Shocked woman finds out she owns 15 properties
WHEN 63-year-old Joanne* decided to leave her marriage, she visited a lawyer so she could understand what percentage of the couple's assets would belong to her, post-divorce.
The marriage had been good in the early years, as both Joanne and her husband worked hard and raised their family. But, the later years were fraught with difficulty as they drifted apart and had constant arguments which led to domestic violence.
Joanne, who lives on the Gold Coast, told news.com.au her husband led her to believe they were hard up for money and she struggled with the household budget to feed the family.
"My ex-husband always told me that we were low on money and had me come up with a budget for the weekly grocery bill," Joanne said.
"When I needed more money for something for the children or myself he would tell me that there was no more money and that me or the children would have to go without. He even said that we were struggling to afford basic living costs and extras were a 'no-no'. I was told that I had to give up any luxuries and do everything I could to save money."
Joanne's husband had always been in control of the bank accounts and gave her a weekly allowance for groceries and bills. Trusting her husband, Joanne had no reason to suspect that he had been lying to her.
In fact, she only realised she'd been left in the dark about their strong financial position when she was seeking legal advice on the road to divorce.
"After we separated, I found out that we owned 15 properties and had bank accounts containing thousands of dollars - we weren't struggling for money at all," Joanne said.
"I felt very deceived and couldn't believe that I'd been living so frugally for so long."
Family lawyer Marie Fedorov told news.com.au Joanne's story is not uncommon and many women, especially seniors, struggle to manage their finances after divorce.
"Often, one person in a couple manages finances, leaving the other completely in the dark," Ms Fedorov said. "I've noticed that it's common among people aged over 55 to see the man control the finances and, in many cases, the woman is totally oblivious and trusting of her partner."
While most cases involve older women, Ms Fedorov said she's noticing a rise in the number of young men affected.
"In younger couples, it has become more common to see women managing the financial matters and then, when the couple separate, the husband is often unaware of the financial status of their situation," she said.
"If you're planning to leave a relationship, then factoring in the financial costs of living comfortably in the future is so critical. Make sure you have access to funds to support you and your children so that if your ex stops having their salary deposited into your joint account, you'll still be able to afford basic needs."
Prior to the discovery of the 15 properties, Joanne had been deeply concerned about how she'd pay for her own expenses. She was relying on her adult son to help her financially.
"But as soon as I realised had an entitlement to a number of assets I was more relaxed and less worried about my future. I ended up receiving half of the asset pool and was able to be financially independent for the first time," Joanne said.
"The first thing that I did after my settlement was go to the hairdresser to have my grey hair coloured for the first time, as I never thought that I had the money to do that during my marriage."
Joanne has some advice for other women: keep informed about your financial position.
"Don't leave that up to your husband. You should know exactly what you own and what you owe so that you can be more independent in your marriage," Joanne said.
*Joanne's name has been changed.