Top 10 Tips

The tips provided below are in relation to property 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. Consider whether there are any assets which are at risk of being disposed of or transferred by your former partner. For instance, consider whether there are any joint loan accounts or credit facilities which your former partner could access.
  4. Make a list of all your assets and liabilities and collate documents in relation to those assets (for example bank statements and superannuation statements). You should include all assets and liabilities regardless of whether it is in your name, your partner’s name, or in joint names. For each asset or liability you should include the following details:
    • A description of the asset or liability
    • The date the asset was acquired
    • The value of the asset or liability as of now, if known
    • The name in which the asset is registered in.
  5. Prepare a fact sheet about your relationship and separation, which you can provide to your legal representative. 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.
  6. Prepare a statement of your relationship starting from when you met to separation, including the following:
    • Work details
    • Assets you had at the commencement of cohabitation
    • Assets purchased during your relationship and how those assets were paid for
    • Any assets taken by your partner since separation
    • Have a list of your daily living expenses
    • It is important to keep your statement in paragraph numbers and in a manner that is easy for a reader to understand your case.
  7. Collate disclosure documents early and have them ready for your initial consultation with your solicitor. Your disclosure documents should include at the very least the following documents:
    • A list of all bank accounts, details of account numbers, passbooks and bank statements for the previous 12 months
    • Details and records of any investments including stocks and shares for the last 3 years
    • Income Tax Returns and assessments for previous 3 financial years
    • Pay slips for the last 3 months
    • Details of long service leave accrued
    • Details of overtime worked in the previous 12 months
    • Superannuation statements for the last 3 years
    • Valuation of real estate, if applicable
    • Valuation of chattels including cars, if applicable
    • Trust deeds and financial documents of a trust or company
    • Records of any life assurance or disability insurance
    • Social security pension or payment details
    • Medical or psychiatric reports.
  8. Be organised. This will save you significant time and money. Some of the things you can do include:
    • Keep your disclosure documents in a folder
      1. Include a list of documents to disclose
      2. Update your disclosure from time to time
      3. Keep your folder in a format that you can update easily and refer to at short notice.
    • 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.
  9. 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. Consider the costs involved in fighting for your rights and the benefit in having an early settlement so that you can move forward in a positive manner.
  10. 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 disputed 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.
  11. To plan your future after court proceedings it is important to know of the likely costs involved, what you are likely to be entitled to, 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.