Depending on your financial circumstances, this can be either straightforward or very complicated. And there are many aspects to this in family law. For the purposes of this chapter, I am only delving into what to do initially, straight after separation. In the chapters to come, I will discuss what the Family Law Act provides by way of final property settlements.
How to deal with income during separation:
If you are a homemaker without your own income or only a part-time income, it can be very difficult to navigate this period if your ex-partner decides to cut you off financially. And, yes this can happen. If you find yourself in this circumstance, you should seek legal advice, as there may be provisions in the law that can offer assistance and, in particular, an application for Spousal Maintenance.
What should happen, if you are fairly amicable and reasonable individuals, is that the main income earner should continue to pay the bills in the home as has been done in the past; these activities should continue as they have been dealt with during the relationship until you reach a final property settlement.
The court is there to help with these scenarios; however, determining whether it is worthwhile making an application to the court for what is known as Spousal Maintenance depends on your family income and expenses.
If you find yourself without an income because your ex-partner has cut you off from the family income, there are a few things that you should do.
- Go to Centrelink to see where you stand with them; they may be able to provide you with some assistance.
- Make an appointment with a lawyer to get legal advice. If you have no way of paying legal fees, seek out a lawyer who will provide a free initial advice or apply to Legal Aid for an initial advice.
- If you have children, phone the Child Support Agency (CSA) and get the ball rolling with them.
What about your own income? Are you allowed to put your income into your own account? Yes, you can. You are entitled to direct your income to a new account if you want to do this. It is advised that both parties should continue to pay the bills as per usual and to continue the financial arrangements you had prior to separation if at all possible.
What happens to Joint accounts when separating?
If you have any joint accounts, then you both have the right to access those accounts. If there are large amounts in joint accounts, it is a great idea to protect the funds by either freezing the accounts or changing the account so that you need two signatures to access the money. This is a protective measure so that the funds are available to both parties for distribution as part of your property settlement. If you don’t do this, then there is nothing stopping either of you from withdrawing monies, which can lead to wastage of your capital and, therefore, there being less to distribute.
What happens to Mortgage accounts when separating?
The same applies to joint mortgage accounts. If you have a redraw facility on your mortgage account, it is a very good idea to freeze it so your funds are preserved. Some people, upon separating, are both respectful as to how they will deal with funds and can happily continue with their joint accounts as they were, while others become insecure and selfish, which can lead to their draining funds from joint accounts, which leads to wastage and stress.