Can I open a bank account after separation?

Can I open a bank account after separation? We get this question quite frequently and the short answer is yes. However, you need to be careful from where you are drawing money to fill your new personal account, and should always consider whether it is necessary before unilaterally doing so.

Joint accounts

One of the biggest stressors at separation is financial security and ensuring access to funds. This is especially so if you are the lesser income earner in the relationship, a stay-at-home parent or unemployed.

Withdrawing money from a joint account without the other party’s knowledge or consent can be a bad way to start your separation. In some extreme circumstances, it might be necessary to do so urgently and without consent of the other party. In others, it might be considered family violence to withdraw funds from a joint account. It often breaks down trust, which is counterproductive to resolving financial matters amicably and fairly.

Interim financial arrangements

Once separated, and if appropriate, you should attempt to negotiate an agreement about the interim financial arrangements. You might propose that you each open a separate bank account and divide any funds in a joint account appropriately. You may decide to continue to pay money into a joint account to meet mortgage repayments and other joint expenses such as school fees in the interim. You might also consider closing jointly held credit cards, as you might remain liable to the bank for any debts incurred as a consequence of the other’s spending.

If you are concerned that your partner is likely to move joint funds out of your control, or drawdown on joint mortgages, then you should immediately inform the relevant financial institution to require joint signatories on such transactions.

Funds in your account post separation

It is important to note that, just because you have moved funds or redirected your income into your personal account, does not mean that they are not relevant to any future property division. Savings accumulated after separation still form a part of the assets available for division in the property settlement, however considerations of post-separation contributions are relevant. If married, s79 of the Family Law Act will apply and s90SM if in a de facto relationship.

During negotiations for your property division you may be required to exchange financial disclosure of all accounts including your newly opened personal account. It is therefore always best to be transparent when moving funds from or between accounts.

How we can help

If you are having difficulty accessing funds sufficient to meet your expenses after separation, or you are concerned that joint funds are being applied in a way that you do not consent to, we may be able to assist. Applications to Court are often a last resort and unnecessary, but it is an option to ensure your funds are applied in an appropriate manner.

For further information, please contact one of our team of top family lawyers for advice on (03) 9793 7888.