While nobody gets married thinking it will lead to divorce, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) tells us that one in every three marriages in Australia ends in divorce.

Going through a separation or divorce can feel like the worst experience of your life, and it’s hard to remain objective when you’re in the middle of it.

While it’s emotionally exhausting, it’s also one of the most important times to keep your wits about you, because the decisions you make can have a significant financial impact.

For example, under the Family Law Act, married and de facto couples have the option to split their super entitlements during divorce or separation.

Three key things to remember are:

  • Keep your business head – a divorce can be emotionally draining but you need to think rationally at all times
  • Be mature and take control – you need to understand the full state of the family finances
  • Hire a lawyer you feel is right for you – make sure you’re well informed every step of the way

The things experienced through a divorce can be different for everyone. This is because your financial needs may be different to those of your ex-spouse because of children, lack of experience with financial planning, or financial hardship.

The basics

The divorce process can seem quite complex, but there are some basics you need to be aware of:

A divorce and a property settlement are two different things

You need to be separated for a minimum of 12 months before you can apply for a divorce

You don’t have to wait until you’re divorced to settle financially – you can resolve and settle property between yourselves during your separation and get this approved by court orders

There are detailed instructions on the Family Court website on how you can obtain your divorce through the Federal Magistrates Court

FAQ: What's a property settlement?

One of the most difficult issues to resolve when divorcing is the division of property. This usually begins around the time of separation.

It makes no difference whether you are married or living in a de facto or same sex relationship. There are many factors to take into consideration when determining a property settlement between yourself and your ex-spouse.

Working out what you may be entitled to can be a complicated process, particularly if you’re unable to come to an agreement with your partner. That’s why it’s so important to seek legal advice. You’ll then be in a better position to realistically plan for the future.

Commonly held myths

These are some of the most common myths around property settlement and separation:

  • The person with the house in their name ‘owns’ the house
  • De facto couples have no legal rights
  • We’re not divorced, so we can’t settle our property yet
  • Same sex couples have no legal rights
  • It’s my partner’s superannuation, so it’s not included in a property settlement
  • Everything will be split 50-50
  • If I leave the family home, then I lose my entitlement to a share of the property
  • They are ‘my’ children

And the reality…

  • If you leave the house, you won’t lose your entitlement to a share of the house or other property
  • Married couples can apply for property settlement before they are divorced
  • Super is included as part of the overall property assets – any super held by one or both parties forms part of the asset pool that will be divided between the parties
  • De facto and same sex partners do have legal rights, especially in relation to super
  • The Family Court will weigh up the contributions made during the relationship and the future needs of both people when considering a division of property
  • Property includes all assets that are owned individually, jointly, or by a family trust – if the house is in your partner’s name it will still be considered as part of the settlement

Get organised and be prepared

It’s important to go to a lawyer you feel is right for you. You can call your state’s Law Society or Law Institute for a referral to a family law specialist. Do some of your own research and learn about the divorce process and property settlement process. Make sure to get your paperwork in order before hiring a lawyer.

There are lots of good resources online; some lawyers even have their own websites with fact sheets that will give you a good idea of the legal process and what you should be considering.

As a minimum, you will need to list all your assets (for example, your house, car, boat, and so on) and liabilities (such as mortgages, credit cards, personal loans), how much you both earn (as evidenced by pay slips and tax returns), and details of your investments and savings (including bank statements and superannuation statements).

This will be difficult for people whose partners have always handled the finances, but this is one good reason why you should always know what’s going on financially – it just makes good sense, regardless of how happy you are in your relationship.

When it comes to you or your spouse’s super entitlements, we have a guide to how Qantas Super manages family law matters.

As a guide, the law allows the following people to ask for information about a member’s benefits in a super fund: the member, the member’s spouse; or a person who intends to enter into a superannuation agreement with a member.

Create a budget

You’ll need to consider how you’re going to manage on a single income, and making a budget is a vital first step.

Look at your income and expenses and weigh up what you can and can’t afford. Don’t forget that child support payments will likely make up part of your budget if you’re going to be the primary caregiver for the children

The Child Support Agency website includes a variety of tools to estimate your child support payments, a budget tool, and details of financial counselling services.

Financial counselling and help with budgeting is available online free of charge from sources such as the Salvation Army and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

Make lists

If you’re separating, keep a note of your final separation date.

This is important as you can’t file for divorce until you’ve been separated for at least a year. Remember, this is the date when you decided the relationship was over, even though you may still be living together.

Make lists, lists, and more lists of:

  • Your assets and what you think they’re worth
  • Your debts – and gather up the papers
  • Your financial and non-financial contributions to the relationship

Most of all, remember to look after yourself.

Most importantly...get support

Divorce can be a very stressful time; you’ll be dealing with a range of emotions while also trying to keep a clear head about your financial rights.

This is not the time to go it alone. Talk to friends who have experienced the same or similar situations, and get recommendations for lawyers, real estate agents, and counsellors. As a Qantas Super member, you have access to mental health support at no additional cost.

Ask your family and friends if they can help out by watching the kids while you attend your appointments – if you have this worked out in advance, it will be one less thing you’ll have to worry about.

Remember that everyone’s family law matter is different, so try to avoid advice from well-meaning friends and family.

Other info you might be interested in

The basics of super investments

Whether you’re just starting out or nearing retirement, it’s important to take an interest and make your super investment work for you.

Understanding risk and diversification

Investment risk is the chance that the value of an investment will drop. All investments have risks.

The role of financial planning

Good financial advice can help you set goals and make confident and informed financial decisions, now and in the future.

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