Thinking About Separating - What Can you Do and What Should you do to Protect your Long Term Interest

08/10/2019

Deciding to separate from your spouse or partner of many years can be a difficult decision.  Shared financial arrangements cannot be separated overnight.  Situations develop where one spouse/partner might care for the children while the other spouse/partner may manage the family financial affairs.  You could find yourself in a situation where you do not have any information about your own including your spouse or partner’s financial situation and you may have no control or a secure income for yourself.  You need to protect yourself

What steps can be taken to protect yourself?

  1. Close joint credit cards - If you have a joint credit card with somebody and do not want to be responsible for their continued spending contact the credit provider and close the account.
  2. Investment accounts and bank accounts, share portfolios - If the bank accounts and investment accounts are joint accounts then either party can usually withdraw from the account.  The accounts should be frozen. You can change the operating authorities to require the signatures of both you and your spouse or partner.  Arrangements should be made for withdrawal of money to allow you to be able to support yourself or instruct solicitors.  Ensure that a record is kept of money withdrawn and how the money has been disbursed or used.
  3. You should have an account solely in your name to enable you to have access to funds.  We suggest your wages are deposited into such an account.
  4. The Mortgage - You should work out whether one party alone can draw down on a mortgage and increase the mortgage which you are liable to pay.  You should take steps to protect the liability to the Bank in particular, you should arrange with the Bank that no extra drawdown, withdrawal can be made without your consent.  Usually you can arrange for the redraw account to be only be operated by each of you and your partner or spouse.  An agreement you have with your spouse or partner is of no assistance unless the Bank is informed and new authorities are entered into with the Bank as to how a joint account or mortgage will be operated.  The bank should be advised.
  5. Protect your personal information and data - You should make sure you have a copy of all your financial information being bank accounts, investment accounts, share portfolios and tax returns.  You should make sure that your data is secure by changing passwords or creating new passwords. 
  6. Protecting your mail - If you are separating there may be sensitive communications between you and other persons including your lawyer which should not be privy to any other person/s.
  7. You should prepare a list of assets and liabilities so that this is available when you consult your lawyer.  You should prepare a chronology or timeline of the dates of important events including date of separation which information is required when you apply for a divorce. 
  8. Gather your information such as:
    • Saving and transaction account statements.
    • Utility bills.
    • Credit and store card bills.
    • Property ownership documents – Deeds, mortgages and home loan details. 
    • Investment paperwork.
    • Tax records.
    • Insurance policies.
    • Superannuation accounts. 
    • Will and Estate Plans. 

  9. Prepare for the future - You should also make arrangements to change your Will and change the names of beneficiaries on insurance and superannuation policies. 
  10. Each case has specific points of difference however overall, an important aspect in attempting to achieving a fair and equitable financial settlement no matter its quantum, is to protect your assets and take prompt action.  We recommend that you do not procrastinate and seek the appropriate advice expeditiously to protect your assets.

Our experienced Family Law Solicitors at Watson & Watson can assist you in navigating the often times, difficult path of financial/property settlement with estranged your spouse or partner.  Seek advice early and contact Richard Watson Senior Family Law Solicitor or Shereen Da Gloria his Personal Assistant to discuss your matter and alleviate your concerns.

This is only a preliminary view and is not to be taken as legal advice without first contacting Watson & Watson Solicitors on 9221 6011.

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