Divorce and 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 and ask for support if you need it as
there is help available. Start by sorting out the immediate things,
like having your own bank account, then work your way up to
tackling the longer term money issues.
First steps when you
If your former partner was the one who took care of the money,
you will need to find out how things were organised and decide how
you want to manage your finances. Focus on setting yourself up
for the future. Here are some things you can do to protect your
- Close off your joint accounts - Consider closing
your joint account. Talk to your bank to establish your
own account with your own pool of money, and make sure the other
joint account holder can't access it. Check that your pay is going
into this account
- Do a financial stocktake - List all your
assets, and any debts or joint debts in your name with our asset
- Record your turning points - Note down the
dates of your separation in a diary or notepad. You can use this
when you apply for a divorce as proof that you have been separated
for at least 12 months.
- Cancel your redraw facility - Talk to your
bank to cancel any redraw facility on your home loan to make sure
your debts don't grow.
- Update your rental agreement - If your
name is on the lease then you are liable for any unpaid rent or
damage caused by your partner.
- Update your utility bills - If your name is on
the account then you are liable for any unpaid bill.
- Seek legal advice - Speak to a solicitor about
separating property held in joint names, taking legal action,
if property is held in your partner's name, to prevent it
being sold before the property settlement, and to update your
Practical steps to separate your finances when you split up.
Divorce and separation financial checklist
If you're in a crisis and need emergency relief or emotional
support see our urgent money
Adjusting to a change in
Your income and expenses are likely to change when a
relationship ends. It's more important than ever to make sure you
have a good idea of where your money comes from and where
it goes. Here are two important steps to get started.
Create a new budget
Write a new budget based on your changed income and expenses.
Start by writing down all your income and expenses. Then work out
whats essential and what could be cut back.
Try to keep your bank balance healthy by sticking to a
Saving a few extra dollars each week can add up to a big
difference over time. For urgent help to sort out your bills and do
a budget, you can see a financial counsellor.
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
- Savings and transaction account statements
- Utility bills (e.g. electricity, gas, mobile and internet)
- Credit and store cards bills
- Property paperwork (deeds, mortgage papers, home loan
- Investment paperwork (managed fund statements, share dividend
- Tax records (tax returns and tax file numbers)
- Insurance policies (e.g. health, home and contents, car,
income protection and life)
- Superannuation accounts (both yours and your ex-partners)
- Will and estate plans
- Contact details for your accountant and lawyer
Getting advice when
As well as immediate free legal advice about your assets, you
might need ongoing support to help plan ahead, make decisions
about your children, housing, or managing your debts. The Department of Human
Services and Family Relationships websites have
information that can help separated parents.
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
Your changed circumstances may also affect payments you are
receiving, or could receive, find out how from the
Department of Human Services' Financial Information Service
See our video about Becky who gets behind on her mortgage
payments when her relationship breaks up.
Video: Becky gets behind on her mortgage payments after a
Video about checking a bank statement
Becky has two children and has just separated from her
ex-partner. While she's paying child support, she is struggling to
keep up with her mortgage payments. See what happens when Becky
slips behind and how ASIC's MoneySmart website can help.
Guides, workshops and
videos on divorce
Legal Aid centres around Australia have some really useful
guides, workshops and videos to help you navigate separation and
divorce. Here are some that we think will really help you.
Family law guides and resources
Video: Property and money - settling your finances
Video about preparting for bushfire
Separating your property and finances when you split up is a
challenge. This video from Legal Aid Western Australia explains
what you should know about your property and financial matters,
what to expect from a property settlement and how to make dividing
your property less stressful.
Organising your will,
insurance and superannuation
Think about updating your will to reflect the changes in your
life as being separated or divorced does not cancel an existing
will and different rules apply in each state. Read more about wills
and estate plans at wills and powers of
Review your insurance policies including car, home and
contents, and income and life protection insurance, especially if
you have children, to make sure they provide the level of cover you
need. You might already have income and life protection insurance
through your super, which you may be able to increase if it's
not enough. Try to shop around for cover that's right for you.
Also, review your nomination if the beneficiary of your
insurance is your ex-partner.
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.
These websites have helpful resources on superannuation
Taking care of children
during separation and divorce
If you and your former 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.
Unless an exemption applies, the law requires separating
families who have a dispute about children to make a genuine effort
to try to sort it out through family dispute resolution before
filing an application for parenting orders in Court. You can visit
Family Relationships Online
for more information about the services and advice available for
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
Pam 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
'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: 20 May 2019