How is Relationship Property Divided in a Separation?

1 May 2023
Author: Hayley Willers

The division of relationship property is governed by the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 (the Act). This legislation applies to couples who are married, in a civil union, or in a de facto relationship.

The division of property between partners is one of the most complex aspects of a relationship breakdown. This process is known as relationship property, which refers to all property that is acquired during a relationship, regardless of who owns it. This includes assets such as the family home, vehicles, investments, and personal possessions, but also includes debts such as mortgages, credit card debt, and loans.

The Act also includes provisions for the division of separate property, which is property that was owned by one partner before the relationship began, as well as gifts and inheritances received during the relationship.

The Act provides the framework for the division of relationship property and sets out a two-stage process for the division of property:

1.      Identifying relationship property

  • The first stage is to identify all relationship property, which includes all property acquired by the couple during the relationship. This may require a detailed analysis of each partner's financial affairs, including bank accounts, investments, and other assets. The court may also consider any evidence of contributions made by each partner to the relationship, such as financial contributions, domestic work, or caregiving.

2.      Division of relationship property

The second stage is to divide the relationship property in a way that is fair and reasonable, taking into account a range of factors, including;

  • The length of the relationship
  • The contributions made by each partner to the relationship, including financial and non-financial contributions
  • The future earning capacity of each partner
  • The needs of any children of the relationship
  • Any other relevant factors, such as the health and age of each partner.

The court may also consider the concept of "economic disparity," which refers to situations where one partner has suffered a significant economic disadvantage as a result of the relationship, such as a partner who has given up their career to care for children or supporting their partner's career.

In conclusion, while the Act provides a legal framework for the division of relationship property it is important to seek legal advice if you are going through a relationship breakdown to ensure that your interests are protected and your legal rights are upheld. Contact Hayley Willers at for further information.

How is Relationship Property Divided in a Separation?
About the Author
Hayley Willers
Hayley Willers is a Managing Director at DTI Lawyers. She is a highly experienced property and commercial lawyer who deals with a wide range of commercial and private property matters including Property Development and Relationship Property. You can contact Hayley at