Many believe getting a divorce simply means signing on the dotted line … and technically that is correct. However, there are many other elements that you must consider when ending a marriage or de facto relationship to ensure both your emotional and financial connections to one another are ceased.
A court order is needed to formally end your marriage. Partners must be separated for at least 12 months before they are able to apply for a divorce. It takes approximately 4 months to finalise a divorce from its application. Of course there are many factors that can affect this time scale, such as children and any assets that may be involved.
Applying for a divorce is a relatively simple process, but the repercussions of this document on other aspects of your life require far more effort and consideration, such as property and asset division, child custody arrangements, and your will.
1. Property and asset division
In order for separated or divorced couples to end their financial relationship, any major assets that were shared must be divided, such as property. Without doing so, it will not only be harder to move on to the next stage of your life, but it also allows your former partner to continue to have a degree of financial control over you.
All assets much be declared during this process, including anything held in trusts, companies or partnerships, liabilities, and superannuation. Gifts and inheritance are also included, but their division may be in favour of the party that was responsible for bringing the asset into the partnership.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to asset division following a divorce or de facto separation. The law considers the contributions and needs of both parties before reaching a decision, regardless of whose name the assets are under. A 50/50 split of assets should not be assumed, because the law considers many factors during this processing, such as starting assets, current and past incomes (including earning capacity), health, age, and child custody arrangements.
2. Child custody arrangements
When a marriage breaks down, the responsibilities of both parents to their child or children remain the same. Children have the right to have relationships with and be cared for by both parents. This includes being able to spend regular time with and communicate with both sides of the family, including both parents, grandparents, and other significant family members.
Mediation is often the first port of call for child custody matters, with both parties usually wanting to avoid going through the Court system. However, if this is unsuccessful, the case will go before a Judge.
3. Updating your will
This part is often forgotten about when a divorce is not handled through a lawyer. Many wills are made at the beginning of marriages and updated as more children and assets enter the relationship. Now that the marriage or de facto partnership has ended, the wills of both parties will often require updating again to ensure it reflects their new marital status and asset collection. Failure to do so may result in a separation of assets against your true wishes following your passing. As one’s spouse is often the Power of Attorney, it is also important to update this following a divorce or separation, as well as the appointment of medical decision makers.