Property Settlement Guide
Whilst never a nice process, property settlement can move forward fairly smoothly if you and your ex–partner have an amicable legal separation or divorce. Property settlement is all about disclosing your assets and getting them portioned up fairly between the 2 of you, with special consideration given for the emotional and material needs of any children that might be caught in the divorce, so if you can do that without it getting unpleasant, so much the better.
If you and your partner separate, but remain on friendly terms, moving forward with property settlement can happen quite quickly. Whilst you have to leave 12 months between the date of separation and filing a divorce application, there is nothing to stop you from either sorting out property issues yourselves or applying to the court for property settlement prior to that. In contrast, if you find yourself in the middle of acrimonious divorce proceedings, things can be a lot more complex. One of the main stumbling blocks can be ascertaining both parties exact financial status, by getting information on all their assets, debts and liabilities and financial resources (including superannuation). Clearly, this relies on an element of honesty on the part of both parties – something that is sometimes lacking when a divorce gets nasty.
If you feel that divorce or legal separation are right for you, there some measures you can take to ease yourself into the process of property settlement:
• Make a list
– write down all the assets (property, cars, jewellery, antiques, furniture, bank balances, shares), liabilities (debts, credit and charge card bills, overdrafts, loans) and financial resources (superannuation) that exist in your name. Take your time and try to remember absolutely everything.
• Obtain proof
– try to get your hands on as many documents as you can that prove that you actually have those assets, liabilities and financial resources and, if you can, get written values on them. What you are really looking for is 3 different valuations which show what the property was worth when you first moved in with your ex-partner, what is was worth at the time of separation and what it is worth now. Clearly this will be incredibly hard to do for much of the property listed, but try your best as it could make things much easier in the long run.
• Note your dates
– whilst you can put in your application on the same day that you and your partner separate, the timeline on your application for property settlement will be affected by when your Decree Absolute, which formally finishes your marriage, is granted. A property settlement application has to be lodged within 12 calendar months of that date. Very occasionally, an extension on that time frame may be issued, but it is rare.
• Seek advice
– even if you are lucky enough to have the nicest marriage break up in Divorce Court history, you will need to involve legal professionals at some point of other. Check out legal firms specializing in Family Law and Property Settlement – there are great resources on the Internet these days. Sadly, most of us have friends or family who have been through divorce proceedings, so talk to them and get their advice on how to move forward with your property settlement.
• Protect your children
– if children are involved in your divorce, make sure that you do your best to protect them, even if it means conceding property to your ex-partner.
• Protect yourself
– if you suspect that you partner is trying to deceive you in any way over your property settlement, take your application to the Courts and let the legal system deal with it.