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Research and organise.
First, know this: While the process of filing for divorce will be the same for many Australians, the process of separating assets varies widely from case to case. So don't expect your proceedings to be identical to your friend's case.
Since you're going to feel stressed and overwhelmed at times, keeping all relevant facts, forms and information organised is essential. Create a desktop or Google Drive folder so you can continue to add and edit information as you delve deeper into the divorce process.
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Decide if you’ll need legal representation.
While everyone on TV seems to have a fierce divorce lawyer, the reality is you may or not need legal representation. You can apply for a divorce by downloading and filling out the proper forms through Family Court of Australia website, and costs $865.
Being granted a divorce does not determine property distribution, arrangements for children or the division of assets. If you need help negotiating some of these issues, an impartial mediator can help.
The most drawn out and expensive option is to hire lawyers. This can cost tens of thousands of dollars. This option might make sense when a lot of money or assets are at stake, when mediation fails, or if there is abuse in the relationship. A lawyer can help gather evidence that can affect your spouse's claim for custody of your children, among other things.
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Recruit your tribe.
Keeping your divorce a secret is rarely a good idea. Reach out to friends and acquaintances that have divorced and thrived afterward so you can pick their brains. I made it a point to connect with people who would provide emotional support without passing judgment, and found that to be really helpful. Also, consider seeing a therapist—even if you don't think you need it. It never hurts to have someone neutral to vent to.
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Detangle your bills and finances.
Oh, my friends, this aspect of divorce is such a pain in the neck. Like many other couples, my former spouse and I had joint checking and savings accounts. If you have joint bank accounts, the day you decide to divorce, download and print all of your latest statements. In fact, if you're the one initiating the divorce, do this before your spouse knows you're filing. This way, you're prepared if your spouse tries to hide money or assets.
Ownership of a joint checking account is usually changed after the divorce is granted. But if you and your spouse can do so amicably, set up separate checking accounts before your divorce is official. This way you can start getting your finances in order stat.
Then there are the bills. The gas was in his name, the electricity in mine and the phone was in both our names. I went online and made phone calls to ensure my spouse's name was removed from bills I’d be paying myself.
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Look at your assets.
There are many advantages of reaching an agreement, not just reduced emotional and financial costs. But make sure you come prepared. Know the value of your assets so there are no surprises waiting for you further down the track.
If you are unable to come to an agreement on how to divide assets and debt, the court considers a number of general principles. These include what your assets and debts are worth, financial contributions such as wages, gifts, inheritances, non-financial contributions including caring for children, and any future requirements such as health, age and care of children.
The decision from the judge is based purely around the unique facts of your case.
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Be truthful with your children.
Telling my son about my divorce was probably one of the most excruciating moments of my life. He was 9 years old and he burst into tears immediately. Divorce is painful and stressful for children, and sadly, there's no way around it. "Kids are the innocents," says therapist Rachel Sussman. "They didn't ask to be brought into this situation."
Sussman suggests that spouses speak to their children together about their separation about a week before one person moves out. "Tell your children that marriage is conditional, and sometimes they end, but that your love for them is unconditional and never ends. Make sure they know that you're still a family, but it's going to be a different family."
After my ex and I told our son about the divorce, the three of us spent a weekend visiting friends in the country and then on Monday my ex moved out. Our son was sad, but I was surprised at how quickly he adapted to his new life. We enrolled him in a group counseling program for kids of divorce. Through that, he was able to articulate that it was very important to him that my ex-husband and I be kind to one another and keep the bad-mouthing to a minimum. While it's not always easy, we try to follow his wishes.
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Don’t sign up for Match.com.
Some people divorce and never want to be in another relationship again. Other folks launch into a rebound relationship as soon as humanly possible. I feel it's better to wait—and Sussman agrees. "You should be through your breakup and divorce before seeing anyone new. You want to put your best foot forward. That means being in a place, emotionally, where you're feeling confident and not tempted to badmouth your ex." She also points out how hard dating can be—especially in this age of swiping right or left—and says it may take some time to feel strong enough to handle any rejection or new relationships that just don't pan out.
So how long should you wait? I took a year after my split before I started dating again, but it really depends on your situation. Whatever your timing, be thoughtful and honest with yourself about your readiness to get back out there.
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Create and commit to a new budget.
After a split, it's time to face your new financial reality, says financial advisor Vickie Adams. She suggests creating a budget by carefully tracking your purchases for three months. Decide what's a necessity and what's a luxury and cut as much as possible. Even if you get the best settlement you possibly can, you may not have as much money at your disposal as before.
If that's the case, Adams says to save where you can and prepare for emergencies. If you own a home, for example, Adams suggests stashing away the equivalent of 10% of your mortgage for unexpected repairs. And above all else, "No retail therapy—even if you feel like you deserve to treat yourself. What looks like a treat or reward can really just be an anchor around your neck that you'll have to pay off on a credit card with an 18% interest rate."
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While you may feel heartbroken, view your new life as a fresh start, an adventure, even. You have opened the door to a new path and you get to decide where to go. Think about what your values are, what you want your days to look like, and most importantly, how you want to feel. Write down your thoughts or even create a visual inspiration board on Pinterest. Then think about what small daily acts can help bring your aspirations to fruition. Expect occasional setbacks but keep moving forward. You can do this, I promise.