Marriage in tatters? Don’t go broke with your divorce

Rachael Scharrer, founder of online resource DivorceAnswered.com.au has tips on how to save when your long-term relationship has ended.

Australians today are more accepting of divorce and as a society we are quick to sue others than ever before. The number of people today who are in their 20s and early 30s that are children of divorce are increasing, they are more open to pre-nuptial agreements (or pre-nups) and their tolerance for what is and isn’t acceptable is limited. Similarly, the number of people choosing not to marry is increasing and, as such, de facto relationships are on the rise. The Family Court is under increasing pressures as de facto relationships qualify for all of the rules and regulations of a marriage and these relationships often end up in the Family Court.

Navigating divorce or a de facto break up at any age is challenging – regardless of the duration of the relationship, whether there are children involved or the size of the asset pool. Whatever state your marriage or relationship is in, it can be an expensive and emotional process. It doesn’t need to be so costly if you put in some effort and follow these tips.

Make a conscious decision to be reasonable and fair 

The more hostile the separation, the more drawn out and stressful it may be. Separating is an emotionally-charged time, so be mindful of how your ex-spouse may be feeling and try to make decisions that will benefit both of you. This way, you will both feel like you have had a ‘win.’

Be prepared and organised

Whether you are at the start of your break-up or a little way in, outsource some of your thinking to the Separation Checklist. This comprehensive list gives you a thorough list of considerations and items that may need addressing or compiling. This Checklist helps to bring order to your mind and your life during a period of heightened stress, emotional upheaval and helps to save alot of time and money.

Professional advice

No matter what your situation is, it is worth getting some individualised legal advice, even if it is just for an hour. Usually, it takes an hour to 90 minutes to convey the details of the union to a family lawyer. To get the most out of your first consultation, take a Separation Statement (which succinctly conveys the details of your union) so your lawyer can quickly review the information then discuss strategy and answer the questions you want to be addressed.

Consent and agreement

The cheapest way to get your divorce is to come to an amicable agreement and lodge orders at court by consent. It’s so important to finalise the process by registering it at the Family Court otherwise your ex-spouse may contest the agreement in the future.

Be proactive with legals

If you have a partner that is quick to anger and easily provoked, then your divorce may become more longer and more challenging. If this may be the case for you, try to save as much money as you can by working with or alongside your lawyer – be prepared, ‘spoon-feed’ your lawyer and create as much of the documentation (plans, agreements, letters, forms) yourself to keep costs down. Divorce Answered has three customisable forms which can help to reduce your legal fees.

Finalise financials 

Individuals departing a de facto relationship have two years from the date of break up to make a claim on financials. This is very similar to those whose marriage is ending; these individuals have one year from the date of Divorce Order (which is typically given by the courts after applying 12 months post-separation). If you don’t make formalised financial settlements, your ex-partner can claim on the asset pool. Even though assets may be in one person’s name, it doesn’t disqualify your ex-spouse making demands for a portion (or all) of the asset. Equally at the end of a de facto relationship, the asset split isn’t assumed at 50/50 either and verbal agreements from the start of the relationship aren’t legally binding.

Family matters

The Family Court has the ability to make Parenting Orders that are considered to be in the best interest of the children, including parental responsibility and which parent a child lives or spends time with. Just like financials, if you and your children’s other parent can come up with an amicable agreement, formalise it in a document and (ideally) lodge it at court.  This will offer you a formal structure, routine and save future disagreements. Divorce Answered has a click-the-clause Parenting Plan which prompts you to select appropriate clauses for your family. It costs a fraction of one hour with a family lawyer and can save you thousands of dollars.

Prepare for the worst, expect the best

If you are reading this article and planning to marry, you can minimise the potential future stress with some ‘future-proofing.’ Nowadays, it is worthwhile to protect yourself as your relationship is becoming serious and when considering moving in together by creating a Binding Financial Agreement or if you are getting married, having a pre-nuptial agreement signed. This can be written up either before the start of the relationship or during the relationship. It will outline the distribution of assets and liabilities/debt and how and whether any maintenance is required. The document has to be lodged at the Family Court and must be done with the advice of independent lawyers. It is just one way of protecting yourself from challenging financial claims or a “messy aftermath” following break- up or marriage break-down.

Some people say that saving money in divorce means working on your divorce as if it is a full-time job. It is busy wrapping-up the end of the relationship, however, there are ways and means to save in the divorce. As long as you are motivated and driven, open to negotiation and do as much as you can for yourself.

For more information, visit www.divorceanswered.com.au