When you’re thinking about separating, or it’s just happened, it can be easy to lose yourself in a whirlwind of emotion. Before your divorce is finalised there are many steps along the way. To make a hard process easier, there are some mistakes to avoid when separating. So what are those mistakes?
Separating a relationship, by it’s very nature, is usually a hard undertaking. It can be one of the most stressful life experiences you’ll ever have to face, even if yours is a split that isn’t particularly adversarial. Broken relationships are tough for everyone because we carry with us the past while we are standing, staring, into a very different future from the one we had imagined before.
Separating: Be Proactive
Sam Hubbard, from Coastal Divorce Advisors in Savannah, says, “You’ll face many pivotal decisions throughout your divorce. Unfortunately, missteps often turn into larger mistakes that could jeopardise your financial security and well-being for years to come. So whether you think your spouse may be considering divorce, or you may be contemplating it yourself, it’s important to be proactive about your finances well in advance of divorce becoming reality.”
Being proactive puts you in a better position as you are separating and going through the divorce process. There is nothing worse than feeling like you are on the back foot all of the time. It increases your already high levels of stress and the process has no chance of being an empowering one as you move through this uncomfortable stage of your life.
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If you are separating, there may be a period where funds are quite limited, so preparing for this is a good move. Having a separate bank account and credit card is a good idea as soon as possible – one that is in your name only. Being proactive with your finances means you need to have a knowledge of how much is coming in and how much is going out. Although this sounds like common sense to many people, lots of us have been oblivious to things that our partner has mostly taken responsibility for in the past: things like health insurance, how much school uniforms cost at the start of each year or how much we’ve jointly invested into shares. Becoming familiar with these things can take time, but it can and needs to be done.
Separating: Not Everyone Will Do the Right Thing
Knowing what jointly owned funds you have where is essential in ensuring that your partner does not cheat you out of your fair share of the settlement pool. Bina Brown, writing for the Australian Financial Review about the dodgy divorce strategies of people, says, “Cash can be taken out of bank accounts and siphoned off overseas or stuck under mattresses, properties transferred into other names and business takings masked to change valuations.” It happens everyday and you don’t want to be on either side of the equation. “A lot of people will try to hide assets but they will very likely come undone,” says Mitchell Solicitors senior associate Phillipa Kingswell. “If somebody sets out to deliberately waste or reduce the property pool then, depending on the circumstances of the case, the amount could be notionally added back to the pool.”
Bottom line – don’t mess with the pool.
Separating: Don’t Underestimate the Cost of Living
It doesn’t have to be a sneaky, unlawful act that lands you in financial hot water when separating. Even the basic running of a household can become a significant financial nightmare if we are unprepared. People who are separating are often not aware that the household expenses don’t shrink by much when there is one less person in the house. The opposite is true, because where once-upon-a-time there may have been a pooling of resources, they are now separate. There are now two households where the electricity, water, groceries and rent need to be paid for. Consider these costs and learn to only spend where necessary. Don’t take on any new, avoidable debts. Now is not the time to book a luxury cruise or buy a brand new car – wait until your divorce property settlement is finalised if you can.
Separating: Don’t Rely on Yourself Only
Building a team around you to help you through separation and divorce is a very good idea. Relying on yourself only is not usually a wise move. When you use specialists from their different fields it will save you time, money and more heartache in the long run. It can be really hard to see that, but the testimonials of those who have gone before are a great encouragement to follow the same path.
Sarah Smith, 47, of Sudbury, Mass., said she and her ex-husband, David Boyle, were able to complete a swift collaborative divorce two years ago. They used the expertise of divorce lawyers who were working hard with Sarah and David to find a good outcome for all. “It was definitely the way to go in our situation — we didn’t have piles of anger about each other, and we also didn’t have piles of money,” said Smith. “Our main concern was the welfare of the kids.”Smith, Boyle and their two lawyers arranged for the two children, now 11 and 7, to split time with their parents, who live in neighboring Boston suburbs.”We both liked both lawyers,” Smith said. “As a group, we had some laughs together, and that made it nicer.” “Because this process went so smoothly and we didn’t have a lot of baggage as a result, now the tone is set for raising the kids,” he said. “We get along. We work together to make it happen.”
Others find that seeking the help of a therapist is very beneficial. Martha Roberts, who also chose the collaborative divorce path with her ex-husband, Simon, says, “Of course I often felt angry. I was coping with having ‘failed’ in something I’d always vowed to make a success of. At times, I wondered if facing Simon in court might have helped me to channel that anger somewhere. But as Roger Bamber puts it, ‘What you are doing in the adversarial process is replicating the rows that brought the marriage to an end, which isn’t helpful.’ Instead, seeing a therapist was a better outlet for my feelings of abandonment.”
Separating: Look After Yourself
Many people try to ‘soldier on’ during this tough time of separation when it is really a time when you may need to do the opposite. Taking time to care for yourself physically, emotionally and mentally will mean that you have the opportunity to make better decisions along the way. The reality is that separation can often trigger depression or other mental illness. Making sure you have regular contact with your GP who is aware of your circumstances; this is a good starting place for trying to look after yourself well. Making sure you eat regular meals and get enough sleep are important, too. If you weren’t so regular with doing good things for yourself before – now is a good time to start. Ask a friend to help you
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At Divorce Lawyers Brisbane we believe in divorce that is the least adversarial possible. We encourage our clients to mediate where possible and our divorce lawyers understand the benefits of a collaborative approach. We offer a FREE, 10-minute phone consultation. To speak to one of our experienced divorce lawyers, please contact us today!