Friday 29th April 2022 from 9am

Wills & Estates Senior Associate Debbie Sage will join Robyn Hyland to talk about the importance of planning for end-of-life care and what options are available.

Things to consider before separating from your partner


The breakdown of a marriage or de facto relationship can be an emotional and challenging time. With proper support and information, you can navigate these challenges with clarity and confidence. Attwood Marshall Lawyers Family Law Associates Emily Edmonds and Laura Dolan discuss some of the critical steps you may want to consider taking before you separate, to give you peace of mind.

Navigating a separation can be hard – emotions can be raw, tempers can be high, and the sense of grief for the loss of the relationship can be consuming. But it doesn’t have to be a disaster. Having a carefully thought-out plan before taking the first step in the process can equip you for a smoother transition.

Once you have reached the point where you decide that your relationship is over, there are some things that you should consider before broaching the subject with your partner.

From making sure you fully understand your financial situation to thinking about practical issues like future care arrangements for your children, a proactive approach will empower you to navigate the complexities of separation without added stress or confusion.

If you’re just starting to think about separation, these top tips will help you make informed decisions about the future that will protect your interests.

Emotional support

1. Get some help with professional counselling

Separating is a big decision, so it’s important to be kind to yourself and not rush into anything. While talking to trusted friends and family may be a good option for some, also consider seeking professional support. Relationships Australia is a leading provider of relationship support services and offers free counselling services, which may be useful if you find that you or your children are not coping with your current situation. The non-profit also offers relationship counselling if parties wish to explore the possibility of reconciliation.

2. Maintain a positive environment, especially if children are involved

Be mindful of your actions to avoid setting an unnecessarily combative position early on, which could lead to a hostile settlement process further down the line. If children are involved, strive to maintain a positive environment for their well-being. You will need to communicate with your former partner about time arrangements for your children and how to handle special occasions like birthdays and school holidays, so fostering a positive co-parenting relationship will reduce stress and tension around those conversations in the future.

Parenting Issues

3. If you have children, start thinking about parenting arrangements

Start thinking about where the children are going to live. The law says that the best interests of the children must always be the primary consideration. Whilst parents may separate, it is important, when and where possible, and if it is safe to do so, for children to maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents.

Organisations such as Relationships Australia offer a Family Dispute Resolution service to help separating parties respectfully negotiate issues such as parenting, property, and financial matters.

There are also accredited Family Dispute Resolution practitioners who provide their services as a private business. The benefit of private mediations is that parties can secure a date with a view to resolve their matter more quickly. To find a private Family Dispute Resolution practitioner, search the Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner Register. The costs and information of the practitioners can be found on the register.

Financial preparedness

4. Make sure you have a clear picture of your financial situation

You should start gathering all important legal and financial documents to understand where you stand in terms of the assets and liabilities of the relationship. You will need to know the financial position of both you and your partner to move forward with a property settlement.

This includes bank statements, tax returns, superannuation policies and loan documents. If you have an interest in a trust or partnership or are a director or shareholder in a company, you will need to provide relevant financials and activity statements as well. Your accountant or financial advisor can be a great point of contact in assisting you with providing these documents.

5. Secure your finances

If you hold any joint bank accounts with your former partner, consider opening a separate account in your sole name for your ongoing income and essential expenses. If you are concerned that your former partner may withdraw funds without your consent, notify the bank that you are about to go through a separation and ask them to implement dual signatures, where no money can be withdrawn without the signature and consent of both parties.

6. Plan for ongoing expenses

Calculate your budget and projected costs to assist you with ongoing bills such as rent, mortgage payments or household expenses. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to contact Centrelink for help. You may be eligible for specific allowances and benefits. Understanding the complete picture of your financial situation will help you make informed decisions during this time.

Privacy and social media

7. Keep off social media

When you’re close to separating, avoid posting anything about the relationship breakdown or making negative comments about your former partner on social media. These remarks, made in the heat of the moment, may come back to bite you.

Changing passwords on all your devices and your email, social media and cloud storage accounts is also a good idea. Even if you predict your separation will be amicable, it’s best to protect your privacy proactively.

Legal issues and estate planning

8. Update your Will and Enduring Power of Attorney

If you don’t have a Will, you need to make one immediately and ensure it reflects your current situation and wishes.

If you have a Will and Enduring Power of Attorney/Appointment of Enduring Guardian that nominates your former partner as your Executor, Beneficiary, Attorney and/or Guardian, you may want to change those documents.

If you die or become incapacitated, it is unlikely that you will want your former partner benefiting from your estate or making important decisions regarding your finances or lifestyle and health decisions for you, including turning off life support if such a situation arose.

These critical steps are often overlooked or forgotten in the flood of emotions and stress that come from a breakup.

9. Review your superannuation and life insurance policies

You should review your superannuation policy, life insurance and other death benefits to check that your beneficiaries and nominations align with your current intentions. If your children are minors, consider paying these benefits to your estate to be held upon Trust for your children. Nominating a Trustee in your Will means they will look after these funds until your children have reached adulthood.

10. Take your important documents and sentimental belongings with you

If you are leaving the house, consider all the furniture and personal items you will need before you leave. You must take important documents such as passports and birth certificates when the time comes. Once you leave the house, retrieving the items you left behind becomes much harder. But remember, you should be reasonable when dividing up household items and try to seek an agreement that works for both parties.

The importance of seeking legal advice

Engaging an experienced family lawyer before you make any decisions or even begin negotiating with your former partner is crucial. Don’t try to navigate this alone.

Family law is a complex area, and it can be very legally and emotionally challenging, even for the most level-headed and organised person. A good family lawyer will guide you through the legal steps, protect your rights, and help you achieve a fair settlement.

They’ll also be there to answer all your questions and provide valuable advice on what to do – and, more importantly, what not to do.

If you are still at the very early stages of your separation but have yet to see a lawyer – it may be beneficial to look at Attwood Marshall Lawyers’ separation checklists, which provide guidance of what steps lay ahead for you.

If you have children, please click here to download your separation checklist.

If you don’t have children, please click here to download your separation checklist.

Attwood Marshall Lawyers – helping families resolve disputes with as little conflict as possible

Separation is a complex process that requires forethought and consideration. By addressing the practical points detailed in this blog, you can navigate the challenges more effectively, laying the groundwork for a smoother transition.

Our family law team is experienced in all facets of family law and can assist with parenting matters, drafting binding financial agreements, negotiating property settlements, and finalising your divorce.

If you need assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact our Family Law Department Manager, Donna Tolley, on direct line 07 5506 8241 or email for a confidential discussion. Our team is available at any of our conveniently located offices at Robina Town Centre, Coolangatta, Southport, Kingscliff, Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne.

Share this article

Emily Edmonds - Associate - Family Law

Emily Edmonds

Family Law

Contact the author

The contents of this article are considered accurate as at the date of publication. The information contained in this article does not constitute legal advice and is of a general nature only. Readers should seek legal advice about their specific circumstances. 

Brisbane Employment Law

Employment Law Sydney

Gold Coast Employment Law

Defamation Law

Employment Law

Download a Brochure

Please enter your details below and
a link will be emailed to you
Download Form

Compensation Law

Select your state