When not to lean on your friends during separation

Feb 18, 2023
When going through a separation, it's important to take your loved one's advice with a grain of salt. Source: Getty

Relationships ebb and flow, into and out of our lives in all sorts of unique ways. When our relationships break down, our good friends come through as a shoulder to cry on and a source of much-needed emotional support. But when it comes to the practical side of breakups, each separation is as diverse and varied as household incomes, personal assets, and family dynamics.

Well-meaning friends and family often offer unsolicited advice about separation or divorce based on their own personal experiences.

Sometimes this advice is general enough to be helpful, but often one person’s lived experience will lead to advise that does not apply to your own separation or settlement. At best this advice is a show of solidarity and support, at worst it can create unrealistic expectations about the outcome of your own financial settlement — ultimately creating uncertainty about your settlement, delays in reaching an outcome, and more legal bills.

A personal confidant, no matter how close, cannot know all the details of your circumstances. Just because your friend or neighbour’s property was divided 70/30, or they received an additional lump sum, does not mean you will get the same.  

The Family Court will exercise broad discretion when determining a property settlement. This means results vary in individual circumstances. And there’s a good reason why. 

The Court will identify and value the assets, resources, and liabilities owned by you and your former partner—including any assets in which you have an interest either individually, or jointly with another person. 

The judge will also review financial and non-financial contributions made by both parties.  Financial contributions include income, and the acquisition, conservation, and/or improvement of any asset or resource. Non-financial contributions include homemaking duties and child duties. 

In addition, the “future needs” of each party—including their ability to earn an income, age, health, and responsibilities—will also be considered. A judge will determine whether the proposed division of property is fair and equitable, having regard to the circumstances of the relationship. 

Other factors which will be taken into account in determining a fair property settlement include the length of a relationship and the size of the asset pool. When all these factors are reviewed and considered, outcomes can vary greatly from one person to the next. 

Friends and family can be of great comfort during the challenges of a separation or divorce; providing you with a safe space to share how you’re coping, feeling, and managing the formal end of your relationship. But be cautious about taking separation advice from your nearest and dearest—they can unknowingly offer the worst separation advice you might receive.

To properly understand your property division, you should seek advice from a lawyer specialising in this area of law. A professional will be able to guide you through the process, set an expectation based on your personal circumstances, and help you navigate your way through separation. 

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