Love Me, Love Me Not: Financial Considerations for Moving in Together

Written and accurate as at: 10 February 2016

The decision to move in with a partner is a significant step in a relationship, both personally and financially. In planning for this transition, it is important to consider the different areas of your lifestyle that are likely to change including financial matters. In some cases, these will be obvious, but there are a range of things that can result from moving in with a partner that you should be aware of.  

For a start, living with your partner means adapting to another person’s money style, which may be different to yours. This includes spending and savings habits, attitudes towards financial responsibilities, and your different incomes and expenses. Before you move in, make time to have an upfront conversation about your financial status, needs, expectations and requirements. This may also mean disclosing your savings, debts, or future financial goals and obligations.

Discuss with your partner how regular expenses will be shared and consider drawing up a budget together. Agree who will take on which financial responsibilities in the household and what will be shared. Often couples living together choose to open a joint bank account or credit card for the purposes of paying shared expenses. If you intend doing this, then set limits and ensure the ground rules are agreed.

Under Australia law, couples in a de facto relationship that have lived together for two years or more are considered to have substantially the same rights as those of married couples in the event that the relationship ends. In other words, separating de facto couples may have the right to make claims with regards to property settlement, spousal maintenances and even superannuation. A couple may be considered de facto as long as they have lived together domestically, even where one partner is still legally married to someone else or only lives with their partner some of the time. These are important points that should be taken into consideration as they represent possible risks to the assets you bring into the relationship or assets you accumulate while you’re together.

There are things you can do to protect your assets. For example, some couples enter into binding agreements – legal documents similar to pre-nuptial agreements, which set out how their property and assets are to be divided if the relationship ends. This is a specialist area, some of these agreements have been challenged in the past. So good legal advice is vital. It’s also wise to update your estate plan to reflect your new circumstances or if you don’t have one, put one in place.  Your financial adviser can help you assess your options. You may also need legal advice.

Moving in with a partner can be an exciting time for your relationship and taking time to address the financial practicalities provides clarity and security to both parties. While we all want the best outcome, sometimes relationships end, and it is important to have a plan in place to ensure your wellbeing should that occur.