Going through a separation or divorce is undoubtedly a challenging time. However, separating your finances is crucial to creating a new and independent financial future. Here are some essential steps to protect your money and make a single income work for you.
In this article, we’ll discuss six steps to protect your money after separation, including:
- Collect important information and documents
- Open your own bank account
- Close joint accounts
- Create a new budget and prepare for financial settlements
- Update and manage superannuation
- Create a new will
You may seek support from lawyers or professional services. Legal Aid WA offers free or low-cost legal services to the community.
Step 1: Collect important information and documents
Begin by creating copies of all relevant financial records, including bank statements, investment accounts, credit card statements, tax returns, and mortgage or loan documents. Be sure to collect important identification documents that you may need to open new bank accounts. Find a complete list of important documents at Yourtoolkit.com/1C.
Save all your logins and passwords to access these records somewhere safe.
Step 2: Open your own bank account:
If you haven’t already, open a bank account that only you can access and save enough money to maintain your lifestyle while separating.
If necessary, direct all banking information through pathways your ex-partner isn’t likely to monitor. This may include creating new emails or setting your address to a friend or family member’s house. For more, visit ‘Yourtoolkit.com/1E – How to create a new bank account’.
Step 3: Close joint accounts and account information
It’s important to make a clean break and close any joint accounts. Both parties must agree to close joint accounts, so it’s a good idea to freeze your joint account to avoid ‘revenge spending’. A frozen joint account will not allow either party or other forms of direct debits to withdraw funds, so we suggest the following procedure:
- Withdraw a reasonable amount of money from the account to sustain your immediate expenses
- Speak directly with the bank provider to place the freeze
- Cancel any direct debits from the joint accounts and agree to pay them through other accounts – if you fail to redirect debit payments, you may be charged late fees or impact your credit score.
Visit Yourtoolkit.com/1E – Freezing joint accounts’ to find more detailed instructions.
Step 4: Create a new budget and prepare for financial settlements
Your post-divorce budget may look different, but creating a budget can be an empowering tool to build financial independence. Find more tips on creating a budget at Yourtoolkit.com/4A.
If you receive a financial settlement through your divorce, it’s important to prioritise your spending and make the money work for you. Your financial priorities might include the following:
- Paying off debt
- Adding to your savings
- Making essential purchases
- Getting ahead on the mortgage and other utility payments
- Contributing extra to your super
- Treating yourself!
Find more on dealing with financial settlements at Yourtoolkit.com/4I
Step 5: Update and manage superannuation
Getting your superannuation sorted after your relationship ends is an important step in planning for your future and will help support you once you cannot work. Superannuation is treated as a financial asset after divorce and may be split by agreement or court order. Protect your super and:
- Have a lawyer certify a written contract that separates you and your former partners’ superannuation – you do not need to go to court, but you must both retain a copy of the agreement
- Seek a consent order from your ex-partner to split superannuation
- Seek a court order to split superannuation (if you cannot reach an agreement with your former partner)
- Contact your Superannuation fund and meet with a consultant to update and review your fund details, including insurances and the binding death benefit nomination form.
Seeking legal advice about these options will be helpful. These websites have useful resources on dividing superannuation:
Step 6: Create a new will
From 9 February 2008, if you get divorced, or your marriage is annulled, your will is revoked or cancelled unless you’ve previously expressed that you want it to remain.
If your will is revoked, making a new one as soon as possible is important. You can meet with a lawyer to create a will or purchase a Will Kit from your local Australia Post.
If you have enduring powers of attorney in place, review and update these with a lawyer.
Find a pathway to an independent financial future
Separating finances can be daunting, but it should also feel empowering. So take your time, follow each step carefully and remember to utilise banks and other financial institutions’ support services.
Revisit Yourtoolkit.com’s step by step guide for a reminder on how to transition to an independent financial future.