Financial First Steps: Navigating the Finances & Expenses Immediately After Separation

20 November 2023

Navigating a separation is never easy, but the path becomes clearer and less daunting when you’re equipped with the right knowledge and support. A major concern that arises immediately after separation is managing finances, which if left unattended, can spiral and add more emotional distress to an already fragile situation. Today, we’ll guide you through the initial steps to safeguard your financial wellbeing post-separation, ensuring that you can rebuild and embrace the next chapter of your life with confidence.

Central to moving forward is the ability to take control of your finances, giving you the stability, and assurance you need. Planning for your financial future and enhancing your financial know-how can be challenging, while you’re still grappling with the separation. We’re going to delve deeper into the steps you can take immediately after separation to lay a solid foundation for your financial future.

Address the Immediate Financial Concerns

The days and weeks immediately after separation are the most challenging. This is going to be the time when you and your Ex are trying to work through who stays in the house and who moves out, who pays for the mortgage, and how you will deal with the finances and expenses in the short-term. It is also the time when emotions and reactivity are running the highest, adding layers of complications to already confronting conversations.

As much as you want to ignore the situation and disengage because it’s all too hard or confronting, your finances need immediate attention. Below we touch on the most significant issues to discuss with your Ex.

  1. Mortgage Repayments

With joint mortgages, it’s essential to maintain the repayments. Failing to make repayments can cause the mortgage to fall into arrears which could affect both parties’ ability to borrow funds at a later stage. Discuss with your Ex about how the mortgage repayments will be maintained in the short-term.

Communication is key here. There are a number of options available and there is no perfect answer. How the mortgage is paid will depend on each person’s level of income and how you’re each able to contribute to the expenses. For example, if one person is not working or is working part-time, then their ability to contribute to the mortgage and other expenses is going to be limited. Some people will opt to keep pooling their incomes into the joint account and paying all expenses and living costs from the joint account until they have a little more clarity on the situation. Other couples will separate their incomes fairly quickly after separation and will contribute to the expenses equally or in proportion to each person’s income.  It’s all about finding a balanced approach that protects both individuals’ financial interests and ensures that the mortgage and property expenses are paid while you are sorting out a settlement.

2. Household and Family Expenses

From utility bills to children’s various costs, these expenses won’t wait and they do not reduce or disappear once you decide to separate. If anything, these expenses can increase, particularly once two households have been established. Initially, have a conversation with your Ex about these immediate costs and develop a short-term agreement on how you’ll manage these finances until you have a final agreement in place. Maybe you split them, or maybe one person takes on certain bills while the other manages different ones. The goal is to ensure neither person feels overwhelmed, or experiences financial stress or hardship while you are trying to get a longer-term plan in place.

As you’re identifying the various household and family expenses, use this information to create a budget. Here are 5 other steps you can take to take control of your financial after separation.

3. Assets & Debts

In many relationships, joint bank accounts are common. Once you have clarity on how you’re going to navigate the continued payment of the mortgage and other expenses, you can determine how you are both going to deal with the joint bank accounts. If you have joint savings in a bank account, or line of credit, you will need to discuss how these savings are divided as part of your settlement and come up with a plan to ensure they are preserved until that time.

Debts accrued during the relationship must be dealt with as part of your financial settlement. You will need to have a discussion post-separation about how any debts, either in joint or individual names, will be paid until you reach a final agreement. This mutual understanding will prevent future financial disputes and ensure you both maintain a good credit standing which expands your settlement options. You can learn more about how debts are dealt with after separation here.

To ensure that you both have oversight on the finances and can make informed decisions when having these discussions, it is a good idea to create a comprehensive list of the assets, liabilities, superannuation, and other financial resources held jointly or individually. If possible, sit down with your Ex to create this list, and if not, create a spreadsheet based on what you know and email it to them seeking their input into the list. This is a key first step before being able to start any discussions about a financial and property settlement.

4. Children’s Financial Support

One of the big worries for your children about the separation will be about the level of disruption to their life, particularly around the things that are important to them such as school and their activities. Children require assurances about the continuity of their school, activities, and financial needs.

Post-separation, get clear on the children’s current expenses such as school costs, medical and healthcare expenses and extra-curricular activity costs. Communicate with your Ex to ensure these costs are addressed and maintained in the short-term. You might not have all the answers straight away about the ongoing sharing of costs, but you can come up with an initial plan to give stability for your children as they adjust to the separation.

You and your Ex continue having conversations about the children’s ongoing financial support as part of your financial and property settlement negotiations. We recommend parents being cautious about withdrawing financial contributions to key expenses for the children until there is a mutually agreed plan in place that ensures your children will continue to have the opportunities and lifestyle you both had planned for them. This also eases the worry your children may be experiencing when so many other parts of their life are changing.

Remember, the goal is the wellbeing of your children, giving them the assurances and financial support, they need to thrive, irrespective of the separation.

5. The Benefits of Seeking Legal Advice

Australian family law ensures that individuals have rights and options post-separation to have their financial needs met. However, understanding these rights requires expert family law advice. Bespoke Family Lawyers can shed light on your entitlements, from property division, child support to potential spousal support. This understanding will give you a clearer picture so you can plan for your financial future.

Meeting with a lawyer for the first time does not have to be as scary as it sounds. We carefully step you through how to prepare for your first meeting with a lawyer here so you feel calm and confident to map out a plan that moves you forward.  We also detail what information you need to start gathering.

Your lawyer will be able to take you through the legal process, your range of potential outcomes, your next steps, and your options. Together, you can create a plan to achieve a financial settlement that meets yours and your children’s needs and best interests. Furthermore, this knowledge becomes the cornerstone of planning for a better future for you and your children.

Embracing change and having hard conversations, especially about your finances, is challenging. Yet, by addressing these financial changes head-on by understanding joint responsibilities, prioritising children’s needs, and harnessing the power of legal advice, you’re laying strong foundations for your next chapter. Each proactive measure today paves the way for a brighter, more confident tomorrow.

With the right support, the next chapter can be one of empowerment and financial stability. At Bespoke Family Lawyers, we’re your partners in this journey. Lean on our expertise, and together, let’s create a brighter future where you feel financially confident, have financial certainty, and are ready to move forward.

If you want our expert guidance and support to plan how you move forward, then book in a FREE 30 minute clarity call with us.

Our team of expert family lawyers would love to help you to move toward the life and future you want to build with clarity and confidence. If you’re ready to map out a strategic plan that moves you forward, book your strategic planning session today or download our helpful free resources.


This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or any other professional advice.

Feeling unsure where to start?

Let us guide you through what’s involved in untangling your relationship and give you the tools to set yourself up to move forward.

Feeling unsure where to start?

Let us guide you through what’s involved in untangling your relationship and give you the tools to set yourself up to move forward.

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