Divorce or separation- becoming financially independent

By You and Money

A divorce or separation can be emotionally and financially challenging. During this time of re-adjustment it’s important for you to look after your financial and personal wellbeing, and get support if you need it.

Become financially independent

Review your financial situation as soon as possible – work out where you need to make changes, and how you’ll manage your financial commitments like bills, loans and credit cards.

Start by looking at what financial commitments you have (joint or otherwise) and take steps to become financially independent.

  • Make a list of all your assets as well as debts and joint debts in your name and work out where you stand.
  • Cancel your joint accounts and set up your own individual bank account, but make sure all the appropriate direct debits can still be processed to your new account/s.
  • Change your passwords – some people forget their partner could access their bank account through an additional card, online or through phone banking.
  • Put all your financial documents together so that you get an idea about your living expenses.
  • Update your lease or renegotiate your mortgage.
  • Start a budget to help you manage your expenses and to plan your future according to your current situation.

Legal advice and support services

You may need to get legal advice to help you through some of the more complex issues such as joint property ownership, child custody arrangements and your Will. If you need legal advice to sort out your assets and can’t afford a private solicitor, there are free legal services available in your state or territory.

You should also ensure to keep a record of the date of your separation, as you’ll need to prove that you’ve been separated for 12 months to apply for a divorce.

Free financial counselling services are also available if you’re struggling to pay your debts or experiencing financial hardship.

Insurance

It’s also a good idea to ensure that you have the right insurance cover now that your relationship status has changed.

  • Make sure you review your home, contents, car, income protection and life insurance policies.
  • If you don’t have life or income protection insurance you may want to consider this type of cover, especially if you have children.
  • Some super funds have life, disability and income protection insurance as part of their offer. So check with your super fund to find out if you’re covered.
  • If you do have life insurance and the beneficiary is your ex-partner, you may want to update your policy and nominate a new beneficiary.

Superannuation

When a divorce, separation or breakdown of a de facto relationship occurs, the law treats superannuation as a type of property that can be divided by agreement or by court order. This is known as superannuation splitting.

It’s a good idea to sort your superannuation out and get legal advice if you want to go ahead with superannuation splitting. You can find out more about superannuation splitting at www.familylawcourts.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/FLC/Home/Property+and+Money+Matters/Superannuation/.

Your Will

It’s worth reviewing your Will to ensure it’s valid and up to date. You also need to ensure it reflects your change in circumstances.

If you don’t have a Will, you can have one written by private trustees or solicitors who will charge a fee. Public Trustees in your state can prepare or update your Will free of charge. You can also buy a Will Kit from Australia Post.

Other useful links:

Child Support Agency

Share your experiences

If you’ve recently experienced a divorce, let us know what worked for you financially – we’d love to hear from you.

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