Should I stay with my partner or leave?
There's a lot to consider when a relationship feels like it's coming to an end.
Find out what you have and don’t have, and separate yourself financially from your partner or ex-partner, so that they cannot continue to harm you financially. There are some things you can do to try and prevent your ex from accruing more debts in your name or continuing the financial abuse.
If your partner has been abusing you financially, here are some ways you can make yourself safer financially:
Once you have done this, you may want to take the steps below that are relevant to your situation:
To discuss legal or financial options to meet your needs and circumstances you can call WIRE
A credit report provides your credit history including any loans, credit cards or bad debts you have had, or whether you have been declared bankrupt or insolvent. Creditors like banks use this to determine whether you will be able to repay your debts when you apply for a loan or credit card. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report every year.
A bank or utility will arrange for a credit report based on your personal details including your driver’s licence, address and employment status. To find out more about getting a copy of your credit report, visit the website of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner or the Money Smart website.
You can also apply for a copy of your credit report by contacting one of these national credit reporting agencies:
If you have a bad credit report because of your partner’s debts, you are still legally responsible for those debts. You can contact the National Debt Helpline or speak to a financial counsellor to look at your options, such as restructuring your loans, negotiating debt repayments with banks, utilities and other creditors, or considering bankruptcy as an option.
You can also download our booklet on Managing Your Money & Debts for more information.
Here is a list of important financial documents you may need if you are leaving your partner. These include
If it is not safe for you to collect these documents, speak to a financial counsellor on how you can get copies. To find a financial counsellor, visit the Financial Counselling Australia website.
Remember: It is important to plan ahead. Store originals of all important documents in a secure place, such as a bank deposit box. Keep copies of all these documents in another safe place, such as with a friend you trust. You can also scan copies of these documents and keep the files online so you can access them at any time.
Unfortunately, some partners continue abusing women financially evenfinancial abuse often continues after separation by through manipulating and abusing the child support system and family court. Here are some things your partner or ex might do to avoid or minimise payment:
Remember: As soon as your status or circumstances have changed — you have separated from your partner and/or have changed addresses — you must contact Centrelink to update your details within 14 days to ensure that you continue receiving your Family Tax Benefits. You can also enquire about your eligibility for income support payments as a survivor of financial abuse or if you have children under 8 years.
Call the Centrelink ‘Families’ Line (13 61 50) and you’ll be referred to a Family Assistance Officer who will be able to give you further advice on the actions you need to take in your situation. You may also need to contact the Child Support Agency within 13 weeks to apply for child support.
You might also be eligible for a crisis payment if you are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of family violence.
You can also contact WIRE on 1300 134 130 (9:30am-4:30pm Mon-Fri) to find financial support services in your area.
Not all lawyers are experienced with family violence or understand its ongoing impact on women’s ability to move on with their lives. It is important to find a lawyer who is familiar with the tactics that can be used to prevent you from getting your fair share of the financial assets in your relationship.
Community Legal Centres and Victoria Legal Aid may be able to assist you, though often they have limited capacity and may be unable to help with property settlement. In this case you may need to talk to a private lawyer.
Here are some questions about financial abuse that you can ask when choosing a suitable lawyer:
Your lawyer may be able to get you an interim spousal maintenance order, which is based on establishing your financial need and your ex-partner’s capacity to pay, especially if you are in immediate financial need. This is different from an interim property settlement) where the Court can order that some of your legal costs can be taken out of the eventual property settlement before the matter is finally settled. De-facto partners can also apply for these orders.
Unfortunately, some people use the legal system to perpetuate financial abuse. Should your partner have the means, you might be repeatedly taken back to court over an extended period.
This can be a huge drain on your time, energy and money. It is important that you try and look after your emotional and mental wellbeing.
Here are some ways you can prepare yourself for the Family Law Courts:
Court Network is a support service available in the Family, Children and Magistrates’ Court. It is not a legal service, but it does provide valuable support and information for people who are trying to navigate the legal system. Court network can provide support workers to be present with you during your court appearance. You can get in contact by calling (03) 8306 6966 or visiting the Court Network website.