It goes without saying that the breakdown of a relationship is a significant event. You may need to think about how you are going to move forward financially, or what arrangements you and your former partner are going to put in place for your children. Navigating a separation can be a difficult task, but there are a number of practical things to consider and steps you can take at the outset of separation to make navigating that initial period a little bit easier.

Here are some practical financial questions you should consider immediately upon separation:

Should you obtain your own bank account?

If previously your income was deposited into a joint account, you might need to consider redirecting your income, or a portion of your income, to your own account. On the other hand, if you rely upon your former partner’s income and are concerned that they will redirect this to a personal account, consider what steps you need to take to ensure your own financial support.

What is to happen to any joint bank accounts?

You might need to consider contacting your bank to request that any joint account require both parties to authorise transactions. This might be helpful if you hold concerns about your former partner withdrawing any large sums of money from joint accounts, including any mortgage redraw facilities. This will, however, also prevent you from withdrawing on those accounts without the consent of your former partner.

Do you need to change your passwords on any of your personal accounts, such as internet banking, email, social media or your pin numbers?

Your privacy, security and personal safety are imperative following separation.

Do you need to change the names of any account holders on any services, for example, internet and phone, insurances, or utilities?

You may want these accounts in your name if you are continuing to use the service, or you may want your name removed from these accounts if your former partner is retaining them.

Do you need to take any steps to protect your legal interest in any real property?

If you are not on the title as a registered owner of property of your relationship, and you are concerned that your spouse might unilaterally dispose of that property, there are steps you can take to protect your interests, such as lodging a caveat.

If you are leaving the home, what do you need to take with you?

In addition to your personal everyday items, you may need to consider what you need by way of furniture, appliances and items for your children. You should also take with you any important personal documents, such as your passport, birth certificate and things like bank statements and financial records.

Do you need to notify Centrelink and/or the Child Support Agency about your change of circumstances?

You may be entitled to an income support payment while you are a young child’s main carer or otherwise be entitled to the receipt of, or liable for the payment of, child support.

Do you need to update the beneficiary on any superannuation account or life insurance policy?

You should also consider updating your Will in light of your change in circumstances. If you are married, separation has no effect on the operation of your Will in the event of your death before your divorce; but your divorce will have the effect of revoking any bequests to your husband/wife made under your Will. You may wish to ensure that your assets are left to your children, a family member or a friend in the event of your passing.

Do you need to change any enduring power of attorney?

If your former partner has an enduring power of attorney on your behalf, you may want to revoke this. As with your Will, these documents are not affected by separation, but upon divorce, a former spouse will lose the right to exercise any power under the power of attorney.

Seek legal advice.

If you are struggling to deal with these preliminary issues, or would like to discuss what separation means for you and your family, there is assistance available. By obtaining an initial understanding of the law relating to family disputes, you will have a better understanding of your legal rights and responsibilities and how best to navigate the waters of separation for you and your family. Get in contact with our team of experienced family lawyers for your fixed-fee, no-obligation initial consult.