Do I have to pay for my ex’s midlife crisis?

Do I have to pay for my ex's midlife crisis?

We don’t live together anymore and we hardly see each other but am I still liable for my ex’s debts?

It is a very common story and one as old as time itself. When people end a long term relationship they often go a little crazy with the new toys. Red sports cars, new shoes and outfits, holidays, we all have a weakness for a little credit card therapy. So do you have to pay for your ex’s midlife crisis even if you are already separated? The simple answer is until you formally divide your assets with consent orders, a BFA or court orders you are financially tied to your ex and financially tied to all their crazy midlife crisis indulgence.

Until you formally fiancially divorce you are paying for your ex.

Once you sign the marriage certificate you are financially joined at the hip.


We all get wrapped up in the marriage day and the ceremony surrounding it . The date, the dress, the invites, the location but most people don’t even think about signing the marriage certificate which as it turns out is the most legally important part of the whole thing. It is that signing, along with the reciting of the I do’s that legally tie you together. It is those signatures and those two little words that make you a legal entity, that make you one from two.

And it is those signatures that also make you responsible for your partners spending. But there is a way out and you don’t have to be separated for a year to get it.

One of the most common misunderstandings about family law is all you need to end your relationship is a divorce and you have to be separated for a year until you can get one. So it is correct that you have to be separated for a year to get a divorce but it isn’t correct that all you need to end your relationship is a divorce.

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Basically there are three separate parts to a legal separation. A divorce, parenting (if you have kids) and a financial separation and they are all distinct and all different.

are you responsible for the midlife crisis jet ski or those gorgeous must have manolo blahniks?

Exactly as getting married is a legal process getting separated is a legal process.


A divorce is simply paperwork that is rubber stamped by the court to legally end you marriage. The only requirements for divorce in Australia – where we have no-fault divorce – is a years separation and paying the filing fee. But a divorce does not determine custody of the kids and it does not separate you financially.

Parenting is the most different from the other two because it doesn’t necessarily require the courts to approve your plans. If you can agree between yourselves how you will both see the kids that can simply be enough. It is a good idea to outline that in a parenting plan – a formal record of your agreement – just so everyone has a written record of what is expected but it is not a legal requirement. If you cant agree however you can go to court and get formal court orders dictating how each of you will spend time with the kids.

To separate financially from your ex you will need a BFA, consent orders or court orders. And until you get one of the three you are financially linked to your ex and at least partly responsible for their debts. Unlike a divorce however you do not need to wait for twelve months to financially separate and in fact it is wise to negotiate a property separation as soon as you feel able to emotionally.

So are you responsible for the new jet ski or those gorgeous must have manolo blahniks? Put it this way. In family law we talk about the pool of funds – which is basically everything you own together – and how it will be divided between you, and until you legally divide that pool you can both swim in it as much as you like. Which is why it is so important to take the time to legally separate your finances as soon as you can.

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For help with your separation or parenting issues call BrightSide on (08) 6382 0123 or click the book now button for a free 15 minute What’s Next chat.

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Susan Hewitt Collaborative lawyer and mediatorSusan Hewitt is the Principal at Bright Side Family Law, a non-litigious family law and mediation practice. Susan has worked as a lawyer and journalist for almost 30 years. She is an accredited collaborative lawyer, a family-law mediator and a qualified FDRP who is committed to helping families through their relationship breakdown in an honest, cooperative and respectful manner.

If you are facing a family law matter and need some advice call or email us at BrightSide