Top 10 Tips

The tips provided below are in relation solely to parenting matters at the early stages of separation. As your matter progresses the steps you take will change according to your circumstances at the time.

Below are 10 tips which could assist you to advance your case in an orderly manner and in turn save you time:

  1. If applicable, first consider your personal safety and that of your children
  2. If you are planning to move out of your former family home, consider how much money you will need for the next one to two years. Deciding whether to move is an important step and you should seek legal advice as to the numerous factors involved
  3. Do not talk to your children about family law issues and do not ask them who they want to live with
  4. Do not use your children as a counsellor to discuss the breakdown of your relationship
  5. Where possible, try and maintain an open line of communication with your former partner so that future parenting issues can be resolved amicably. This could save you time, stress and money
  6. Contact Relationships Australia or a private Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) practitioner to discuss arrangements for your children. It will be beneficial to consult a solicitor before attending family dispute resolution so that you know about the process, your rights and the likely outcomes
  7. Prepare a fact sheet about your relationship and separation, which you can provide to your legal representative and use at the family dispute resolution session. As a minimum include the following basic details:
    • Your name and date of birth
    • Your partner’s name and date of birth
    • Your occupation
    • Your partner’s occupation
    • Your health condition
    • Your partner’s health condition
    • Your income for the last 3 years
    • Your partner’s income for the last 3 years
    • Date of commencement of the relationship
    • Date of cohabitation
    • Date of marriage, if applicable
    • Date/s of separation, if applicable
    • Date of final separation
    • Date of divorce, if applicable
    • Resumption of cohabitation after separation
    • Any domestic violence concerns or protection orders.
  8. Prepare a statement of your relationship starting from when you met to separation, including the following:
    • Work details
    • Any special needs about your children
    • Who look after your children during the relationship
    • Practical issues like your work hours, location and where your children go to school or day care
    • Any support from family members in relation to the care of the children
    • Any concerns in relation to domestic violence, abuse or neglect
  9. Be organised. This will save you significant time and money. Some of the things you can do include:
    • Keep your documents in a folder so that you can refer back to the documents when required and update the documents from time to time
    • When meeting with your solicitors, have an agenda as to what you would like to achieve, and advise the solicitor before the meeting if possible. Have information available that may assist your solicitor (like the above basic factors) and collate all necessary documents
    • Keep a diary of significant events; and
    • Your solicitors will rely on you for basic background information in order to advise you. You may not know all of the information required at the first meeting. However by taking the above steps you will be able to advance your case.
  10. Consider what is really important to you. It may be finalising your separation and moving forward, or it could be obtaining what you are legally entitled to. In some cases it could be solely about protecting yourself and/or your children. Consider the costs involved in fighting for your rights and the benefit in having an early settlement so that you and your children can move forward in a positive manner.
  11. Should your matter proceed to court, it is important to consult 2 or 3 solicitors to obtain their preliminary opinions. Depending on the nature of your case, a litigated matter could be in the court system for more than 1½ years. It is therefore important that you have a good relationship with your legal representative and feel comfortable with them. There must be a good level of communication and trust. Family law must be an area that your solicitor practises in on a regular basis.
  12. To plan your future after court proceedings it is important to know of the likely costs involved, what you are likely to achieve, and how much you will have left after legal fees and expenses associated with your separation. Ask your solicitors for estimated costs at each stage of the proceedings and be kept informed on a fortnightly or monthly basis as to your legal costs.

Separation can be a difficult and stressful time for everyone involved. When you separate, you and your former partner may need to make arrangements about the future care of your children. This can be a challenging and emotional task. During this period you are less likely to be at your best. However it is during this time that you need to rely on your good judgement. What you do at this early stage of separation could set the scene for the years to come.