
Always try to remain calm, and never fight with your ex. Don’t seek revenge. One of the worst things that can happen is criminal charges can be laid. After a separation or through the divorce process, getting narky or fighting is just not useful and really can be detrimental to the whole family.
If tension is rising, extricate yourself from the situation, especially don’t get into a fight or argument in front of your children. That can be very detrimental to your children’s long term emotional mental health.
Get documents together
Lawyers love paperwork. We’re going to need your last three years’ of income tax returns. We’re going to need proof of your bank statements, mortgage statements, life insurance statements, any other paperwork regarding your financial circumstances, both on the date of marriage and the date of separation. Start putting that together and bring it all in.
Understand your legal position
You need to now go learn what you can about family law, or look at hiring a lawyer. They do it everyday, so they know all the ins and outs. When you book that first consultation, bring with you all of your questions that you have and any information that you will need to provide. This includes information about any self managed superannuation, property, business deadlings and the like. Most family lawyers will give you a list for that.
You really must research lots and educate yourself. There are a lot of decisions to be made during a separation or divorce, so one of the best things you can do is start to prepare for making those decisions. There are dozens of really great articles about family law out on the web; just make sure that they apply to your jurisdiction.