Divorce and separation financial checklist
Money musts when you split up
Separating from your partner can be really difficult and it can also be hard on your finances. You may feel overwhelmed as there are many things to sort out.
This checklist gives you some practical steps to separate your finances and get your money on track.
You can also use this checklist to support someone you know who is going through a divorce or separation.
Choose from the actions in the list below to create a checklist to work through.
Bank accounts and credit cards
Establish a pool of money that only you can access.
- Bank accounts – Open a bank account in your name only and have your pay and Centrelink benefits paid into this account.
- Joint accounts – Think about closing off joint bank accounts.
- Credit cards – Consider cancelling joint credit cards.
- PIN and password – Consider changing your PIN and online banking password if you think your ex may know them or be able to guess them.
Sort out your mortgage and utility bills.
- Lender contact – Let your lender know you have separated.
- Repayments – Work out a plan to cover mortgage repayments during the property settlement.
- Redraw – Consider cancelling any redraw options on your home loan or ask the bank to require joint signatures for any withdrawals.
- Legal protection – If your home is only in your ex’s name, talk to your lawyer about whether you need to protect the property with a caveat.
- Utility bills – If you are staying in your home, put all utility bills (phone, internet, electricity, gas) in your name only. If you are moving out, take your name off all utility bills. You may need legal advice if there are any bills owing.
- Trouble with debt – If you are finding it hard to keep up with your bills, talk to the company and let them know you are experiencing financial hardship.
Your rented home
Your rights in your rented home.
- Staying put – If you are renting and are going to keep living there, contact your real estate agent or landlord and change the lease so that only your name is on it. Put all utility bills (phone, internet, electricity, gas, rates) in your name only. Contact your State’s fair trading agency if you need advice.
- Moving out – If you are renting and are moving out, contact your real estate agent, or landlord, to take your name off the lease. Also make sure your name is taken off the utility bills. Contact your State’s fair trading agency if you need advice.
Even if you are on good terms with your ex you should have your own legal advice.
- Free legal help – Contact a community legal centre or legal aid office.
- Women’s legal help – Contact a women’s legal centre for advice over the phone or in person.
- Paid legal help – You can find a family lawyer through the Law Council of Australia’s list of state and territory law societies and bar associations.
- Free phone support – Call the Family relationship advice line on 1800 050 321 for advice on family separation issues and referrals to local services.
- Free financial counselling – Financial counsellors can help you solve your money problems. Find one near you with our financial counsellor search.
- Apply for a divorce online – You can find information on how to apply online at the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. If you are in WA visit the Family Court of Western Australia’s website.
- Guides, workshops and videos – See whether the free guides, workshops and videos from legal aid providers can help you.
Documents and information to collect
Collect these documents and put them in a safe place.
- Record your separation date – Make a note in your diary of the date you separate as you need to be separated for a year before you can apply for a divorce.
- Collect important documents – Collect your marriage certificate, birth certificates, passports, bank and super statements, insurance policies, tax returns, car registration papers and any documents associated with a family business.
- List your assets – Create a list of your assets and debts using our asset stocktake calculator to help with your property settlement.
- Create a family profile – Put together notes for your lawyer about you, your ex and your family, including full names, contact details, employers and salaries.
- Safe storage of your documents – Set up a new email address or change the password on your existing email account and consider setting up a PO Box if you need a secure location for your mail.
Your income and expenses
Work out your income and expenses after you have separated.
- Budget – Work out your income and expenses using our budget planner(include all debts you are responsible for).
- Government payments – Talk to the Department of Human Services to find out what payments and services you are entitled to.
- Child support payments – Contact the Department of Human Services to talk about what child support you are entitled to.
- Spousal maintenance – Talk to your lawyer to work out if your former partner should pay this to you.
Care for your kids
Work out the care arrangements for your children.
- Parenting arrangement advice – Call the Family Relationship Advice Line on 1800 050 321 for information, advice and referrals about parenting arrangements.
- Parenting plan – Contact a Family Dispute Resolution provider to help you work out a parenting plan.
- Child support payments – Contact the Department of Human Services to talk about your child support or speak to your lawyer about a private child support agreement.
- School contacts and costs – Let your child’s school know that you have separated and update your contact details. Give them a copy of any parenting agreement or order. Ensure you work out a plan to cover school expenses.
Dividing your assets
You will need to divide your property, super and other assets and time limits can apply.
- Property settlement – Talk to your lawyer or contact a Family Dispute Resolution provider to help you sort out your property arrangements and understand your options.
- Formalising property arrangements – The Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court can formalise your property arrangements but time limits of 1 or 2 years apply.
- List your assets – Use our asset stocktake calculator to make a list of all your property, what it’s worth and any money you owe (include everything you own together and individually, even super).
Car loans and other debts
Sort out the debts you have borrowed together or you have guaranteed as you are both responsible for these.
- Lender – Let your lender know that you have separated.
- Joint loans and guarantees – Seek legal advice about where you stand.
- Financial counselling – See a free, confidential financial counsellor to help sort your debts.
- Trouble with debt – If you are finding it hard to keep up with your loan repayments let your credit provider know you are experiencing financial hardship.
Wills, insurance and super
Protect your wishes.
- Will – Update your will as being separated does not cancel your existing will, and divorce will affect your will differently depending on which state you live in.
- Life insurance – Update your life insurance policies so you have the right cover and check if the beneficiaries need to change.
- Super – Update your superannuation to make sure the payout goes to who you want.
- Powers of attorney – Consider updating any powers of attorney you have given as these may not be cancelled when you divorce or separate.
Domestic violence and financial abuse
Family and domestic violence is behaviour that can be physically, sexually, emotionally, verbally or financially abusive.
- Seek help – If you or your children are feeling unsafe, speak to a domestic violence specialist on 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 737) 24 hours a day.
- Protecting yourself – Call the police if you need help with a protection order like an AVO.
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