No-one enters a marriage or long-term relationship expecting that it will end. Unfortunately some do.
Putting aside the emotional issues to deal with for you and your children, it’s also important that the ‘business’ aspects of the legal separation sorted out as quickly as possible. Even if it’s a so-called ‘amicable’ divorce, it’s an unsettling time and there are things you can to make sure you’re as ready as possible for what’s ahead.
Here are eight things to help prepare for your divorce settlement negotiations.
1. Get your paperwork in order.
Since assets are generally divided on a formula basis, the more specifically you can identify your assets, the more fairly the assets are likely to be awarded. Be prepared to present these documents:
- Tax records (pre- and post-marriage depending on how long you’ve been together)
- Savings and cheque account records
- Brokerage account records
- Superannuation records for you and your spouse
- Insurance policies
- Real estate/mortgage/lease documents
- Living will/power of attorney/organ donor cards
- Trust agreements
- Business and personal loan and credit card records
- Birth records, marriage certificates, prenuptial agreements
- Records of law suits
- Records of gifts from third parties and spouse
2. Establish your own credit card and bank accounts under your own name with you as primary account holder
You probably have a credit card with your name, but check who the prinicipal account holder is. If it’s your partner, get one in your name. If you are the primary account holder, let your bank or credit card company know, so they can put a stop on any future charges by your spouse.
If your pay is automatically deposited, make sure it starts going to your personal account, not your joint account.
3. Consider establishing a joint account for interim family expenses
It’s important that you try to maintain your lifestyle during divorce proceedings. Any reduction in your standard of living during this period may be grounds for reducing the financial support you receive in the future. You’ll need an interim system for paying bills during the period between separation and divorce, before any final settlement is determined, and until all money issues are resolved.
4. Get professional help - legal and financial help are invaluable, particularly when dividing property
Not consulting a professional may lead to a decision that could irreparably jeopardise your rights, your property settlement and your future. If the expense is keeping you from consulting the appropriate advisors, keep in mind that payment of any legal, accounting and actuarial fees you incur during divorce proceedings may be negotiated as part of your settlement.
5. Establish child support arrangements
If you have a family, one of your top priorities during a divorce will be the physical and emotional well being of your children. For information on how to establish child support arrangements, visit the Government’s Child Support website. http://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/information/child-support-website
6. Resolve how school feeds will be paid
Both parents’ contributions to school fees and extra curriculuar activities will need to be addressed in the divorce settlement. While it may be tempting to use superannuation funds as a source of education funding, these assets can take a very long time to replace.
7. Negotiate the best health insurance coverage for you and your children
If one parent has access to health insurance at a reasonable coast, it is generally the case that the parent should keep children on the plan. Children are typically covered until they reach age 18 or they’ve finished university.
8. Calculate the long-term costs of keeping the house
Today, you may want the house. It makes sense if you’re hoping to preserve some continuity in the lives of your children. It can also be a very valuable asset. But a home can be very expensive to maintain in the long term. A mortgage, taxes, utilities, maintenance and general day-to-day upkeep add up. Once the marriage is dissolved, will you still be able to maintain the house? How old is it? Is it at the stage where it’s going to start needing repairs, or painting? Can you do the garden? Make sure you run the numbers ahead of time, before you stake your claim and fight to keep your home.