Published: 24 March 2022
Author: RCT Family Law team
My partner and I have separated, where do I go from here?
Separation is typically a challenging and emotional time, and the first thing you may ask yourself is ‘where do I go from here?’. For some clients, it can also be a liberating time where new beginnings await.
At the outset, please remember that no matter what stage of separation you are at, it’s important to seek support from your friends and family and, most importantly, it is okay to ask for help.
During separation, well-meaning friends and family may give you plenty of advice which can add to initial confusion. RCT Family Law has been practicing for many decades and we have the experience and insight to assure you that no two divorces are the same and we can offer professional guidance in what can be a straightforward or highly complex journey depending on the individuals involved. Ultimately, it’s important when at any significant crossroads to gather information and counsel from legal professionals, especially where livelihoods, well-being and children are involved.
Where do I start? Should I contact a lawyer, mediator or counsellor first?
There is no definite answer to this predicament and depending on the scenario sometimes it involves all of the above, while some clients simply seek legal support to settle pre-arranged agreements. We advise anyone facing separation to simply gather the facts and then follow their intuition on the best course of action for them.
We do recommend that anybody thinking about divorce has a private and confidential consultation with a lawyer as a starting point. While this step can seem daunting for new clients, they often leave our offices with greater clarity and understanding of the path ahead, and they appreciate having someone actively listen to their unique experience with understanding.
To commence meaningful negotiations regarding an appropriate parenting arrangement or the financial division of your assets, you may start with a Family Dispute Resolution Service such as Better Place Australia or Relationships Australia where you and your partner may choose to have discussions with a mediator.
Upon contacting a mediation centre, it is important you obtain prior legal advice as to how parenting arrangements and financial divisions are decided by the court and the legislation, including what considerations are taken into account. The process and the language used during the Family Dispute Resolution process may not be familiar to you and seeking advice from an experienced family lawyer will aid in your preparation for attending your mediation sessions.
I don’t know if I can afford to divorce?
Many of our clients share that they can no longer afford to stay with their partner and often they seek a new way forward.
Contemplating separation will prompt many questions relating to your finances, particularly whether you will be able to financially support yourself out of the family home and especially if children are involved.
If you or your partner cannot find alternate housing, or do not have the finances to cover the cost of alternate housing, the court will still consider you and your partner to have separated if you remain under the one roof. However, you will need to remain physically separate, for example, sleeping in separate rooms.
Initially legal cost is a common worry for clients. You need advice, but often life is in a state of upheaval and money may not be easy to come by. Encouragingly, your first appointment with us is free. After that, we will give you an accurate estimate on what continuing to work with us will cost and you will have time to consider and assess the value of the service.
In relation to legal fees, Stringer Clark is committed to keeping costs down for you and we offer the convenience of various payment options. You can talk with us about payment options including deferred payments or payments by instalments during the appointment.
What is the best first step when separating from an abusive partner?
If you are in a position where you are contemplating separation, and fear for the safety of you and your children, we urge you to contact services such as 1800RESPECT and Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre where they can provide support services in relation to safety planning, counselling and relocation.
In family violence instances, the application for an Intervention Order for your protection may be rquired and we can advise and assist with this process. Alternately, some clients do so directly by making an online application through the Magistrates Court of Victoria website or start by reporting incidents of family violence to the Police. If you are in immediate fear for your safety, or the safety of the children, do not hesitate to contact 000.
The RCT and Stringer Clark Family Law team has had significant experience in helping people leave abusive relationships, which can involve financial, emotional, psychological and/ or physical abuse. We understand that it takes time and courage for anyone to address abuse and family violence and it can be challenging to access the information when people are in a state of fear and stess. As a starting point, we prepared a ‘Pathways to Change Guide: A family violence strategy and resource guide.’ While this doesn’t provide legal advice, it does provide options on pathways available to those who feel vulnerable.
Who do I contact at Stringer Clark?
If you would like to make an appointment for a confidential and complimentary first meeting with a member of our family law practice, please call 1800 641 743 or send a message via https://stringerclark.com.au/contact.
We will respond in a timely, discreet and sensitive manner and assure you our team will be there for you to offer the experience, expertise and empathy required.
Meanwhile, the RCT Family Law website page addresses Frequently Asked Questions which may also be of assistance.