When you’re going through a separation, there’s a lot to think about. Sorting out your finances is just one of the things you’re dealing with. To help you out we’ve created a checklist to guide you through some of the most common financial planning issues that we’ve seen in clients that we’ve helped. Please book an initial appointment with a family lawyer, as soon as possible. A divorce and/or property settlement is a legal process.

A family lawyer spends a good deal of their day practising in this legal process. While the support and advice of friends, and self-directed research is useful, you should make an appointment with a family lawyer as soon as possible to understand how a divorce and/or property settlement works. An initial appointment with a family lawyer will be entirely confidential between you and the lawyer that you meet with. They can also help you identify which of the items on this list may apply to your situation. The list is not a comprehensive guide to everything you need to consider when going through a divorce. Any advice in this publication is of a general nature only and has not been tailored to your situation. Please seek professional advice before you act on this information.


  • Get bank statements
    As soon as possible, get copies of bank statements for your all join accounts (joint and separate). Once accounts have been closed (or if they're in the other party's name) it can be difficult to gather information. If you’ve got paper copies of statements, make copies or scan them. If you haven't kept these records, you may be able to download statements or a list of transactions via Internet banking.

  • Super statements
    Get copies of recent superannuation statements — whether that’s your own super, or your partner’s. When you're organising a property settlement, superannuation is one of the assets to be considered. If the superannuation assets are in the name of your partner, it can be difficult to get this information. If you know the name of your partner’s superannuation fund, you can apply to the trustee of the super fund to get information for family law purposes.

  • Payslips (going back 12 months, to capture variation in pay)
    Your family lawyer will ask how much you and your former partner earned, so having a payslip will make this much more straightforward to figure out. Get at least 12 months of payslips for both you and your partner. If your ex works as a casual employee, they may have been paid penalties and overtime loadings that vary from one period to the next. Similarly, if they’re a consultant or contractor, their pay may vary widely. These pay slips will also give you a good record of earnings before you separated. This will be useful in case your ex tries to alter the legal record of their earnings.

  • The last three years’ tax returns
    Not entirely sure what you or your partner earned? Or maybe you’re not sure where the money came from: employment earnings, company dividends, investment property rent or family trust distributions? Tax returns can help here. Like bank statements, tax returns can also be a useful starting point for further enquiries about other assets or inheritances — where’s that $50,000 that suddenly showed up in your account from?

  • Rates notices
    If you own your own home, you may have been out of the rental market for several years. So when a real estate agent asks for references from previous landlords, you may not have anything to show them. Rates notices on your home will show landlords why you don’t have references. That makes it much easier to rent a property by yourself.

  • Are there trusts, businesses or company directorships in place?
    Here, we want to know what other financial interests you or your partner may have had.

  • Trusts
    Do you know if you or your partner are the beneficiaries of a trust that holds investments or operates a business? A trust is a structure that holds assets and sometimes operates a business, on behalf of the beneficiaries. Beneficiaries can be fixed (they have a pre-determined entitlement). Alternatively, they can be discretionary (the trustees determine which eligible beneficiaries are to receive the benefit of trust assets and income). A trust might have been set up by you and your partner to operate a family business or hold investments. Another possibility is that a trust may have been set up by a family member, and distributed payments to you. The first place to look for information would be past tax returns, as distributions made to you or your partner would have been declared in previous tax returns.

  • Are there businesses or company directorships?
    If you or your former partner are involved in the operation of a business, it's a good idea to have a clear picture of the way that business is structured. There are a few possibilities here:

              Private company: there will be shareholders in the company.
              Sole trader: all business is conducted in the individual's name.
              Partnership: two or more individuals have joined together to operate a business.

    Bear in mind that in the case of a partnership, each partner is 'jointly and severally' liable. This means that the actions of one partner can impose obligations on the other(s). Looking at tax returns will help you find out what business structures are in place.

  • Have any large lump sums of money been received in the past?
    Large lump sums of money received in the past may be relevant to any property settlement. Information such as documents that outline the amount of funds, when they were paid and for what purpose can be useful. Lump sums may have arisen from personal injury and insurance settlements, Individual contributions of assets from prior to the relationship and family loans, gifts or inheritances.

  • Think about mail and email arrangements
    If you were operating a business, you might have been using a PO Box. If one member of the now separated couple decides to keep the PO Box, make sure business correspondence isn't still being sent there. Likewise, you may not want your now ex-partner receiving your mail anymore, if you haven't yet moved out of the home. You might consider establishing a new PO Box or updating your mailing address to that of a friend or relative. A mail redirection isn't foolproof, but can also be useful for any addresses that you forget to change. If you're considering a new email address to reflect a name change, many email services will allow you to set up a rule to forward all emails to your old address, to the new email.


  • Credit cards
    If you hold a joint credit card, or your former partner is a secondary cardholder on your account, consider changing this arrangement as soon as possible. The last thing you want is for your former partner to run up debts in your name. If you’re in this situation, talk to your bank or financial institution about cancelling joint accounts or secondary cardholders. You may also have automatic payment of important bills set up to draw from your credit card. If the change involves getting a new credit card you may need to update these details with service providers.

