Thinking of leaving your husband? Read this first.

Right now, your world feels like it’s caving in. If you’re going through a separation or a divorce, you’ve got a lot to worry about but worrying about finances is one area where there is help available these days.

If you’re thinking about leaving your husband (or wife or partner), here are some points to consider. The key to leaving—or being left—is to protect and educate yourself and you can start these steps before you separate. If you are already on your own, now is the time to act.

Change your passwords

No matter who does the leaving, changing passwords to protect your privacy is a good first step. Think about phone, internet and computer passwords. But don’t forget about phone banking passwords or card PINs too. As well as being of practical importance, changing your passwords is akin to changing the locks on your front door and a powerful first step.

Gather your tribe

Ensuring you have a solid support network around you will provide you some emotional protection. You’ll need that friend who listens when you vent, who takes the kids if you need to just be alone or welcomes you sleeping on their couch if plans goes awry. 

A word of warning though—it may be prudent to keep your emotional support network reasonably small initially. Well meaning friends ringing up or dropping round to check on you can get exhausting, especially when you’re just focussing on making it through the day without crying at work.

Getting counselling is also going to help you weather the emotional storm a little better. A professional counsellor or psychologist can help you form strategies to cope better and make sense of what’s gone on in your relationship. 

Know your numbers 

Gone are the days when wives let their husbands handle all the finances. Everyone needs to get across all the nitty gritty details of their lives and be prepared to strike out on their own.

So make sure you get particulars to all accounts and download statements.

Open a bank account in your name only and apply for a debit card. Depending on which bank you want to use, this can be done quickly and easily either by visiting in person, or applying online.

For home loans and joint accounts, request dual authorisation on redraws. Or if practical, place restrictions on how much can be drawn from accounts. But remember to play nice. No matter how much you’re hurting, the idea is to protect yourself, not to leave your ex financially stranded. And almost as important as protecting yourself, is to educate yourself. Read up as much as you can about money management. Budgeting, superannuation and borrowing are all good topics, with this article being a great start.

If you can create a budget of what you know you’ll need to live on, you’ll be all the more prepared for when you leave.

The essentials 

Get together all of your essential documentation. That includes statements from all of your home loans, savings and other accounts in the last step, as well as payslips from you and your husband, copies of tax returns, prepared wills, trust, investment or share details and any legal documentation. Keep everything in a safe, but easily accessible place.

Other things to include are resumes and CV’s and lists of assets and liabilities. You also might want to consider backing up your phone, music or computer to an offsite location.

Contact the relevant authorities

We’re not talking DV here. (If that’s the case, do not wait to get things in place before you leave. Just go—and be safe.)

The authorities we’re referring to here are entities like your bank or mortgage provider, your workplace and government bodies, like Centrelink.

Informing Centrelink as soon as possible is critical. In some cases, crisis or special payments may be made available quickly, as well as income, family support or parenting payments. Keep in mind, that Centrelink will need a bank account in your name only. 

Educate yourself

Australian Banker’s Association (ABA) industry guidelines recognise the debilitating effects of financial abuse. This is where one partner controls or limits access to funds or essential services such as phone, transport or internet, often leaving a woman feeling trapped in her relationship, with no source of escape. These guidelines educate bank staff in how to minimise the hardship of those experiencing this form of domestic abuse. Customer's contact details, including new addresses will be kept private from joint-account holders and copies of required documents will be provided free of charge.

Fast-tracked or flexible hardship arrangements can also be offered to help deal with any joint debts.

But sadly, as yet, not all banks have signed up to the ABA’s guidelines. However, the banks which have signed up to offer assistance to financial abuse victims include:

ANZ, 

Westpac, 

Commonwealth,

NAB,

Adelaide Bank,

Arab Bank Australia,

Bank of America, Merrill Lynch,

Bank of Australia,

Bank of China (within Australia),

Bank of Queensland, 

Bank of Sydney,

Bendigo Bank, 

BNP Paribas, 

Citigroup, 

Defence Bank,

HSBC, 

ING,

Macquarie Bank,

ME Bank, 

MUFG Bank,

MyState,

Qudos Bank,

Rural Bank, Rabobank Australia,

Suncorp,

UOB.

If you are in any way concerned over possible financial hardship or limited access to funds when you leave your husband, these are the banks which are best placed to help.

Other resources for people in the process of separation include:

1800 RESPECT – A national family violence and sexual assault service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Tel 1800 737 732 www.1800respect.org.au/

Family Relationship Advice Line – Information and advice on family relationship issues and parenting arrangements after separation, 8am-8pm Monday to Friday, 10am-4pm Saturday. Tel 1800 050 321 

Lifeline – Provides crisis support services, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Tel 131 114 

Centrelink – Provides payments, social work counselling and third party referrals. Centrelink also provides crisis payments for victims of domestic violence or other extreme circumstance who have left their home and cannot return. www.humanservices.gov.au

The information contained on this web site is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from a financial adviser. If you or someone you know is in financial stress, contact the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.

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