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.
Video: Divorce and separation financial checklist – Anne Hollonds
Relationship expert Anne Hollonds explains how our divorce and separation financial checklist can help you navigate your finances when you relationship ends.
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 finances:
- 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 stocktake calculator.
- 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 will
Practical steps to separate your finances when you split up.
If you’re in a crisis and need emergency relief or emotional support see our urgent money help webpage.
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 budget.
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 organise your:
- 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 details)
- Investment paperwork (managed fund statements, share dividend statements)
- 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
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 site.
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 (FIS).
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 breakup
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.
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
- Manage your own divorce factsheets – Legal Aid NSW
- Separation and divorce guide – Legal Aid Queensland
- Family Law Guide – Northern Territory Legal Aid Commission
- Family Law Handbook – Legal Services Commission of South Australia
- Separation divorce and marriage annulment guide – Victoria Legal Aid
- When separating guide – Legal Aid Western Australia
- Family law: Separation and divorce – Hobart Community Legal Service Inc
- Getting a divorce factsheet – Legal Aid ACT