Slater and Gordon family lawyers surveyed more than 2,000 people who are in a committed relationship, with 48 per cent saying they would consider staying in an unhappy union if it provided financial security. An additional three percent said they were currently in this situation.
Despite the importance of financial security, almost one third (32 per cent) of respondents said they almost never or only infrequently discussed their financial position, including their bills and debts, with their partner.
The remainder (68 per cent) said they discussed their financial position on either a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
Senior family lawyer Heather McKinnon said financial problems were among the most common causes of marriage breakdowns.
“Financial problems put a lot of pressure on couples and can lead to conflict if not properly addressed," Ms McKinnon said.
“Many Australians are now turning their minds to their personal finances as they prepare to lodge their annual tax returns and I think now is the perfect time for couples to have an honest conversation about their finances.
“It’s important that both parties have an understanding of their finances and work together so that one of them does not feel like the other has all the control or that they are being locked out of financial decisions.
"As family lawyers we often come across clients who do not really have a clear picture of their financial state and that can lead to misunderstanding and resentment.
“Ultimately, if a couple was to split up it’s important they know where they stand financially,” she said.
Ms McKinnon said separating couples should get independent legal and financial advice if they were concerned about the financial impact of breaking up.
“In family law, the general principle of "what's mine is yours, what's yours is mine and what's ours is ours" applies – in other words any property or assets owned by the couple, whether individually or jointly, will be taken into account if a couple splits up,” she said.
Ms McKinnon said there were two ways that property and assets could be divided up – either through a negotiated settlement reached by mutual agreement or through the Family Court if agreement could not be reached.
“Most Australian couples will negotiate a settlement without the need to go to court, but when they cannot agree they can turn to family lawyers for assistance.”