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Myth: The Primary Earner Gets More In A Property Settlement

It may seem reasonable to some to believe that if one partner has a greater earning capacity, or brought more assets into a relationship, that partner ought to receive a greater part of a property settlement. This is not how family law arbitrates property settlements in divorce. Instead, it takes a more nuanced four-step approach that considers a variety of factors related to the different ways in which a partner can contribute to a relationship, and the future needs of each party. 

Financial vs non-financial contributions

After determining the net value of the asset pool to be divided, the court then weighs the various ways each spouse contributed to that pool.


There are many ways to contribute to a relationship that can be broken down broadly between financial and non-financial contributions. Both are valid and are taken into consideration during property settlements. 


There are different types of financial contributions, including:

  • Income brought into the relationship
  • Real estate
  • Physical assets
  • Financial investments


Non-financial contributions are no less valuable, and encompass things like:

  • Child-rearing
  • Keeping the home
  • Decision-making over asset management
  • Home renovations


Initial contributions brought into a relationship carry weight for the party that provided them, but may need to have their value shared due to non-financial contributions to the value of those assets by the other partner. 


For example, perhaps you owned a parcel of land prior to the relationship, and considered selling it during the relationship, but your partner advised that it be retained. If the value of that land subsequently increases, that contribution to the management of that asset added value, which would rightfully belong to your partner. 


Future needs

The next step is for the family court to decide what the future needs of each spouse are likely to be, and make any adjustments to their claim accordingly. This is particularly important, as one partner often takes primary responsibility for raising the children after a divorce. This obviously incurs significant costs, and may require child support to be paid.


Also, if one partner has been out of the workforce for an extended period of time, that is likely to impact their future earning capacity. That also entails that they may not have significant superannuation savings and limited financial resources, all of which would be of interest to the court. 


Other future needs may be:

  • If you are responsible for supporting someone, such as a parent;
  • What standard of living is reasonable;
  • If in a new relationship, what the financial circumstances of that relationship are;
  • The conditions of any existing financial agreements, or property orders.


Needless to say, this myth is not supported by modern family law. The interests of both parties are considered by what is just and equitable, over and above their financial position within the relationship.


If you would like to talk to someone about your rights in a property settlement, contact us today.



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