At the end of a marriage or de facto relationship, dividing up the assets is an unavoidable necessity.

Division of money and assets can often cause arguments about how much there is to divide, especially if there is much less than was expected.

One party may accuse the other of frittering away the family fortune by wasteful expenditure. Or that the other party is hiding and not disclosing all their assets and expenditure. When money goes missing, who is responsible for it?  Do the Family Courts hold the parties responsible for their wasteful expenditure or for assets going missing?  The answer is, it depends.

One Real-Life Scenario

Take the real-life case in Swayne of the wife who, in 2013, accused the husband of pouring half a million dollars into poker machines during the previous ten years of their marriage.  He admitted to an occasional flutter on the pokies, but nothing more.  However, the wife produced ATM withdrawal slips at licensed clubs showing he had withdrawn that money and after blowing the money on the pokies, had little to show for it.  The judge accepted he had a major gambling problem and he should be responsible for most of the losses.  The judge gave the home and most of the money and assets to the wife, leaving the husband with very little, despite him being severely disabled.  The judge said it may have been different if he had proved he had a medical condition which caused his gambling addiction.

Most parties have to take the bad with the good financially in their relationships. They share the benefit of successful investments and business decisions and should also share the failures.

This is particularly the case if investment decisions are made in consultation and with good intentions.  They also make their own decisions as to spending patterns and are usually required to divide the assets left at the end.

But there are exceptions.

Parties are often held accountable by the Court for major gambling losses, large sums spent on drugs or alcohol and expenditure of an extravagant and reckless nature.  If the money goes missing mysteriously at the end of the relationship, or if one party has major expenditure after separation, the perpetrator is often held responsible.

There’s a responsibility on parties to give a full explanation and provide documents as to what happened to the money and assets and if a party doesn’t do this, they can be deemed responsible for losses and this is taken into account when dividing the assets.

It’s important for the aggrieved partner to have good evidence to prove that money was wasted or has gone missing; how much and in what circumstances, so that the erring partner can be held accountable for the wastage and losses.