Reading time: 3 minutes

So you’ve separated and are undertaking the arduous and painful task of divvying up your assets. Naturally, in order to undertake such a task, you’re getting copies of all your bank statements and credit card bills, only to discover a shocking secret. You ex’s ‘light flutter at the TAB’ each Saturday is much more than a ‘light flutter’ and the gambling debt has mounted, be it by way of credit cards or loans secured over your property.

What next?

Sadly, this scenario is all too common in the family law sphere but, thankfully, such conduct of one party, particularly when it was hidden from the other, is not ignored by the Family Law Court in division of the matrimonial pool.

Four Step Process

The Family Court undertakes a 4 step process when dividing property between former spouses. Even if you have no intention of taking the matter to Court, you should follow this process too.

The 4 steps are:

  1. Ascertaining and valuing the asset pool – that includes all assets and all liabilities;
  2. Assessing the respective contributions of each party;
  3. Making adjustments (if needed) to take into account the future needs of each party; and
  4. Ensuring that the division reached is ‘just and equitable’.

Does the Liability form part of the matrimonial pool?

Essentially, yes. The matrimonial pool will consist of all assets and liabilities as at the day of trial (i.e. today) so that credit card debt or secured loan needs to go on the ledger, regardless of whose name it is in.

Negative Contributions

Step ‘2’ of the Four Step Process involves an assessment of the respective parties’ contributions, including financial and non-financial contributions. Generally, a party who is deemed to have made greater contributions will receive a ‘bigger piece of the pie’.

Similarly, the Family Court can recognise negative contributions, whereby an adjustment is made against the wrongdoer. Gambling is the most common basis upon which a negative contribution is recognised.

Where one party has acted recklessly, negligently or wantonly with matrimonial assets, the overall effect of which has reduced or minimised their value, for example, excessive gambling, spending excessive sums on drugs, alcohol or the downloading of internet pornography, the Court may in its discretion make an adjustment in favour of the other, ‘innocent’ party. There are a number of cases where the Court has applied this principal to a circumstance of excessive gambling, and made an adjustment accordingly.


If gambling has affected your relationship with your ex-spouse and you are concerned about how this will play into the division of your matrimonial property pool, get in touch with a family law lawyer. In addition to assessing the conduct for Family Law purposes, they may be able to assist you to take active steps to ensure what’s left of your assets remains protected.

Please note that LegalVision is a commercial law firm and cannot assist with these matters. We recommend you contact your local law society.


COVID-19 Vaccines In The Workplace

Thursday 10 February | 11:00 - 11:45am

Can you compel employees to have a COVID-19 vaccine? Understand your rights and responsibilities as an employer. Register today for our free webinar.
Register Now

Preventing Wage Underpayment In Your Franchise

Wednesday 16 February | 11:00 - 11:45am

Learn how to identify and prevent wage underpayment in your franchise. Register today for our free webinar.
Register Now

How to Prevent and Manage Commercial Contract Disputes

Thursday 24 February | 11:00 - 11:45am

Learn how to prevent and manage common commercial contract disputes. Register today for our free webinar.
Register Now

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a commercial law firm that provides businesses with affordable and ongoing legal assistance through our industry-first membership.

By becoming a member, you'll have an experienced legal team ready to answer your questions, draft and review your contracts, and resolve your disputes. All the legal assistance your business needs, for a low monthly fee.

Learn more about our membership

Our Awards

  • 2020 Excellence in Technology & Innovation Finalist – Australasian Law Awards
  • 2020 Employer of Choice Winner – Australasian Lawyer
  • 2021 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500
  • 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review
  • 2021 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards
  • 2019 Most Innovative Firm - Australasian Lawyer