Separating? Access the Support You Need

20-01-2022    |    Resource   |   Simone Thomas

The decision to separate is never an easy one – even if it is amicable.  Once you have recovered from the initial shock and emotional turmoil of the relationship breakdown, and start planning for the future, the number of issues to consider and the decisions you need to make can be overwhelming.  Unfortunately, many women in particular find themselves struggling to know what to do and where to go for help after separation, especially if they were in a relationship that involved a controlling partner, or domestic violence.

The most important thing to realise if you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious is that you are not alone.  There are numerous professionals and services available to assist you moving forward, whether you have already separated, or you are planning to leave a relationship. 

Obtaining the Right Legal Advice

The most important first step in the separation process is to seek the advice of a legal professional.  At Lamrocks we have a dedicated family law team who can provide professional, pragmatic, advice based upon your own unique circumstances.   Obtaining the right advice regarding your rights and obligations is critical, and whilst well-meaning friends and family members will offer support, it is always recommended that you speak to a legal professional to ensure you have the correct information.

If it is difficult to negotiate directly with your former partner regarding property and parenting issues, it may also be appropriate to utilise mediation services to facilitate discussion and help you to reach an agreement with your former partner.  The Covid-19 pandemic has seen a number of mediation professionals (including Lamrocks) offering their services via Zoom or Microsoft Teams to ensure couples do not have to wait for a face-to-face meeting.  

If you are unable to engage a private firm, you can also speak to a Legal Aid office (such as Legal Aid Penrith) or a Community Legal Centre (such as the Western Sydney Community Legal Centre in Parramatta).

Help with Leaving a Violent Relationship

There are a number of services available to women, or men, who are leaving a violent relationship. 

Always remember that if you feel you are in imminent danger from your partner, you should contact the Police immediately to ensure your safety (and the safety of any children).  We also recommend contacting your local police station and speaking with their Domestic Violence Liaison Officer when you are planning to leave.  They can help you with obtaining a protection order and can be on stand-by when you physically leave to ensure that you are safe, as well as when you collect your belongings at a later date.

The Lamrocks family law team has referred clients to West Connect Domestic Violence Services in the past, as well as locally based services such as the Penrith Women’s Health Centre that offer counselling, workshops and casework services to women leaving abusive relationships.

Assistance with Parenting Post Separation

Some of the most important issues facing parents that separate include the day-to-day decisions regarding how you will continue to provide support and time to the children, access arrangements, childcare options, seeing the in-laws, and working out birthday and holiday arrangements.  Adjusting to separation may also require support in learning to adapt to parenting following separation.

There are courses available, including on-line options, from non-profit organisations such as Uniting, Catholic Care or Relationships Australia (all located in Penrith) that teach parents the skills they can implement following a family separation, including tools for dealing with conflict, supporting children and managing a new post-separation relationship.  Many of the courses also cater to parenting children of specific ages and there is likely to be a relevant course to suit most separated parents’ needs.

Accessing Emotional or Psychological Support

For some, the emotional upheaval of separation can prove too overwhelming and have a serious impact on their mental health.  If you are suffering anxiety or depression because of separation, your local GP may be able to assist you with a Mental Health Plan counselling scheme, or refer you to other local counsellors, psychologists or psychiatrists. 

Lamrocks can also provide a list of local counselling services or clinics that may be able to help if you are unable to speak to your GP.

Learning to Manage Finances

Having to deal with finances for the first time after separating can be a daunting experience for women who did not ‘manage the money’ during their relationship.  Thankfully there are a number of private and public services available to provide financial counselling, help you to develop a money plan and assist with budgeting on a single income. For example, The Salvation Army offers “Moneycare Penrith”, a financial counselling service, that can assist with repossession issues, credit, debt and also budgeting for individuals.  Wesley Mission also offers a free financial counselling service, that can be accessed by phone, which includes, but is not limited to, managing finances, providing support in creating budgets, and advocating with creditors.

If you are struggling to understand finances or need help in this area it is important to reach out early. Letting the situation get out of hand can cause greater problems in the long term.

Help is Only a Phone Call Away

For anyone experiencing separation, the key point to remember is that help is always available and only a phone call away.  Whether you need advice on your legal rights and obligations, assistance with co-parenting and managing your money, or help getting your mental health back on track, support is available in your local area.  To speak to one of our friendly, accessible family law professionals, contact Lamrocks today on ph: 02 4731 5688.

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