There are so many things to think about if you’ve decided to get a divorce. It can get overwhelming, so we’ve put together a series of articles that cover what you will find helpful to know when embarking on the divorce process. Today we’ll look at what’s involved in planning a divorce strategy.
(Planning a divorce strategy…continued)
Divorce is a unique journey for everyone because people’s situations are so different. But there are some aspects of the process that are common to everyone. Getting a divorce involves certain legal obligations under the Family Law Act. Whatever agreement is reached between divorcing parties, the agreement needs to be found to be “fair and equitable” to be approved in the courts.
Many factors go into working out a final settlement. Key preparations for everyone include things like finding the right lawyer, getting finances in order and starting to save money. And of course, working out what you want and need from a property settlement. This is where it helps to plan a divorce strategy. So how do you go about working out a strategy for your divorce proceedings? Here are our tips on where to start.
1. Set your “best life” goals
One of the important factors in achieving a good divorce settlement is knowing exactly what you want from the process. You’ll have financial goals but you’ll also have non-financial goals to define, too. Clarifying your post-divorce personal goals and visualising an appropriate settlement will help you stay on track towards achieving the outcome you want. If you’re not sure exactly what your best life goals are, professionals like therapists, lawyers and financial advisors can help you narrow them down.
2. Audit your family finances
It’s only when you have a complete picture of your assets and liabilities that you can review your financial settlement goals and work out your ideal financial settlement.
Conducting an audit of your family finances is a fine tooth-comb information gathering process, involving obtaining numerous financial records. Some documents you’ll find you have kept at home while others will need to be obtained from financial institutions and professionals. Most things should be available to you online though, so hopefully it won’t be an overly difficult process.
3. Maintain security
If you’re just in the scoping out and info gathering stage of your divorce, you might not even have told your spouse your intentions yet. You may want to keep it that way for now. Allow yourself the time to get as organised as possible first. It might be starting to gather documents or having the opportunity to take photos of things. There’s things like securing devices and setting up separate accounts of all kinds.
It makes sense to get organised and see a family lawyer first for initial advice.
4. Do a current budget
There are plenty of online tools to help you create a budget, if you don’t already have one. Looking at your current budget (total household income and expenses) will let you determine what your current lifestyle actually costs. Do you have a current regular budget surplus or deficit?
5. Do a post-divorce budget
This sets out what your income and expenditures will be after the divorce. It may help you decide if it’s going to be smart to take on particular assets or liabilities in a settlement. You’ll also be able to work out whether you should make an application for spousal support. Get estimates if you can’t get exact figures for line items. You can fine tune this later.
6. Determine your potential future needs
Create an estimate of future expenses with your post-divorce budget. You will need to factor in any likely changes in work or living arrangements and any child support payable. Working out your future needs helps crystallise exactly what kind of lifestyle you will have after your divorce.
7. Know your deal breakers
It’s important to understand where you draw the line when it comes to a minimum settlement.
8. Prepare your chronology
A chronology sets out your marital history and all key dates and events. It makes a useful reference tool both for you and your lawyer.
9. Create a game plan
Write a master document that details in dot point:
- What you want out of the divorce
- What you want your life after the divorce to include
- How should parenting arrangements be worked out
- What is your ideal property settlement
This will provide a useful reminder throughout the process, and can be given to professionals to get them rapidly “on the same page” with you.
10. Get a family lawyer early
Getting a lawyer early on means you can start effectively communicating from the beginning, when feelings might be at their most raw, which is sometimes very hard without the help of professionals. Make sure you are informed of your rights and responsibilities under our Family Law Act.
11. Prepare questions for your lawyer
Keep a list of the questions you have about your matter or what you want advice on. It makes a great reference tool and helps you stay on track. And it can be helpful to show as an outline when interviewing prospective family lawyers. It will fast forward their understanding of your situation and needs and help them develop realistic goals with you.
12. Learn the basics
Make the effort to educate yourself around family law issues that influence your matter. Knowing what to expect can make the whole thing less fraught.
13. Determine your approach
There are many ways to divorce, and you should consider our alternative dispute resolution processes as well as pathways towards litigation.
14. Set your legal goals
Be sure about the purpose of your meetings with your lawyer. Ask your lawyer to review your documents including your game plan and after divorce budget. Listen to their advice on whether your goals are realistic or unlikely. Obtain answers to questions like, what needs to happen next? Does any more documentation need to be obtained? What strategic initiatives can we put in place? What should the initial offer to your ex be, and what happens if they refuse a reasonable settlement?
15. Work out living arrangements
The biggest decision is often deciding who is going to live where. You’ll need to reach agreement on the best temporary outcome, whether that’s for one spouse to relocate immediately or whether it’s better for everyone if you remain “separated under one roof”. Can both spouses afford to live separately? How is care of the children going to work out? How will bills be paid from now on? Should jointly-held credit cards be closed?
16. Look for common ground
When beginning negotiations, start around shared values, such as the standards you want for your children’s lifestyle. Any points of common ground are a good starting point and helps build some consensus.
17. Don’t rush the divorce
Never rush the process as you need to fully consider the impacts of the decisions you make. Reopening a finalised property settlement is difficult and not always possible.
And there you have it, our top tips for planning a basic divorce strategy. Of course, your family lawyer is the best placed individual to help you create a final workable divorce strategy, but these tips should give you a starting point for what is involved.
For help with a divorce or other family law matter, please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.