Dividing the assets – who gets custody of your friends?

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Elizabeth Quinn is a writer, francophile and single mother of three young adults. She knows the value of support networks after almost losing her life in a car accident 10 years ago – on the day she planned to leave her marriage. Her website, diywoman.net, was created to provide a similar support network. There, she writes from practical experience about issues of interest to people over 50. Today, she explores the difficult choices that friends of a separating couple often need to make.


Dividing the assets of a marriage is often complicated, but it’s especially hard when those assets are precious friendships. Who ‘gets custody’ of mutual friends and who walks away from those friendships can be one of the most heartbreaking tasks of separation and divorce.

I’ve written about the importance of maintaining friendships, regardless of your life circumstances. You’ll never be in greater need of friends than during the breakdown of a relationship.

When your marriage ends, you may feel cut adrift from certain friends. You may be unsure where their allegiances lie, or disappointed they haven’t contacted you since your separation. Shared friends, in particular, may feel conflicted about getting in touch.

A contributor to The Guardian’s ‘A Letter to …’ pulls no punches in her letter to ‘the friends my ex and I used to share’. This anonymous forum allows the letter writer to express her disappointment at being ‘dumped’ by her ex-partner’s friends. And while I empathise with the hurt she feels, I understand the Kissinger-like scale of diplomacy required by mutual friends of separating couples.

This is especially true of friendships made by one or other partner well before the relationship began. The last-in, first-out logic usually applies, but it doesn’t make it any easier when strong friendships have been formed with the friends of ex-partners.

Shortly after our separation was made public, I arranged to have coffee with my ex-husband’s best friend.

Ken* and I had struck up a friendship from the moment we met. We were virtual housemates in the early years of my relationship with his best mate, and genuinely liked each other’s company.

Ken and I had a frank discussion during which I told him that my husband needed his friendship more than I did. He told me I was one of his best friends. We both cried. I told him I planned to withdraw at least until the dust had settled and that I would be okay. I hoped he would be, too.

Looking back, I still believe it was the right thing to do.

Two months later, he rang to ask if I would be happy for him to act as support person for my ex-husband in our financial settlement mediation.

I was delighted. Having him on board got things moving in the right direction without malice. We are always delighted to see each other when our paths cross, and I’m hopeful that one day we will be able to resume where we left off – as old friends who have watched out for each other’s children, seen the pattern of friendship repeat itself between our children, and watched them grow up to become parents themselves.

* Not his real name.

Have you been left high and dry by ‘friends’ during a break-up? Or were you supported? Have you had to make a choice to be friends with one or other of a separating couple? How did you work it out?

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Total Comments: 7
  1. 0

    “When your marriage ends,” Oh? so all marriages end?
    IF would have been a bit more apt maybe?

  2. 0

    50% of marriages end; the Family Court and law is stacked against men. Any bloke who gets married nowadays, in a world saturated in feminist claptrap and anti-male bigotry, has rocks in his head.

    • 0

      Unfortunately it also applies to de-facto relationships. Under family law there is no distinction when applying the family law, men are disadvantaged to a higher degree & the reason given to me by a leading family lawyer was that the courts see the woman as having a harder time getting back on her feet.
      The advice from the same lawyer (female by the way), don’t stay in a relationship more than 3 years unless her assets are worth far more than yours.

    • 0

      Psychologically both partners feel they got the dirty end of the stick. However the assets are divided up there will be bits that you miss not having. It’s a kind of depression, a half is never as good as a whole.

  3. 0

    When my marriage broke up my partner was ruthless in terms of financial matters and I brought up two young children with no financial help from him. His business interests meant that he hasn’t worked in many, many years. I worked and went to Uni. I now work a little and have a part pension. I have had a great, independent life since that relationship ended more than 30 years ago.

  4. 0

    Use a lawyer who is proficient in collaborative law!

  5. 0

    Some of the laws in devorce settlements are very unfair. My son was divorced after only 5years a out only 3 and a half of those 5 were satisfactory the lass was Chinese. I feel she conned my son into marring her has her ticket into Australia. she contributed nothing to the marriage financialy or
    otherwise. They had two beautiful girls and she put them and my son through hell.in the divorce settlement she got half his super half of everything else .thank goodness we lent him the money for the house and had a cavity on it but she still got half the increase in value of the house over the 5 years they owned it. In all she got $120000 she also got legal aid my son paid aprox $30000 in lawyers fees which has financial crippled him.this woman was then given a government house and paid the pension .During the court case this woman told so many lies lucky for my son my wife kept a very detailed diary of all the events and this was presented to the court but still she got preferential treatment.in the end she kept interrupting the judge her lawyer was told to remove her from the court and have a talk to her then come back in.final result was my son was given access to the children every second weekend and every second Thursday evening.this woman is stlll constantly harrassing him dispite the court order she was not to contact him except if there was a problem with the children.so the treatment by the court was very one sided and favored the woman despite her only being in Australia for a short time and was not an Australian citizen despite her telling her lawyer she was.



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