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5 key things to do first in a separation

Whether your separation is planned or has come as a surprise, there are 5 key things that you need to focus on immediately.

1. Protect your privacy

Taking steps to protect your privacy is important at the beginning of a separation. Consider changing passwords for your computer, mobile phone, internet and phone banking, as well as phone or internet plans. Also read Steps to Maintain Your Independence.

2. Get informed about your financials

Having funds, access to money and a strong understanding of your finances is essential at separation. When you separate, you might like to review the following with your bank:

  • Request dual (2-person) signatory on joint mortgage redraws (speak to a Westpac banker about the consequences of having this implemented first)
  • Keep or open a bank account in your name only (Centrelink will require this)
    • If you need a new transaction account, the Westpac Choice account is an everyday bank account which can be opened in under 3 minutes.
    • If you currently hold a Westpac Choice account we can help give you some breathing space on your monthly fees. Visit your local branch to find out more.
  • Apply for your own credit card, if required
  • Ask Westpac for the past seven (7) years of statements (you will need these in the future)
  • Download Westpac’s mobile banking app on your phone (if you haven’t got it already)
  • Understand which accounts you have – both your own and joint accounts. Discuss ways to protect the funds and potential debt (liabilities). Download a Proof of balance from Westpac Live or request this at your local branch for a record of all your accounts and their current balances.


  • Build your financial confidence and money management skills with the videos, articles and tools on our Master Your Money pages.

3. Contact Centrelink

Your change in marital or relationship status may qualify you for some government assistance, so inform Centrelink as soon as you can. Support like this is incredibly helpful when your circumstances may be a little uncertain.

4. Gather essential documentation

Knowing what to gather, what to consider and possibly where to take action is incredibly helpful. Review the separation checklist as a guide for things to do, consider, gather or action. Seek advice from a legal professional for the items that you are unsure about.

5. Create your support network

Navigating a break-up with the support of people in your close friendship group, within your family and at work could lighten your emotional load and help to keep the situation in perspective.

Remember: de factos divorce too

Marriage may only be a piece of paper to some people, however, when a de facto relationship ends there is just as much (if not more) paperwork to complete and compile. Separation in a de facto relationship is like divorce and can end up in the Family Courts, especially when children are involved.

Regardless of whether you chose to register your relationship with the relevant state/government body, your de facto status qualifies you for all of the rules and regulations surrounding the Family Law act.

Every relationship is different and each break-up or separation has a unique set of circumstances. Read our other articles on creating financial independence and building your divorce support team for guidance on how to navigate your situation.