Read (5 minutes)

Whether you’re in a de facto relationship, married or have recently started living together, there are a few things you should do as soon as possible to sort out your financial situation.

Things to do after a break-up

The end of a relationship is always a difficult time. There’s so much going on emotionally that you might not have had the time or energy to think about your finances, but there are some things you should do as soon as you can.

Close joint accounts

Firstly you should close all joint bank accounts. Make sure you have some money in your own account that your partner doesn’t have access to. Make sure your pay, or any income support payments you receive, are going in to your own account and not the joint account.

Your living situation

How is your living situation going to change? Will one or both of you move out or will you continue to live together for a certain period of time? If you have kids, where are they going to live?

If you or your partner have moved out, make sure you update your utilities and lease if you’re renting. If your name is on the bills, you are liable to pay them even if you no longer live there.

The same goes for rent and bond, if your name is still on the lease and your partner stops paying rent or damages the property you’ll be liable to pay even if you’re not living there. You might need to change your insurance policies as well, especially if your (ex)partner is the beneficiary.

Get legal advice

Seek legal advice about any assets or property that either or both of you own. Before you do this it’s a good idea to do a stocktake of all the assets and debts that both of you have, just so you don’t forget anything. This will help you work through a property settlement and take legal action if you need to.

You may also need to update your will, especially if you’re married (marriage automatically invalidates any previous wills) so that your assets go to who you want them to.


If you have a joint mortgage or loan, make sure you cancel your redraw facility so that your partner cannot withdraw money from your loan that you have already paid off. Talk to your bank about how to do this.

Separation and divorce

If you’re married, you will need to be separated for at least 12 months before you can get a divorce. Make sure you keep track of important dates like when you decided to separate and when you stopped living together, this will help the divorce process go smoother.


If you receive income support payments, you will need to inform Centrelink that you are no longer in a couple. You can find out more on the Centrelink website.

For more info on the financial side of separating check out Money Smart’s tips for managing your finances during a break-up. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about things you can call Relationships Australia for free and confidential counselling or visit Family Relationships Online to find out about a range of services that can assist you to manage relationship issues.

Checklist of important documents

If for any reason you have to leave your home, it is best to take originals (or copies if you can’t take the originals) of all your important legal and financial papers with you.

These include:

  • Passports

  • Birth and marriage certificates

  • Citizenship papers and visas

  • Driver’s licence

  • Medicare card

  • Bank books, ATM and credit cards

  • Bank statements

  • Last tax return and Notice of Assessment

  • Titles of ownership and property deeds

  • Partnership and company records

  • Details of joint and personal debts

  • Guarantees

  • Wills

  • Car registration and engine number (VIN)

  • Mortgage and property details e.g. council rates

  • Rental agreement

  • Centrelink/Austudy number

  • Insurance policies e.g. home, contents, car and life

  • Superannuation details

  • Contact details for your accountant and lawyer

  • Immunisation records for your children

Property settlement

Talking to your ex about how to divide up your assets might be some of the hardest conversations you’ll ever have to have. Depending on your circumstances, it’s possible that one or both of you will have negative responses when trying to discuss who gets what.

If you’re going through a property settlement, get some legal advice so you know what to expect and what you’re entitled to. Relationships Australia has a great guide on negotiating property settlement that explains the whole process.

If you’re going through a property settlement, get some legal advice so you know what to expect and what you’re entitled to.

So what is actually considered property in a relationship? Pretty much any assets that you or your partner own jointly or separately. This includes houses and land (including investment properties), household effects, personal possessions, superannuation and any business either of you own.

Joint and separate debts also count as property including mortgages, credit card debt and hire purchase agreements. So take some time to think through all the things that you’ll need to discuss with your ex to come to an agreement.

Child support

If you have kids you’ll probably be thinking about how you and your ex will manage child support payments. There are three different ways child support payments can be managed and it will depend on what your relationship with your ex is like now. So what are the options?

Self management

If you’re on good terms with your ex, you can come to your own agreement about how much child support will be paid and how that will happen. You might decide that your ex will just transfer you a certain amount of money every fortnight. This option gives you flexibility but there is the risk that your ex may stop making payments. Although you can ask Centrelink to make a new child support assessment, you will not be repaid the missed payments from before the assessment.

Private Collect

This option is based on either your child support assessment, agreement or a court order but you can organise the payments to be paid however you choose. This basically means you’ll get some help in the start to sort out how much money your ex should pay you, but will have more flexibility in how it will be paid. There is the risk that if your ex stops payments you will have to either ask Centrelink to collect payments or look at legal options for enforcing payment.

Child Support Collect

If you aren’t on good terms with your ex, or you’re worried they’ll miss payments, this option may be good for you. Based on a child support assessment or court order, Centrelink will collect child support from one parent and pay it to the other. That means you don’t have to have any interaction with your ex if you don’t want to, and you’ll have more options if your ex stops making their payments.

There are a whole lot of things to consider when thinking about the best way for child support will work for you, find out more on the Centrelink website.


Next topic:

Talking about money