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How to increase your safety whilst living with your partner and prepare to leave the relationship if you choose to do so.

1b. How can your bank or financial advisor help if you are preparing to leave?

Est. read time: 4 min

Banks’ Support Services


Your Bank will probably be able to help you in various ways, both before and after you leave your partner. The policies of banks vary, so it is very important that you make an appointment to talk to a customer service consultant at your own Bank, or another Bank. Banks often have a ‘hardship support’ team, who are specialists in providing support and assistance in such situations. Most banks have a family and domestic violence policy supporting employees and customers.

While banks have published policies that relate to operation of personal accounts, joint accounts, mortgages and other financial services, your Bank may be willing to take additional steps on a case-by-case basis, so it is very important that you talk with your bank consultant to describe your particular circumstances and to discover precisely how they can help you.

Here are links to the hardship support and financial assistance information pages for a number of banks:

Set up your own bank account


Can I set up an account without my partner knowing about it?

You certainly can. You can do this at the Bank you currently use, even if you have joint account(s) with your partner, or you could set up an account with another bank altogether. It is very important that you do not rely on access to any joint bank accounts after you leave, or even before (see notes below on joint accounts). Your Bank can assist you to set up your own account, but once again, talk to an advisor at the Bank to let them know why you are doing this and ask how it can be done without your partner knowing or subsequently learning that you have a private account. In particular,

  • ask for assurance that account statements or other official bank paperwork will not be sent to your home address (you can specify the address of a friend for correspondence if necessary). For more information about Mail Safety, see section 3h. Mail Safety.
  • make sure that your partner cannot see your account on-line, by having the bank open the account under a separate customer number.

For details about setting up accounts, see the section Opening a bank account below.

The Good Shepherd Financial Independence Hub can assist you to navigate opening and managing your own bank account.  You can send them an enquiry or call them on 1300 050 150 (Mon – Fri, 9am – 5pm AEST).  Interpreter services are available.

Joint Accounts


I am preparing to leave the abusive environment but have a joint account with my partner. Can I prevent my partner from withdrawing all the funds from the account?

If your joint account is “two to sign” your partner can’t remove money without your knowledge or permission. If this is not the case, you can talk with the bank, describe your circumstances and request that a hold (or freeze) be placed on the account. However, this will also prevent you from accessing the funds. It is therefore very important that you first set up an account in your own name and accumulate some funds there, over time if necessary.

When it is safe to do so:

  • Withdraw money you need and deposit to your personal account;
  • Inform the bank of separation and request joint accounts be frozen;
  • Ensure any joint credit cards (that may be related to your bank account or other cards) including any supplementary cards, are either frozen or cancelled;
  • Cancel any direct debits that come out of the joint account (e.g. mobile phone plan), and where appropriate reinstate them on other accounts; and
  • Make sure that any automatic payments (credits) to the joint account made under your name (e.g. Centrelink or salary) are redirected to your new account before the hold is put in place.

The hold on the joint account will normally also halt credit card transactions linked to that account, which will prevent your partner from building up further debt against the joint account, but it will also prevent you from using the credit card, should you have one. Once again, seek the advice of your bank, as practices may vary from bank to bank.

The Bank will advise your partner that the hold is in place. A hold may be lifted after the Bank receives written agreement between you and your partner to do so or, for example, through a Family Court order that specifies what actions are to be taken on the account.

Note that your partner could also seek a hold on the account to prevent you from accessing funds. Make sure you have set up your personal account first. In the longer term you will need to close the joint account. See: 4j. Longer Term Banking Matters – How Can the Bank Continue to Help.

Talk with your Bank as early as possible to advise them of your situation and to learn about your options.

Opening a Bank Account


The steps to opening a bank account are:

  1. Choose your bank
  2. Choose your banking account type
  3. Gather your documents
  4. Apply for your account – online or in person at a branch
  5. Start depositing money

Choosing your bank and account type:

Every bank offers a range of different accounts – choose one that is right for you.  You can talk to your bank or look online.  One useful website is MoneySmart – Banking

What Documents do I need?

If you are opening an account as a new customer you have to provide 100 points of identification.  Different banks have different points guides but generally speaking the following documentation, at least one of which must include your photograph, carries with it the appropriate points that you can add together to get to the required 100:

  • Primary Documents: Birth certificate (not an extract); passport (current, or expired within the previous two years, but not cancelled); or citizenship certificate. Each of these carry with them 70 points but you can only use one.
  • Secondary documents: Australian Driver’s licence or learners permit; Australian firearms licence; public service ID card; a Commonwealth or state government benefit or concession card, such as a pension card or social security card; tertiary education institution photo ID; working with Children/teachers registration card. The first of these will give you 40 points and any subsequent ones will give you 25 points.
  • Tertiary documents: Medicare card; union membership card; car registration; power or water bill; council rates notice; proof of age card (government issued); property lease or rental agreement; record of any financial institution you have been a member of for at least 12 months or library card. Any these documents of which is worth 25 points as long as it contains your name.

You should also take:

  • Your tax file number;
  • If you have changed your name after getting married you might need a copy of your birth certificate to verify this.

If you have a Financial Advisor


If you have a financial advisor you should also alert them, in confidence, of your situation.  If they manage a share portfolio for you they can flag the account to ensure that both parties have to authorise any future transactions on the portfolio, even if it was originally set up differently.

[Article Updated:  28/3/22]

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