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Separation Checklist & Advice on Divorce Settlements

Separating is a time of heightened emotion and this can sometimes cloud your thinking.

The Separation Checklist is a set of tasks for you to consider, address, collate or action depending on your situation. Its purpose is to help you live with less "I wish I ..." or "if only I thought of ..." and have more "I am glad that I ...".

The Separation Checklist may also raise some questions to address with your family lawyer when you are ready. Download your Separation Checklist (PDF 84KB) today. 

Maintaining your independence

Divorce requires a great degree of planning and work. The efforts that you put into preparation can help to determine how your separation unfolds.

Looking after yourself and preparing your documentation could be a valuable step towards ensuring your independence. Remember:

Step 1. Consider counselling or therapy

Maintaining mental wellbeing throughout separation is essential and could help with your perspective as you navigate the murky waters. Start by talking with your GP or local doctor. Take some time for yourself. Regular physical activity, meditation, yoga or daily walks are helpful to keep a clear head and maintain a positive outlook.

Step 2. Coordinate your documentation

Secure your key personal documents, including payslips, your will, your tax returns and citizenship or residency documentation. Make sure you can access them easily. Key actions to take in the process of gathering documentation include:

  • Undertake searches for property/titles.
  • Take copies of information related to business, mortgages, investments and superannuation.
  • Create a history of work/employment.
  • Download a Proof of Balance – a snapshot of the balances of all your accounts, from the Westpac App (or request one from your branch).
  • Summarise a list of assets and debts that you and your spouse had at the start of the relationship and at co-habitation.

While you are gathering this information, you should keep yourself protected through the following steps:

  • Create new passwords on bank accounts, computer, phone, and others.
  • If you had a joint account with single sign authority, consider changing it to ’dual signatory’.
  • Setting up email alerts, changing your PIN and passwords, lowering daily transaction limits and locking credit cards.
  • Keep a journal throughout this time so that you have a written record of every conversation and interaction.

Step 3. Announcing your separation

  • It is extremely important to contact Westpac, or your bank, to make enquiries about your accounts, assets, loans and mortgages. This will also be a good time for setting up dual signatory.
  • Contact Centrelink to update your marital status and enquire about any assistance available.
  • As it can be difficult telling friends and family of your separation, make a plan for who you are going to tell, when, and what you will say.

Step 4. Prepare for your first consultation with a family lawyer

Make copies of important personal documents (including payslips, your will, your tax returns and citizenship or residency documentation) ready to share with a Family Lawyer and have your list of questions ready to ask them. Your lawyer can provide you with helpful advice for divorce settlements, as well as matters such spousal maintenance and child support in cases of financial hardship.

Step 5. Get your finances back on track.

It’s likely that a separation may disrupt your finances. Our Managing Money guide (PDF 1MB) is a step-by-step process to understand your current financial position, develop a budget, and implement plans for your own financial future.

Step 6. Consider your career goals

Separation could be a great time to think about re-skilling, up-skilling or simply seeking employment. Being employed is a key step to financial independence and freedom.

Step 7. Reduce or pay off joint debt

Create a plan with your ex-spouse to pay-off any joint personal loans and credit card debt. You should then decide what you will do with any joint bank accounts. You might consider consolidating multiple cards or loans into a single personal loan to set an end date for the debts that you shared in your relationship.

Help lines

Separation can be an extremely overwhelming time. It is especially distressing for people experiencing domestic violence. It is important to remember that domestic violence can be physical, as well as emotional or financial. If you or a child are feeling unsafe, then you can call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 737) at any time for support. If you are in danger or require a protection order, then you should call 000 immediately.