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What to do if you break up: Your Legal Protections

It is no secret to those who work in family law that there is an obvious mad rush of work in the lead
up to Christmas. The cause of this may now be clearer than ever after data experts discovered that
today, 11 December, is the most common day for people to break up. Perhaps it is an acceptable
time pre-Christmas present giving to exit the relationship, or maybe it is simply the realisation that
another year with the person who isn’t ‘the one’ is not for you.

So if you are reflecting on your relationship and considering separation, whether it be today or in the
future, here is our list of the first 10 things you should do.

1. Is the fat lady singing?

If you are not certain that the relationship is over, seriously considering relationship counselling. If,
however it is over, make a note of the date (your separation date is important for Medicare,
Centrelink, the child support agency, divorce, and potential property settlements).

Then consider what self-care you will give yourself, as looking after yourself is the most important
thing on this list.

2. Should I stay or should I go?

Deciding who will continue on in your shared residence and who will move out is difficult. But
remember, in family law, possession is not nine tenths of the law. In making this decision, consider
practical things, such as; it will probably be easier for the children’s primary carer to stay in the
house where all their things are; or is there a parent one of you could move in with in the short
term. You can work out who gets what property later – there is no rush. But in the meantime, make
sure you keep paying the mortgage!

3. Arrange some time for each of you to see the kids

No one is divorcing the kids! The kids’s best interests will always be the priority and maintaining a
good relationship with both of their parents is important throughout the disruptive change they are
about to experience. Remember though that children are resilient and with love and support, they
will get through this just like you.

4. Change your passwords

Even in the most amicable of breakups, people can have ‘brain snaps’ (especially at this time of year
when Christmas and New Year parties are frequented). Protect yourself and change your PIN
numbers, online banking passwords, email passwords, social media passwords, and home security

5. Banking

Let the bank know you have separated and consider whether you need to cancel any redraw facility.
Check your account balances regularly and make sure that any large withdrawals require your
consent or signature as well as your partner’s. If you don’t already have a personal account and
credit card in your own name, it’s time to get one and start having your income deposited into it.

If you have joint bank accounts with your partner, either agree to divide the accounts equally or
withdraw say one half each. You will need cash to possibly move house and pay living expenses in
the short term.  

6. Put important documents somewhere safe

These documents notoriously disappear after a breakup. Find the following and put them
somewhere safe: your passport, the children’s passport, tax returns, details of bank accounts, share
certificates and marriage certificate. Also, if there is an important sentimental object, like a piece of
jewelry, put this somewhere safe too. 

7. Change your will and your superannuation beneficiary

It may come as a surprise but separation does not affect your will. So if you get hit by the proverbial
bus tomorrow, your estate will be administered according to your will, where in all likelihood you
left everything to your spouse. Or maybe you don’t have a will, in which case, a court will likely
decide that your estate goes to your spouse regardless of whether you are divorced or not. So it’s
time to redo your will and update your nominated beneficiary with your superannuation fund. We
can also assist you with this.

8. Keep a diary

Keep a track of all important dates and events. Should things not remain civil between you in the
future, when and how certain events unfolded will become important.

9. Keep it civil

Keep your lines of communication open. Whilst you might not be ready to speak to your ex in person
or even over the phone, at least keep text and email open. This will assist in keeping things as
amicable so that any settlement can be reached as easily as possible and hopefully avoid going to
court. Also remember when it comes to communication, bring back the BIFF (meaning keep it Brief,
Information, Firm and Friendly) and don’t vent on social media (especially after a wine or two)!

10. Get advice from a professional

Friends are great, but don’t take all their advice as gospel. Everyone knows someone that has
gone through a divorce and no doubt have some horror story to match (which is why the retelling
makes a great antidote). Listen to it all but only act on advice from an experienced family lawyer
from our family law team. We are not just saying this because we’re family lawyers but because not
getting good advice at the outset can cost you both personally and financially in the long run.

Our aim is to guide you through the separation process in manner sensitive to your specific needs so
that a resolution can be achieved that is right for you and your children.

Contact our Family Law team if you need advice regarding a separation or break up.

Important Disclaimer: The content of this publication is general in nature and for reference purposes only. It is current at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication.



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