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My ex isn’t entitled to anything!

As a mediator, I have heard clients with the misperception that since they were the sole financial provider that their ex isn’t entitled to any of the family assets.

They say things like;

  • “My ex stayed home whilst I was out busting a gut providing for this family, so it is my money”.

  • “We wouldn’t have this house if it wasn’t for me paying for it”.

  • “Now it’s time for my ex to go out and get a job to make their own money”.

  • “I’d prefer to give the money to a lawyer than my ex”.

  • “My ex has lived off me for free all these years, so they have had their share already”.

You might agree with those statements because you think “that’s fair, I worked, my ex didn’t!”

It is important to understand that financial contributions and non-financial contributions are equal contributions to the household.

You may think “Seriously, how can that be?”

There are a few reasons.

  • As a family you both may have decided that one would go out and earn a living whilst the other stay home and take care of the kids or

  • You may make significantly more money whilst your ex’s job role doesn’t pay as much as you or they work part time, or

  • Your ex may not have worked for years due to an illness, injury or being a carer for a family member.

  • The status quo of who provided more financially than the other over the years is what the family created and became their model of support for their family.

At the onset of separation, it isn't a competition of who contributed more gets more!

The family law looks at an equitable outcome not an equal outcome. So, what does that mean?

Family law has four steps for property settlement.

  1. Determine property pool asset values.

  2. Identify & Assess Financial & Non-Financial Contributions

  3. Identify & assess the future needs and resources of the parties and determine an adjustment (if any)

  4. Make property orders that are just and equitable in all circumstances.

You may have thought initially that your ex shouldn’t get anything but then after consideration of the above factors may feel OK 50/50 is fair.  

I hate to break it to you…. brace yourself……you could end up with less!

You may be thinking “What the…….”

In fact, future needs can be a higher factor on how the family wealth pool is to be divided. The person with the lower earning capacity, health condition, primary carer of children’s availability to work, imminent retirement, carer for elderly relative etc all impact the opportunity to increase financial earnings.

You as a significantly higher financial earner has a greater capacity to rebuild your financial security which can be seen as an advantage over your ex who can take much longer to rebuild theirs.

Key advantages to you are;

  • You would be able to save for a new home deposit much faster.

  • You may secure a rental property easier as the landlord feels confident your salary can service the rent.

  • Your qualifications may be higher as you had the opportunity to advance your career through courses and promotions, so your trajectory to continue career advancement is an advantage.

Key disadvantages to your ex are;

  • They may not have the qualifications and opportunities to secure a job or a higher paying job making it more difficult to have the financial means to support themselves independently or save for a new home deposit.

  • Without qualifications to secure a job they may need to work part time whilst doing a course to gain qualifications to establish a career or do a course to bring existing qualifications to the level required by the job market.

  • Their confidence may not be high in venturing out to the workforce after many years of staying home to care for the children and the household. This can make it difficult for them against other job candidates to secure a role.

  • They may not have been the money manager of the family as you provided that role so your ex may find it more difficult to create a budget.

Whichever way you look at it, you need to reflect on how the family opted to be financially supported pre-separation and enable both parties to separate financially with the means to be able to have a financially secure future.

When you are negotiating financial settlement always “switch the roles” to make an informed decision on the outcome. Such as what if you were the stay-at-home parent for many years looking after the children whilst the family was supported by your ex? Suddenly, the family structure is breaking down and now you are the one financially at risk of not being able to support yourself. How scary would that feel? You may have had a similar experience throughout your career if you suddenly found yourself out of work through redundancy, it can be very scary from going from feeling secure with a roof over your head and food on the table to these basic needs being at risk.

Remember, you will ALWAYS be a family if you have kids together. Ensure that your family is setup post separation to be able to have two loving homes for your children, where the kids do not have to do without the basic needs of life. If your ex can’t afford to pay for school camp as they earn significantly less, then don’t begrudgingly feel it’s unfair for you to pay for it. Do it for your kids so they don’t miss out.

Separate how you feel about the breakup and ensure you are a great coparent for your children.

We all have responsibilities to do what is right for our family to the best of our capability.

Author – Cheryl Duffy, Divorce Coach, Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, NMAS Mediator & Parenting Coordinator

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