What am I worth in my relationship?

This is one of the most pressing and common questions asked of us, when people are either separating or considering ending their relationship.

There are a lot of varying factors that the Family Law Act 1975 has set out to make an asset division fair and equitable.  The problem is that the road map provided by the legislators can be a tad complicated to follow.  We are also aware of a few completely nonsensical statements that appear to be taken as fact.

To assist, we can emphatically confirm the following are ‘urban myths’, and give you the fact to dispel any wrongly held beliefs.

Myth:  The extent of the relationship finances crystalises at the date of separation.

Fact:   This myth is false and financially dangerous, specifically if you are in a relationship with a spendthrift or gambler.  If you are married, your financial relationship continues until such time as an Order of the Court is made by consent, or by a Judge’s determination. You can also enter into a Financial Agreement to finalise the financial obligations created by your relationship. 

Time limits do apply to obtain a just and equitable adjustment of financial interests. If you have made an application to the Family Court and you have been granted a Divorce from your spouse, at the expiration of 12 months after the date of your divorce, you will be prohibited from making a claim. Unless special leave (permission) is given by the Court to make an application outside the time limit.  If you were in a de facto relationship, the time limit commences from the date of separation, and expires 2 years after that date.

Myth:   Staying at home and looking after the family is not as important and not commercially ‘worth’ anything.

Fact:    The Family Law Act mandates that both financial and ‘non-financial’ contributions must be taken into consideration.  The value of these contributions is just as significant as the financial contributions of another party in a long-term relationship where one party has taken the traditional role of primary carer of the children.

Myth:  Staying at home and looking after and raising the children does not entitle you to your partner’s superannuation.

Fact:    In fact, it is the opposite; had you not sacrificed your own career to care and look after your children, your superannuation would have also grown. 

Myth:   Every dollar and cent that was spent on, or by your partner, including but not limited to, the house, groceries, takeaways, coffees, movie tickets, restaurants, holidays, vet and pet expenses, birthday and Christmas presents, is be treated as a financial contribution.

Fact:    The assessment of contributions is not an accounting exercise. Consideration has to be given to what is usual in the normal course of a relationship, prior to it breaking down.  For example, if you were contributing to the mortgage you cannot expect to be ‘refunded’ or ‘reimbursed’ the funds you expended. As in the ordinary course of life, if you were not living there, you would have been paying your way at another establishment, whether a mortgage, rent, or board.

Myth:   We have been together for 6 months; I am entitled to half of my partner’s assets.

Fact:    The Family Law Act specifically states that a de facto relationship can only be considered as such if the parties have lived together as a couple for a minimum period of two years, provided that there are no children of the relationship or that your financial input into the relationship would be an unjust benefit to your partner, should an adjustment not be made if your relationship broke down in under two years.

If this article has raised more questions and you would like more specific information as to what you may be entitled to, please call one of our Gold Coast or Logan Family Lawyers on (07) 5679 8016, for free 15 minutes of family law advice.

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