A financial checklist for divorce and separation

Money musts if you split up

Breaking up is hard to do – and it can also be hard on your finances. You’ll probably feel overwhelmed as there are so many things to sort out.

This checklist gives you some practical steps to separate your finances, get your money on track and focus on setting yourself up for the future. Download the Divorce and Separation Checklist here.

Your banking

  • Open a bank account account in your name only. Arrange for your pay and Centrelink benefits to be paid into this new account.
  • Consider closing any joint bank accounts and credit cards.
  • Change your PIN and password if your ex knows or might be able to guess them.
  • If you have a mortgage together, let your lender know that you’ve separated. Work out a repayment plan and cancel any redraw options on your home loan.
  • If your mortgaged home is only in your ex’s name, get legal advice about placing a caveat on the property.

Your home

If you’re staying put

  • If you are renting and are going to keep living there, change the lease so that only your name is on it. Contact your State’s fair trading agency if you need advice
  • Put your bills for phone, internet, electricity and gas in your name only.
  • If you’re finding it hard keeping up with your bills now that you’re on your own, talk to your providers. Let them know you are experiencing financial hardship and negotiate a repayment plan.

If you’re moving out

  • If you are renting and are moving out, contact your real estate agent, or landlord, to take your name off the lease. Contact your State’s fair trading agency if you need advice.
  • Also make sure your name is taken off the utility bills.

Legal help

Even if you are on good terms with your ex, you should have your own legal advice.

Get your paperwork in order

  • Record your separation date in your diary, as you need to be separated for a year before you can apply for a divorce.
  • Collect documents like your marriage and birth certificate, passports, bank and super statements, insurance policies, tax returns, car registration papers.
  • Create a statement of your financial position using this asset stocktake calculator.
  • Create a family profile about you, your ex and your family, including full names, contact details, employers and salaries.
  • Keep your records safe by changing your email password, and consider setting up a PO Box if you need a secure location for your mail.

Your income and expenses

Now you’ve separated, work out your revised income and expenses.

  • Talk to the Department of Human Services to find out what payments and services, and what child support you are entitled to.
  • Talk to your lawyer to work out if your former partner should pay you spousal maintenance.

Care for your kids

Put your children first and work out their care arrangements.

  • Call the Family Relationship Advice Line for information and advice on parenting arrangements. If you need further help working out a parenting plan, contact a Family Dispute Resolution provider.
  • Sort out your child support arrangements, or speak to your lawyer about a private child support agreement.
  • Contact your child’s school to let them know that you’ve separated and what arrangement you’ve agreed for school fees. Update your contact details and give the school a copy of any parenting agreement or orders.

Dividing your assets and debts

  • To sort out a property settlement, talk to your lawyer or contact a Family Dispute Resolution provider. You can formalise your property arrangements with The Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court.
  • If you have joint or guaranteed car loans or other debts you’ll need to sort these out, as you are both responsible for these payments. Let your lender know that you have separated and seek legal advice about where you stand.
  • You could also contact a free, confidential financial counsellor to help sort your debts.
  • Remember to update your will, as being separated doesn’t cancel your existing will.
  • If you have life insurance, update your policy and make sure you have the right cover and listed beneficiaries.
  • Also make sure you update your superannuation to make sure the payout goes to who you want.

Domestic violence and financial abuse

  • If you or your children are feeling unsafe, speak to a domestic violence specialist on 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 737) 24 hours a day.
  • Call the police if you need help with a protection order like an AVO.