Preparing for Separation and Divorce during COVID-19

The decision to separate is a difficult one at the best of times. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused separating or divorcing families and families thinking about separating additional confusion and stress. This blog post gives a brief overview of the barriers and roadblocks Australian couples are facing along the path to separation during the pandemic, alongside some practical steps and resources that will guide you along the path.

Common Barriers to Separation in Australia

While every relationship is different, these are some of the most common barriers people face when deciding whether they should leave their relationship:

  • Finances;
  • Availability of suitable accommodation;
  • Parenting arrangements;
  • Fear of violence or abuse;
  • Concern for your partner’s welfare;
  • Reluctance to up-end your life; or
  • Fear of losing your community and network.

Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic on Separation & Divorce in Australia

COVID-19 resulted in drastic changes that affected all of our lives. For many who were contemplating separation before the pandemic, those thoughts have been sidelined as the focus shifted to parenting children who now are attending school from home. Even as lockdown eased, school-aged children are spending more time at home since many extra-curricular activities aren’t taking place this year. For many parents, this added stressor means that separation no longer seems viable.

In fact, the pandemic has exacerbated many of the barriers to separation outlined above.

Unemployment rates have surged, meaning that there are more families struggling to make ends meet. On top of this, asset and investment values are volatile, so there are more families facing financial barriers to separation.

Access to accommodation and childcare is problematic, given the potential for further lockdowns or health risks. So, couples are facing increased barriers when considering post-separation accommodation and parenting arrangements.

Meanwhile, the record rates of domestic violence during the pandemic have created further barriers for people living with domestic abuse.

All in all, the pandemic has made separation more difficult for many Australians.

But that’s not to say it’s impossible. Below, you’ll find some practical steps to take to start preparing for your separation.

Woman handing back wedding ring during Family Law Mediation

Practical Steps to Take to Prepare for Separation

Before (and during) your separation, you need to re-establish your digital privacy and disentangle your life from your partners. These practical steps will put you on the path towards achieving that:

Change your passwords

Many of us share our passwords in our relationships. Changing these passwords is an important step in securing your digital privacy – which is critical when you’re separating. We’ve had many instances where our communications with clients have been seen by their partner because they’ve failed to properly secure their accounts OR they haven’t logged out of accounts on devices that their partners have.

You can use a password manager to store your new passwords so you don’t forget them! Dashlane offers a free account for personal use that’s worth checking out.

Speak with a lawyer before committing to any financial agreements

The impact of COVID-19 on your finances could have far-reaching consequences. You should consider having a lawyer take a look over any financial agreement before you agree to it.This will help protect your interests into the future.

Compile details about your relationship

A brief chronology of your relationship are a helpful resource for the courts and for lawyers. You should include information about when you started dating, when you moved in together, date you were married, birth dates of your children, dates of significant purchases (of businesses, properties, luxury items, and the like), and any details of family violence.

This document should be as short and concise as possible. Consider laying it out with the dates (in chronological order) and a few words about the event. There’s no room for opinions or perception in your chronology – it should only contain facts (and proof of those facts, wherever possible).

Record details about your finances

Financial records will help lawyers and/or the court determine what the most appropriate financial settlement looks like for you. These

You should include details about yours and your partner’s financial contributions:

  • Wages;
  • Winnings;
  • Savings;
  • Investments;
  • Gifts from family members or inheritances;
  • Redundancy or termination payments; and
  • Superannuation.

The Course considers direct financial contributions (like your wages), as well as indirect financial contributions (like improvements you made to a property, parental contributions, and contributions as a homemaker). Any details that relate to you or your partner making the household earnings possible should be included.

If you believe there are other financial contributions unique to your case, you should include those too.

Naturally, liabilities are also considered by the Court. Please provide details about any debt you or your partner have individually and as a married couple.

Be careful about what you put in writing

Think before you send any text or email to your partner (or ex-partner). Any correspondence between you may eventually wind up playing a role in your court proceedings. So, it’s important not to damage your case by sending messages when you’re angry, intoxicated, frustrated, or depressed.

This is true for social media too. Ramp up your privacy settings to be sure only people you’re closely connected with can see your social presence and keep your opinions private.

Resources to Help with Separation during COVID-19

Overcoming these barriers to separation is challenging, especially when you face them alone. Beyond your support network, there are plenty of resources available to help guide and support you through the separation process.

Here are some resources that you might find helpful:

Crisis & Support Hotlines

Guides and Booklets

You can find local help here.

Altria’s Experienced Family Lawyers are Here for Your Separation & Divorce

Our friendly team is here to help and support you through your separation and divorce. We’re experienced across all areas of family law, including property settlements, parenting orders, and obtaining your divorce.

If you’re thinking about separation, reach out for your free case starter assessment. We’ll provide you with a comprehensive, transparent, no-obligation assessment of your case so you have all the details you need to make an informed decision.

Then, kick start the process with a free 30-minute consultation with an Altria family lawyer.

We’re here to put the law on your side.

Aziz and the Altria Team