  • Other joint debt that could be drawn
    If you hold a joint credit card, or your former partner is a secondary cardholder on your account, consider changing this arrangement as soon as possible. The last thing you want is for your former partner to run up debts in your name. If you’re in this situation, talk to your bank or financial institution about cancelling joint accounts or secondary cardholders. You may also have automatic payment of important bills set up to draw from your credit card. If the change involves getting a new credit card you may need to update these details with service providers.

  • What consumer contracts are in your name (phone, internet etc)?
    We sign up to so many different subscription services, many of which grant an authority for the provider to automatically debit our accounts.

    Think about:

    •Utilities such as electricity, gas and water

    •Phone and internet contracts

    •Car leases and fuel cards

    •E-toll tags and public transport cards

    •Digital entertainment subscriptions such as Netflix, Foxtel, iTunes and Spotify .

    Make sure there aren't any contracts where your former partner could run up bills that are automatically debiting from your bank accounts.


  • Authority to operate bank accounts
    Did you know that for many banks and credit unions, the default setup is that authorising a transaction only needs approval from one party? If you're worried about your former partner transacting on joint accounts with large savings sitting in them, talk to your financial institution about requiring two-party approval. Bear in mind that introducing this step may affect how easy it is to do internet banking.

  • Open a new bank account
    If you've been using joint bank accounts for all of your day-to-day banking, you'll probably need a new bank account. Check if your current bank or financial institution already has all of the required ID and details on file from your joint accounts. That makes opening a new account much more straightforward.

  • Redirect your pay
    Once you've opened your new bank account, contact your HR or payroll section to get your salary paid into it. Don't forget that with payroll cycles, it might take up to a fortnight for the change to go through. If you’ve got individually-owned investments (such as a property, shares, or managed funds) you’ll also want to get this income redirected to your new account.

  • Save for a rental bond
    Residential tenancy agreements are governed by state and territory rules, so they do vary, but generally a rental bond will be four weeks rent. This means that if you're looking at a property with rent of $500 per week, you'll need to have a $2,000 rental bond saved before you can rent it.

  • Create an individual budget
    In the middle of all the upheaval, bills still need to be paid and food put on the table. If you don’t have one already, start with an individual budget. This can be as straightforward as adding up the big bills, like insurance, utility bills, rent or mortgage payments and the weekly grocery bill. You can then start to track how your actual spending is matching up with your estimates. One of the main benefits of a budget is so that you can plan in advance for the bigger bills that come in less frequently (like car registration or body corporate bills). You can work out the annual total and then divide this into a weekly or fortnightly amount that you need to save.

  • Create a joint budget with your ex-partner for children’s expenses

    Just like an individual budget, you may want to create a joint budget that outlines expenses for children, which you and your former partner will share.

    Costs include:

    •School or child care fees


    •Text books and stationery


    •Sports fees

    •Birthday and Christmas presents


  • Understand how family rebates and benefits will change
    If you’re raising children, you may have received various government payments. These payments include Family Tax Benefit and Child Care Rebate or Benefit. Separating from your partner can affect what payments you’re entitled to, particularly if care arrangements change. Contact the Department of Human Services to notify them of the change and determine your new payments.

  • Update super beneficiaries
    A long time ago, you may have filled out a form nominating your former partner as the beneficiary for your superannuation. Separating from your partner won't necessarily cancel this nomination. Complete a new nomination so that if anything happens to you, your super is passed to the beneficiaries you choose. Bear in mind that many superannuation policies also include life insurance, so even if you haven't accumulated a large super balance, the nomination could also apply to a larger life insurance benefit.

  • Life insurance ownership and beneficiaries
    Life insurance policies may be held in your name, but owned (and paid for) by your partner. Check this with your life insurance company. It's also possible that even if you own the policy, you may have nominated your former partner as a beneficiary. Check that this is up to date as well.

  • Review your will
    A separation doesn't necessarily revoke your will. So in setting your mind towards your future, remember to make sure your will reflects your new circumstances. It’s worth seeking legal advice to draw up a will. If anything were to happen to you, this helps you plan how your estate will be used to look after your children.

  • Review (and consider revoking) powers of attorney
    A power of attorney gives somebody else the ability to make decisions and complete transactions on your behalf. If you’ve given a power of attorney to your former partner, consider reviewing or revoking that power.

  • Passports
    If you're planning to get away for an overseas holiday, does your name match what’s on your passport? You want to avoid getting all the way to the airport, then being held up at Customs. You can have a replacement passport issued free of charge, so long as your existing passport is valid for at least two more years.

  • Update Medicare bank details & Medicare Card
    It's an easy one to forget — but when you lodge a Medicare claim, the payment will likely be made to a bank account you’d previously nominated. If you've forgotten to update your details, that could now be a bank account that your former partner controls! Once you’ve got your new bank account set up, log into Medicare and update your bank details online. You should also you have everybody who needs to be listed, on a Medicare card. Sometimes one partner, particularly one who doesn't have primary care of children, might get their own Medicare card but not think about including the children on the card. The moment you find out it would have been easier to have everyone on the card, is not the same time you needed to use the card!

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