Untangle your money from your partner’s
The goal is to separate yourself financially from your partner or ex-partner. There are also some steps you can take to try and prevent your ex from accruing more debts in your name or continuing the financial abuse.
Steps to safety
If your partner has been abusing you financially, here are some ways you can make yourself safer financially:
- Talk to your bank, and explain the situation to them. Most banks have a hardship team that can help if you’re experiencing financial difficulty, including family violence. You can call your bank or visit their website to find out more about how they can help you, ask to speak directly to the hardship team so you don’t have to repeat your story to multiple people. Your bank may be able to help you make some of the following changes.
- Open your own account. It’s important that you have somewhere to put your money that your ex can’t access. If you don’t already have your own account open a new account and make sure your pay or Centrelink payments are being deposited to the new account.
- Joint bank accounts and credit cards – Freeze any joint bank accounts you have with your ex, which will prevent them from draining the account. Make sure you have some money in your own account before you do this because once the account is frozen, you’ll no longer be able to access the money. Cancel any joint credit cards you have, or second cards in your partner’s name so they can’t rack up more debts. Your bank should be able to help you do this.
- Mortgage – If your mortgage has a redraw facility or line of credit, change the terms so both signatures (yours and your partner’s) are needed to withdraw money.
- Security numbers/passwords – Change the PINs, passwords and security questions for all your mobile phone, bank and credit card accounts, online shopping accounts, email and social media accounts. It is possible that your ex might be monitoring your smartphone or tablet without you knowing so it’s a good idea to do this even if you don’t think they know your passwords. Use a computer or smartphone that your partner cannot access to make online financial transactions, such as at a library or friend/family relation’s house. You can also visit WIRE’s Women’s Information Centre during our opening hours (link to new contact page) to freely access one of our Internet-enabled computers. For more tips and details on online safety, head to Technology Safety Australia’s Women’s Technology Safety & Privacy Toolkit.
- Contact details – Get a new mailing address (PO box, friend or family member’s address) that only you can access. Australia Post provides free mail redirection for family violence survivors. As part of this service Australia Post will send a letter to your old address to confirm that you are aware of, and authorise, the redirection of your mail. If this is a safety concern for you don’t use this service.
- Rent – If you have moved out, contact your real estate agent to have your name removed from the lease. This means you won’t be held responsible for any arrears or damage to the property. If your ex has moved out have them removed from the lease. If you need help with issues related to renting you can contact the Tenants Union for help and advice.
- Utilities –Take your name off any utilities, otherwise you could be held responsible for any unpaid bills. Utility companies also have hardship programs and may be able to help if you’re unable to pay your bills so if you’re struggling don’t be scared to let the utilities company know what’s going on.
Once you have done this, you may want to take the steps below that are relevant to your situation:
- Centrelink and child support – Ask a Centrelink social worker to help you work through the financial issues of separation, including how you or your partner should pay child support (more on this later)
- Seek legal advice through a Community Legal Centre, Victoria Legal Aid or a private lawyer before you transfer ownership of vehicles, or change wills and insurance documents.
- Vehicles – Transfer ownership and registration of vehicles to either yourself or your partner, so that you are only responsible for your own vehicle.
- Insurance – Transfer the names and scope of the cover for your home insurance, such as building and contents insurance, and any other car/health/life insurances.
- Wills and Power of Attorney – Make or change your will. Nominate a guardian for your children if your partner isn’t the parent or guardian. Cancel any Powers of Attorney that nominate your partner, and nominate another person you trust.
- Tax – Visit a tax agent or contact the Australian Taxation Office on 13 26 81 or via the ATO website to find out how separation will affect the amount of tax you pay, or whether you are eligible for a refund. Also make sure that any tax returns are paid into an account in your name only.