Rela­tion­ship break­down check­list — what should you do if you separate?

Finan­cial steps to consider

  • Check all joint accounts and home loan redraws. Change PINs and pass­words. With­draw sur­plus funds or restrict access. Speak to your bank.
  • Check all joint cred­it accounts, includ­ing cred­it cards, store cards and over­drafts. Restrict access or can­cel cards and get new ones.
  • If you do not have a bank account open one in your sole name. Redi­rect your income into that account.
  • Con­sid­er sources of income, espe­cial­ly if income-split­ting. Ter­mi­nate the split­ting arrangement.
  • Review the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of your Will, life insur­ance and super.
  • Revoke any Pow­er of Attor­ney or Appoint­ment of Endur­ing Guardian in favour of your spouse. You might need new ones.
  • If you move out of home, remove your name from accounts for utilities.
  • Vis­it the child sup­port agency web­site (www​.csa​.gov​.au) for infor­ma­tion about child support.
  • The court takes into account assets and super acquired or built up after sep­a­ra­tion, as well as increase to income. Avoid accu­mu­lat­ing assets after separation.
  • See a lawyer as soon as pos­si­ble to start a prop­er­ty set­tle­ment. Know­ing your rights ear­ly can help you reach and ami­ca­ble res­o­lu­tion. You can then focus on rebuild­ing for your future sooner.

Non-finan­cial steps to consider 

  • If pos­si­ble, keep liv­ing in the home. If your spouse moves out, change the locks.
  • If you do move out, take your com­put­er, all your impor­tant per­son­al papers (eg your and any chil­dren’s pass­ports, birth and mar­riage cer­tifi­cates, med­ical records, Medicare and health insur­ance cards, bank records) and copies of as many of the Doc­u­ments to gath­er” list­ed below as possible.
  • If leav­ing the com­put­er, copy your finan­cial infor­ma­tion and oth­er impor­tant doc­u­ments to a disk or USB and delete them from the computer.
  • If you move out, take your car and any sen­ti­men­tal items, such as pho­tos and your fam­i­ly heirlooms.
  • If you move out, lodge a mail redi­rec­tion and change of address notices as soon as pos­si­ble. Don’t rely on your spouse to for­ward impor­tant mail to you unopened.
  • If you sep­a­rate under the same roof, open a post office box in your name and redi­rect your mail to it.
  • If your spouse leaves with the chil­dren, start see­ing them reg­u­lar­ly. Make sure the chil­dren have your mobile num­ber, so they can con­tact you.
  • It is now com­pul­so­ry to try to set­tle par­ent­ing issues through com­mu­ni­ty based medi­a­tion. See www​.fam​i​lyre​la​tion​ships​.gov​.au for more information.
  • If you think there is a risk your spouse might leave the coun­try with the chil­dren, con­tact the Depart­ment of For­eign Affairs and see a lawyer urgent­ly. Secure the chil­dren’s passports.
  • If vio­lence is an issue, tele­phone the police and ask for an AVO.
  • Have lawyers doc­u­ment any finan­cial or par­ent­ing agree­ment you reach. If an agree­ment is not prop­er­ly doc­u­ment­ed, it will not be binding.
  • Rela­tion­ship break­down can be one of the most stress­ful times of your life. Find a coun­sel­lor or trust­ed friend to talk to.

Doc­u­ments to gath­er and copy

  • Cur­rent income infor­ma­tion, last three years of finan­cial reports, tax returns and tax assess­ment notices for you, your spouse and any com­pa­ny, trust or self-man­aged super fund.
  • Cur­rent bank, loan and cred­it card statements.
  • Cur­rent infor­ma­tion for oth­er assets, eg share port­fo­lios, man­aged invest­ments, superannuation.
  • The con­sti­tu­tion, share reg­is­ter and min­utes of meet­ings of any fam­i­ly company.
  • The trust deed for any trust or self-man­aged super fund.
  • Title deeds, any val­u­a­tions and mar­ket appraisals of real estate.
  • Any doc­u­ments relat­ed to assets, lia­bil­i­ties and super you each had when you were mar­ried or start­ed liv­ing togeth­er, and their val­ues at the time.
  • Any doc­u­ments show­ing any lump sums you or your spouse received dur­ing the rela­tion­ship — eg redun­dan­cy pay­ments, inher­i­tances, com­pen­sa­tion pay­outs, loans or gifts from rel­a­tives or friends.
  • Any pre-nup­tial or domes­tic rela­tion­ship agree­ment you and your spouse signed or had drafted.
  • Any doc­u­ment record­ing any offer or agree­ment regard­ing split of assets.

Mov­ing on

  • Ask a lawyer about a pre-nup­tial or domes­tic rela­tion­ship agree­ment to pro­tect your­self and your assets if start­ing a new relationship.
  • Ask a lawyer about pro­tect­ing your new part­ner if you have not yet finalised finan­cial mat­ters with your for­mer spouse.