Family & Divorce

I’ve left my partner, but have no money. What can I do?

Deciding to leave your partner is never easy. Life after separation is full of uncertainties, and what stops many people from leaving a broken relationship is the fear of financial hardship. In this blog TGB family law partner Wendy Barry outlines potential financial safety nets for those considering separation but fear they cannot afford to support themselves on their own.

If you are considering separating from your partner, but are concerned you won’t have the funds to support yourself or your children on your own, then it’s worth considering the following options:

Prior to issuing court proceedings

Child Support: If you have dependent children then you can request that the other parent make child support payments to you. You can come to an agreement with your former partner independently or you can apply to the Child Support Agency (“CSA”). You can also come to an agreement with your former partner and then register the agreement with the CSA.

The CSA will consider a range of factors when making a child support assessment. These include the costs of raising children, the income of both parents, the ages of the children, and the percentage of time each parent cares for the children. If you would like to estimate what the other parent would be assessed to pay you could make use of the online calculator on the CSA website at:

Joint Bank Accounts: Another source of money can be joint bank accounts held in both your and your former partner’s names. However, it is important to understand that any monies you withdraw from these accounts you will be accountable for in any property settlement.

It is also recommended that you consider (as may be appropriate) contacting your bank to request joint signatures to access funds over a certain amount for any joint accounts (including any lines of credit that can be drawn down). Be aware that after this is done your access to such funds will also be impaired. You may also wish to consider opening a new bank account in your name and direct any income you receive to that account.

Centrelink / Social Security Payments: You may be eligible for Centrelink / Social Security payments and should therefore contact Centrelink to ascertain what benefits may apply to you. 

After issuing court proceedings

Once a matter is before the court, either party can apply for interim property orders. Interim property orders enable a court to deal with certain assets prior to hearing a full trial and making final orders. You may also wish to apply for an interim lump sum.

You may also be eligible to apply for interim spousal maintenance, whereby your former spouse/partner is ordered to ‘maintain’ you by providing ongoing financial support. The court can make this order when one party is unable to adequately support themselves and the other party is financially able to provide such ongoing maintenance.

How can I afford legal advice?

If you cannot afford to support yourself after separation then engaging a lawyer is going to be a daunting prospect. If your former partner is currently in control of most of the assets of your relationship but you are likely to receive some part of these assets in a property settlement then you may be able to arrange a payment plan in relation to your legal fees that will reflect this. You may also be able to apply for a lump sum from your former spouse/partner for your legal fees.


If you have any questions or require assistance with your family law matter, please contact your nearest TGB office or register online.


Tindall Gask Bentley is the largest family law firm in South Australia, and also has offices in Western Australia and Northern Territory.