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Thrive, survive separation and divorce

12 March 2019

Divorce and separation

In Family Court matters experts are unanimous when they say, be prepared. Spend the time understanding the situation and your rights, especially the financial implications, because scrambling for answers increases the pressure of a stressful situation and can cost you more.

Rachael Scharrer, a divorce and relationship coach, and Dominique Bergel-Grant, a Financial Advisor, both of whom support people to rebuild after separation and divorce, counsel that a quick divorce is the best divorce. However, that does not mean approaching the situation without a plan and without advice, because that won’t be quick, that will be financially ruinous.

Checklists of things to do can prepare you for separation and, whether you are the leaver or the left, those ‘to do’ items can support you by providing structure in a time of immense emotional upheaval,” says Rachael.

Says Dominique: “You must document everything and agree to nothing”.

The first thing you need to secure is money. Maybe, it’s for bills or rent or a bond… whatever, it will mean going to the bank. If you have joint accounts, make sure you have dual signatory. In the majority of cases, separations begin civilly. However, as Rachael points out, invariably something will happen to make one or other party angry and you could find any joint accounts drained of money if you’ve failed to ensure the need for both signatures.

If, for whatever reason, you don’t have your own bank account you will need to set one up for deposits - be they voluntary or court ordered or from another source. You might think about approaching Centrelink for information on avenues for accessing support.

If you have a mortgage and there are other investments, credit cards and debt, you will need to understand the implications. You can ask the bank, although, of course, the bank can only tell you about joint accounts, and the mortgage if it’s shared, or if you have a shared credit card. You will need a lawyer to discover the intricacies of other financial issues that may affect you.

One of the issues for couples who have a business and work together, or where one owns a business, is how that business will be affected by separation and divorce.

Rachael has some clear steps to consider when there is a business involved.

If you have a business with your partner and work in it together: what is that going to look like, now? If you’re considering buying them out or not, you need advice from an accountant and probably, a lawyer.

Have you established clear job descriptions so that you know who makes what decisions, where and how that decision making process is exercised?

How do you separate the business from the relationship to ensure the personal does not infringe on the workplace? Perhaps, you need certain people in the business to know your situation so you can get support through the ups and downs. You may need to set specific communication methods: establish a private email account for the process of separation.

You might want to schedule in regular meetings with a third person present, maybe a mentor or the accountant, to help mediate.

The business will need to be valued but do not do this at the outset of your separation process. Valuation is at settlement and that process will take time, meaning the business could have increased or decreased in value by the time you reach settlement.

If you own the business, it is an asset and you may need to pay out or come to some sort of share agreement with your ex. No matter which role you find yourself in when it comes to this, you should consult an accountant about the best way to move forward for you and the business.

Establish your borrowing/lending capacity with your bank – it’s no good saying I’ll pay you a million dollars and then discovering you can’t fund that, or access funds to meet the obligation.

Tips in general

If the court orders you to pay spousal maintenance, budget for it. Spousal payments are court ordered and made on a case by case basis. They are not forever and ongoing.

Debt in two people’s names is joint debt and both people are equally responsible. Upon divorce or separation, you are both liable to ensure that it is paid as and when it falls due – and if you can’t meet the payments, talk to the company (bank, utility company, etc.) to come to an arrangement.

There are ways through divorce and separation other than court, but do get advice. My tip is lodge your final agreement with the court because it means no one can come back at a later date with a claim.

Check with your bank about its requirements for settlement as there will be conditions.

More tips from experts. and you can listen here to our webinar with Rachael on separating from a partner, cleanly.

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