The early days of a divorce or separation can be a challenge, especially as you adjust to your new situation. We’ve created ten simple steps that’ll help sort out your finances so you can focus on the important things.
1: Seek out legal advice
The divorce or separation process can be confusing and emotionally draining, but it’s always best to seek legal advice before making any big decisions.
It’s important to remember that there are different laws for different situations. These take into account how long you’ve been married, whether you were in a de facto relationship, if you have children, or how long you’ve been separated.
Finding a lawyer you can trust is really important. They can help answer some of your big questions, and make you feel more confident about the process. If you can’t afford a lawyer, your local Legal Aid, opens in new window or Community Legal Centre, opens in new window could be able to help.
2: Review any joint finances
In the early days of divorce or separation, you may want to consider closing any joint bank accounts, cancelling any shared credit cards, or introducing a co-signing system should either of you need to withdraw money.
If you're going to head down this path, it’s a good idea to have a conversation with your partner about splitting the utilities from your shared home, and negotiate a fair payment prior to one of you leaving.
Before you cancel anything, ask your bank for 13 months worth of statements. These will help you identify and change any direct debits you have set up. It’s a good idea to sort out your direct debits before closing off any cards.
3: Look into opening your own bank account
Financial independence could be your greatest reward during the divorce or separation process. Having your own bank account can open the doors to financial freedom, and make you feel in control again.
4: Reconsider your accommodation
One option to keep in mind during the divorce or separation process is for one of you to move out, or seek temporary rental accommodation.
It might be a good idea to speak to your landlord about changing the lease (if renting) or your bank (if paying a mortgage) about the changes in your living arrangements. If you're struggling to make ends meet,we may be able to help you make your payments.
5: Notify work and schools
Going through a divorce or separation will sometimes mean changes to your normal routine. It’s a good idea to let your workplace know what’s going on, just in case you need to make a last-minute dash to appointments. If you have kids, talk to their school about possible changes to their routine as well.
6: Refresh your accounts and privacy
While a divorce or separation can be a difficult time, it’s also a great opportunity to create new accounts for yourself, and gain full control of your online affairs and finances. This could include email accounts, credit cards, store accounts, or online shopping points.
In order to protect your credit history, make sure you speak with you bank about how to avoid any penalties, before you take any action.
When you're switching accounts, consider changing any passwords or PIN’s you shared with your partner.
7: Gather relevant docs and take notes
Divorce and separation can sometimes involve a lot of red tape. Getting all your official documents together now will save time down the track.
These documents may include marriage certificates, birth certificates, passports, bank and super statements, insurance policies, tax returns, car registration papers and any business documents.
It’s also advisable to create a running list of any joint assets that will need to be divided during the separation. These could include superannuation, property, investments, jewellery, or artwork.
Keep notes of any conversations and actions to cover yourself. This might include the removal of furniture, important phone calls, selling of shared items, or moving money between accounts.
8: Take notes to cover yourself
There will be a lot going on during this time, so it can be helpful during this time to keep notes of any conversations and actions that could affect the divorce or separation proceedings.
This might include the removal of furniture, important phone conversations, selling off shared items, or moving money between accounts.
9: Create a new budget
With changes bound to occur to your work and finances, it’s a good idea to write out a new budget.
Your new budget should be based on your individual earnings, income, or savings. Don’t forget to include temporary child support, or other payments your partner might make during the divorce or separation process.
If you're creating a new budget, our online NAB budget planner can help you get on top of your new financial situation.
10: Make time for mindfulness
Regular sport, meditation, yoga, or a daily walk can help you stay calm and grounded. Mindfulness activities or apps are really useful for creating down time, and maintaining a positive outlook.
Divorce is the official ending of a marriage. The only legal requirement for getting a divorce is the ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of the marriage—proven by the two people being separated for 12 months with no likelihood of getting back together.
A de facto relationship is defined as two people, who may be of the same or opposite sex, having a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis. However, your relationship is not a de facto relationship if you were legally married to one another or if you are related by family.
Utilities are your home amenities such as electricity, gas, water, internet, and telephone.
A mortgage is a legal agreement by a bank lending money to a party in exchange for taking the title of a property. This loan is charged interest, and once it is paid off, the title of the property is transferred from the bank to the party they were lending to.
Super is a regular payment made into a super fund by an employee towards a future pension. For most people, your employer must pay an amount equal to 9.5% of your salary into your super fund account. Your super savings can be self-managed, or controlled by the superannuation fund of your choice.
Joint assets are any possessions - material or otherwise - that are jointly owned by a couple. A couple can be in either a marriage, or a de facto relationship, and will need to legally negotiate the split of their joint assets in the case of the relationship ending.
Child support is a payment made by one or both parents to the other to help with the cost of looking after the children. In some situations, it may be paid by one or both parents to another person who is looking after the children.
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The information contained in this article is intended to be of a general nature only. It has been prepared without taking into account any person’s objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this information, NAB recommends that you consider whether it is appropriate for your circumstances. NAB recommends that you seek independent legal, financial and taxation advice before acting on any information in this article.