By Sharla Stevens
It’s becoming more and more common that couples are now operating their own separate bank accounts rather than combining all of their income in a joint bank account. Part of this may be based on the idea that women are now earning more and more money and that couples are more aware of the potential for separation in the future. For most people, having separate bank accounts is a sign of being financially independent from your partner. Joint expenses are split equally and your partner doesn’t need to know what you spend your disposable income on.
What happens, though, where one party has a baby and is no longer working? Although she would receive the government’s paid parental leave for 18 weeks, she may choose to stay at home for the whole 12 months unpaid leave she’s entitled to from her employer, or even longer. How are expenses divided then? Some women choose to save money before they go on maternity leave and other couples reach an agreement where the party that’s continuing to work pays money to one on maternity leave, almost like an allowance. This lack of access to funds while one party is on maternity leave, though, may even be considered economic abuse by controlling one person’s access to funds when they are in a vulnerable position. It could also lead to the person on maternity leave feeling devalued for the work they do looking after the children and the house and feeling resentful towards their partner who has continued working that they have “their” money even though she’s looking after “our” children.
If you have any concerns about family violence or would like to discuss family law matters generally please contact Cristina Huesch, or one of our solicitors Sharla Stevens or Angela Li, from Alliance Legal Services on (02) 6223 2400.