The truth about divorce

The breakdown of a relationship is a sad and stressful time for everyone involved. Getting some advice can help make it easier – especially where your finances are concerned.

Divorce is ranked as one of the most stressful life events [1]. Even if you and your spouse separate amicably, divorce can be difficult – emotionally and financially. So it’s important to get support to make it as easy as possible.

While Australia’s divorce rate is actually declining (with 2.1 per 1,000 people divorcing each year, compared to 2.7 per 1,000 a decade ago) it’s estimated that around one in three Australian marriages will end in divorce [2].

What’s more, marriages that break up are lasting longer than 20 years ago – 12.1 years on average, compared to 10.7 years2 in the early 1990s. Up to 28 per cent of marriages that end do so after the couple have been together for over 20 years [3], so it’s likely that these couples will have more joint property that they need to split – including superannuation.

The cost of divorce

To apply for a divorce, you’ll need to pay a filing fee, which is currently around $1,200 [4]. If you’re experiencing financial hardship, you can ask to have this reduced. There may also be other legal costs involved, including solicitors’ fees and the cost of court hearings to sort out the custody arrangements, if you have children.

Getting your finances in order

A big part of the process of divorce is getting your finances in order. You may need to freeze or close joint bank accounts, or perhaps open a new account and organise for your pay to go there. You may also need to update your Will, and change the beneficiary of your superannuation and life insurance if it was your former partner.

While you may be able to do some of this yourself, it’s wise to work with a solicitor and financial adviser to help you through some of the more complex aspects of your divorce, such as splitting any property that you and your ex owned together. Don’t forget this includes superannuation – and the trustee of your fund may also charge a fee to split your super.

Splitting property can be more complicated than simply selling and dividing everything into two. For instance, you may decide not to sell your family home as it might be less disruptive for the children to remain there with one of you.

Ask for help

The advice and understanding of an experienced professional can help take some of the stress out of a divorce – they can help explain your rights, and support you to make the best choices as you start a new chapter in your life.

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