November 15, 2022

Your “TO-DO” List When Going Through Separation


Separation can be an overwhelming and stressful time for those going through it. It can be difficult to know what you need to do and what to look out for.

It’s therefore important to get guidance about what steps you will need to take and things to consider to ensure that your rights and entitlements are protected. We’ve created a list, which in our experience, are the top things that clients should do or at least be aware of. Click here to download a free PDF checklist.

Protecting your finances/assets

Before a property settlement has been reached, it’s important to have mechanisms in place to protect your assets and the assets to which you may have a claim.

  • If there is a property of the relationship that is only registered in your partner’s name, it may be appropriate to lodge a caveat against that property prevent your partner from transferring it out of his or her name without your knowledge or consent. There may be situations where you are unable to claw that property back into the property pool.
  • If you and your partner have a joint bank account, including offsets and mortgage accounts with a redraw, you should consider asking the bank to change the account to require both parties to sign when making a withdrawal. If your partner withdraws joint funds and spends it or otherwise disperses it, you may not be able to claw it back into the property pool.
  • If your partner holds a supplementary credit card, check the balance regularly and/or otherwise lower the credit limit to reduce the potential liability.
  • If you decide to move out of the family home, you should take your personal belongings with you, (for example, your clothes, devices, jewellery and basic living appliances and essentials).
  • You should speak to a family lawyer about your rights and entitlements in a property settlement and its wise to reach a legally-binding property settlement as soon as possible to secure your claims to your family assets once and for all. Without a legally-binding property settlement, any savings or assets that you acquire in the future, and any debts that your ex-spouse accumulates may be divided between you.
  • You should also speak to a wills and estate lawyer about drafting a Will and ensuring that your estate planning is updated to ensure that your estate is distributed to your intended beneficiaries. Otherwise, if you were to pass away, there is a chance that your ex-spouse will receive some or all of your estate. You should also make or update your binding death nomination with your superannuation fund and ensure that any Powers of Attorney or Medical Treatment Decision Maker Appointments are also updated.

“Without a legally-binding property settlement, any savings or assets that you acquire in the future, and any debts that your ex-spouse accumulates may be divided between you.”

Protecting your information

It’s always good practice to keep all personal information updated and secure, especially when going through separation.

  • You should ensure that you take copies of all documents to which you have access in relation to assets, debts and financial resources of your relationship. This includes, for example, bank statements, share statements, superannuation statements, tax returns, payslips, business/company financial statements.
  • You should take all personal documents with you, such as passports, birth certificates, etc.
  • You should also ensure that your email, banking and social media accounts are logged out of all devices and saved/auto-fill passwords are removed from all devices. For safe measure, you should change all of your passwords and set up a new email address.
  • You should ensure that you update your new details with all relevant parties, such as Centrelink, ATO, insurance companies, your employer, VicRoads etc. If you have moved out of the family home, you should ensure that all of your post is sent to your new address.
  • You should also notify Centrelink and the ATO of your separation.

Protecting your safety and wellbeing

While it is important to protect yourself and your assets legally, the most important thing to protect is yours and your children’s safety and wellbeing.

  • If you are in immediate risk and yours or your children’s safety is in danger, you should contact Police immediately on 000 and if safe to do so, go to the home of a trusted friend or family member or a family violence refuge. You can contact 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or Safe Steps (1800 015 188) for support in finding a refuge.  If you are otherwise in an abusive relationship, you should consider calling 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or Safe Steps (1800 015 188) for information and support.
  • If you have obtained an Intervention Order naming your children as Protected Persons, you should provide a copy of this to the children’s school and extra-curricular activity providers (such as sporting clubs etc.)
  • Even if your safety is not at risk, you should consider speaking to a professional, such as a counsellor or a psychologist to provide you with support in walking through what is likely to be a very difficult season. If you have children, you may wish to consider whether they may benefit from talking to a counsellor or psychologist (whether at school or externally). You can obtain a Mental Health Plan through your GP, which usually covers at least part of the cost of a mental health professional through Medicare. The Mental Health Plan provides you with up to 6 sessions at a time, and if you require more, your GP can refer you to further sessions.
  • If there is a chance of reconciliation, consider speaking to a marriage counsellor. If you have decided to separate and have children, it may be beneficial to speak to a counsellor with experience navigating post-separation parenting relationships.

There are a lot of things to consider when going through separation. While the above is by no means an exhaustive list, it can be a helpful guide to keep on hand especially in what can be an overwhelming experience. Our expert family lawyers based in Mount Waverley and Ringwood are well-equipped to provide you with tailored legal advice and guide you through the process. Call 0421 397 316 or email us on to speak to a family lawyer today.

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Your "TO-DO" List When Going Through Separation

Click below to download a free PDF checklist.