Creating a separate relationship with your bank is a necessary consequence of marital separation – make it work for you.
Here are a few tips to kick off the process:
Introduce yourself to your bank manager.
If you don’t trust the advice you’re given, seek it elsewhere. This could be a recommended financial adviser or the manager of another branch. Remember—you are the customer. Don’t be intimidated. If you take some time to grasp the mathematics then so be it. Make detailed notes and send an email summarising any discussions you have had as you understood them. Take a support person if this helps—two heads are often better than one.
Advise your bank of your separation and ask for a record of your current savings.
If you haven’t done this already, have a look at your account online and take a screenshot of the balance right now (command–shift–3). Or even a photo. And don’t worry—there will be a record of any sums withdrawn in the interim and it will all go into the settlement mix.
Freeze your joint accounts
Ensure that neither you nor your partner can withdraw large sums without the consent of the other, including cancelling any redraw facility on loans.
Open a new account into which your wages are paid
It’s crucial you can make purchases without the scrutiny of your ex-partner for privacy reasons.
A tale from the trenches
I took the advice of my bank manager regarding the amount of money I would need to borrow to buy an apartment. She gave me a monthly repayment figure. She advised that—by combining short term bridging finance with renting the apartment back to the vendor and living with my parents for that period—the rent would cover the bridging finance.
After signing the contract, I discovered the bank manager had underestimated the repayments by a factor of 2:1.
Worse still, because I wasn’t working at the time of the purchase—having just recovered from a serious car accident—I wasn’t eligible for bridging finance. It was an incredibly stressful period not only for me but for my parents. I didn’t make settlement on the house on the due date and had to pay the vendors a penalty. Nothing like that had happened to me before—I’m a fastidious bill payer—and I half expected to be arrested for my misdemeanour. I wasn’t.
Fuelled by what I regarded as a huge injustice, I pursued the bank.
I painstakingly gathered every piece of correspondence between myself and the bank manager. Despite being advised by many bank sceptics that I was wasting my time, justice prevailed in the end. ‘As a gesture of good will’ (shorthand for We Were Wrong) the bank reimbursed 50 per cent of my penalty.
I count that as a win.
It’s proof too of the wisdom of my exhortations to my children to pursue every avenue until there are no avenues left. You can have that piece of wisdom for free. And here’s another one. You are responsible for acting on bad advice. I was still legally liable for acting on the bank manager’s miscalculation. So ask your bank manager as many questions as you like as often as you like. You don’t have to pay them by the hour.
And by the way, I’m still with the same bank.
I found a wonderful young manager with whom I consulted prior to a six month stay in France. She advised the best way to manage my finances while I was away. While overseas, I contacted her by email whenever I had a problem and she always got back to me within 24 hours. Thank you Carlie.