This article is an introduction to potential legal issues associated with separation and divorce from the time the decision is made that the relationship has broken down to the resolution of proceedings. This article is not intended as legal advice but as an example of issues that can arise in a separation and divorce context. If you are considering separation or divorce you should consult a specialist family lawyer for situation specific advice.
As Sydney’s leading Family Law Firm we are able to provide advice on any questions you may have relating to divorce and family law proceedings in New South Wales, Australia and even internationally.
Nicole and her husband have just had a very difficult conversation. They agree that their marriage has broken down and do not believe there is anything they can do to resolve their issues and differences. Nicole knows that she wants to divorce her husband and move on with her life but is still emotional and finds the whole situation confronting and overwhelming. She is worried about being able to support herself and what her future will look like. Her sister tells her she needs to see a divorce lawyer to find some direction and advice on what to do next.
Nicole arranges an interview with a specialist family lawyer, Sarah Bevan Family Lawyers. In their interview Nicole explains that she believes her relationship is over and there are no prospects of reconciliation between her and her husband. Nicole tells Sarah that they have been to relationship counselling but it has not helped repair their relationship.
Sarah tells Nicole that before a divorce will be granted by the Courts she will need to show a period of separation between her and her husband of at least twelve months.
Nicole asks Sarah whether this means that she will need to live in a different home to her husband for the twelve months. She does not know whether she will be able to afford this straight away. Her husband has always managed their finances and their assets and she knows very little about what they have and her access to such.
Sarah explains that it is possible to be separated and living under the same roof. This means that Nicole and her husband can live in the same house even if they are separated. However, Nicole will need to show they her and her husband were separated during this period. This can be difficult and is always dependant on personal circumstances. Sarah tells Nicole that she should make sure that she communicates to her husband that she wants to divorce and that they can live under the same roof whilst separated. Sarah tells Nicole that it is important that this is clearly communicated to her husband. Sarah also explains to Nicole that she should try as much as practicable to live separately from her husband. For example, that they do not hold themselves out to be a couple, that they try to maintain their finances separately as much as possible and that they “do their own thing” as much as possible. Nicole understands that although it is important to maintain a positive relationship with her husband if possible, she needs to act as though they are no longer married.
Sarah also explains that although Nicole will have one year from the date that the divorce order takes effect to apply for Orders with regards to property and spousal maintenance, it is important that they have an arrangement in place in the interim to allow for some stability.
Nicole and her husband also have two children, Jack who is 7 and Alice who is 9. Both children are in primary school and doing well. Neither of the children have any health issues.
Sarah tells Nicole that it is important to plan for her two children so that they are well taken care of and have a positive relationship with both of their parents if possible. This is not only for the long term benefit of all parties involved but also an issue the Court will consider before granting a divorce order.
Nicole has always been the main carer for the children and works part time so that she can drop them off at school in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon. She and her husband agree that this should not change and that they can have alternate weekends with the children. Sarah says that this sounds like a good idea and that this arrangement can be reassessed at a later date to make sure it is working for all parties.
As Nicole only works part time she is worried about how she will be able to pay for her expenses and how she will live independently. Sarah explains that this will be taken into consideration in a property settlement and that if she is struggling financially they can make an application to the Court for an interim distribution.
Sarah explains that the Courts determine how property of a relationship should be divided upon separation by considering a number of steps. This involves:
1) Ascertaining the net asset pool of the parties;
2) Assessing the financial and non-financial contributions of both parties;
3) Assessing the future needs of the parties; and
4) Considering the practical effect of the proposed property settlement and whether the settlement is just and equitable for both parties.
This means that Nicole should try to obtain as much information as possible about their finances and assets in Australia and overseas, if they have property overseas. This will be important so that Nicole and her husband can both start thinking about how to resolve their property settlement, and if need be so that the Courts have a complete picture of what property and assets need to be divided.
Nicole asks Sarah about spousal maintenance, which she had heard one of her friends discussing when she separated from her husband. Sarah explains that spousal maintenance orders are not commonly ordered by the Courts in Australia, at least on a final basis. More commonly the property settlement will be adjusted to attempt to encompass future needs rather than have orders with continuing effect.
Although Nicole is still emotional about the end of her marriage she feels much more secure about her future after talking to her divorce lawyer Sarah Bevan Family Lawyers. She feels that she will be able to maintain a positive relationship with her children and hopes that she can maintain a positive relationship with their father. Nicole also knows what she needs to do in the next couple of months to be ready for a property settlement and to make sure that her short term and longer term financial needs are met.
She knows that this is the start of a longer journey but feels somewhat secure in that Sarah Bevan Family Lawyers will be there to guide her through a system she does not know much about herself.
If you are worried about separating from your partner and need the advice of an experience divorce lawyer who specialises in family law and property settlements. Contact, Sarah Bevan Family Lawyers Sydney.