Divorce or separation
Breaking up is hard to do
The end of a relationship can be an emotional and traumatic
time. You may feel anxious or overwhelmed about such a big change
in your life.
Be kind to yourself. Ask for support if you need it. There are
lots of places you can go for help. Start by sorting out a few
simple things, like doing a financial stock take, then work your
way up to tackling the bigger money issues.
Take some initial steps to reorganise your finances without your
- Close off your joint accounts: Talk to your
bank to establish your own pool of money, and make sure your
partner can't access it. Check that your pay is going into this
- Do a financial stock take: List all your
assets, and any debts or joint debts in your name. Try using
the your net worth
- Record your turning points: Note down the
dates of your separation. To apply for a divorce you will need to
prove that you have been separated for at least 12 months.
- Update your rental agreement: If your name is
on the lease then you could be liable for any unpaid rent or damage
caused by your partner.
- Seek legal advice:Speak to a solicitor to:
- Freeze any joint accounts (and go to your bank if
- Separate property held in joint names
- Take legal action, if property is held in your partner's name,
to prevent its sale before the final property settlement
- Update your will
If your partner was the one who took care of the money, find out
how things were organised and see if you want to make any changes.
Focus on setting yourself up for the future.
If you're in a crisis and need emergency relief or emotional
support see our urgent money
Adjusting to a change in
When adjusting to a change in income, it's important to
re-establish where your money comes from and where it goes. Here
are two simple steps to get you started.
Gather your financial information
If you're not used to managing your money, getting all your key
financial documents together is an important first step. Find and
- Utility bills (e.g. electricity, gas and phone)
- Credit and store cards bills
- Property deeds, mortgage papers, home loan details
- Savings and transaction account statements, including any PINs
and passwords (but be careful with recording your PINs and
- Tax records
- Insurance policies (e.g. income protection, life, health, home
and contents, car)
- Superannuation accounts
- Will and estate plans
- Contact details for your accountant and lawyer
- Business documents, if you have been part of a family
Do a budget and keep it up to date
Use our budget planner to help you think about your money. Write
down all your income and expenses. Then look at what's essential
and what you could cut back. Saving a few extra dollars each week
can add up to a big difference over time.
Video: Surviving divorce
Surviving divorce video
This video from MoneySmart Teaching features
Sue-Ellen Pape, a Victorian technical college teacher, talking
about how she handled the financial pressures of becoming a single
information and advice
You do not lose your right to a share of the house or
other property if you leave the house.
See legal rights for
dividing property on the Victoria Legal Aid
As well as immediate free legal advice about your assets, you
might need ongoing support to help plan ahead. For urgent help to
sort out your bills and do a budget, you can get financial counselling.
You might also need advice to help you make decisions about
housing, educating your children or managing your debts. A
useful booklet about stretching your dollar after separation has
been created by the former Child Support Agency, check out Me and my Money -
Practical money ideas.
Your changed circumstances may also affect payments you are
receiving, or could receive, find out how from Centrelink's
Financial Information Service (FIS).
For longer-term help to improve your investments and to develop
a money plan, consider getting financial advice. If it seems
daunting, take a friend for support.
See our video about Becky who gets behind on her
mortgage payments when her relationship breaks up.
Ask for support from family and friends
Managing money when your relationship ends doesn't have to mean
going it alone. Ask family and friends for ideas on making your
money go further.
Organising your will,
insurance and superannuation
Now is a good time to update your will to reflect the changes in
your life. Read more about wills and estate plans at wills and powers of
It is also a good time to think about insurance,
including car, home and contents, and income and life protection
insurance, especially if you have children. You might be entitled
to insurance through super, but it
may not be enough. Try to shop around for cover that's right for
If the beneficiary of your insurance is your ex-partner you
might want to update your nomination.
Getting your superannuation sorted after your relationship ends
is an important step in planning for your future. Once you separate
or get divorced, super is treated as a type of property and can be
divided by agreement or by court order. The Family Law Courts have
more information about superannuation
splitting, and the Attorney General's Department has superannuation splitting
frequently asked questions.
Taking care of
If you and your partner are separating and have children, you'll
have to agree on arrangements for their care. Child
support at the Department of Human Services can help
explain your child support options and has a range of self-help
tools for parents after they separate.
Family breakdown can be an especially difficult time for
children, so make sure you talk to them openly, answer their
questions honestly and, where appropriate, involve them in the
decisions that affect them.
Case study: Pam takes care of her money after her divorce
has separated from her husband after 26 years of marriage.
'Getting my finances together was a bit overwhelming. I'm
ashamed to admit it, but my husband did almost everything when it
came to money. So now, at 50, I have just opened a bank account for
the first time and I've learnt how easy it is to manage my account
'A couple of my friends also recommended professional financial
advisers, so I've been to meet a couple. I'm trying to decide which
one to go back to. I'll probably go with the one I'm most
comfortable with, that I trust the most. I'll have to deal with
them for a few years after all.
'It's taken me a while to get organised but I'm glad I'm getting
on with my life.'
Getting on top of your finances can be daunting
at any time, and even more so if you are dealing with a
relationship breakup. But like a lot of things in life, just take
one step at a time and your confidence will grow.
Last updated: 03 Feb 2014
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