Property settlement/asset division

Property and financial matters can be settled immediately following separation. This means that if you are married you do not need to wait until after you are divorced to negotiate a property settlement.

However, if you and your spouse have already divorced, and have not yet been able to come to an agreement about how your property and financial matters should be settled, you must issue Court proceedings within 12 months of the date of your divorce.

For De Facto relationships, the time limit in which you must issue Court proceedings is two years from the date of separation.

You and your partner have reached agreement

Often clients come to see us having already reached a settlement agreement with their former spouse/partner. This is a great situation to be in but you are still likely to need legal help.

In these circumstances we can assist by:

  1. double checking your agreement and advising you whether it is a reasonable property settlement in your circumstances. This can provide you with the peace of mind you need to make sure you’re making the right decision for you; and
  2. providing you with legal advice about the terms of the agreement and how you may go about formalising it so that it is legally binding and enforceable. This is particularly important when the marital home is being kept by 1 party and not the other and mortgage terms are being re-financed.

You and your partner have not reached agreement:

Sometimes there may be factors such as violence or hostility which mean that it is difficult or inappropriate for you to communicate directly with your former spouse/partner about negotiating a property settlement. Alternatively, you may be able to communicate with your former spouse/partner but cannot agree on a fair property settlement.

We can discuss with you the best approach in both of these situations and would ask you to come and meet with us.

When you first meet with us about settling your property and financial matters, you will be asked a number of questions about yourself, your former spouse/partner and your relationship. You will also be asked questions about the financial circumstances at the beginning of the relationship and during the relationship, as well as your current financial circumstances. It will help if you can provide as much detail about the following as possible:

  • joint and individual assets and liabilities;
  • superannuation entitlements;
  • your employment and income;
  • any business or company interests;
  • whether any assets are held by a trust;
  • your bank accounts (including credit cards); and
  • any other relevant financial matters.

Based on the information you provide, we will then be able to give you advice about the likely range of outcomes in your circumstances. We will discuss with you the principles of law that are applied in determining how your assets will be settled as well as the process involved in reaching a settlement or going to Court. We provide you with this opinion based on our many years of property settlement experience.

Once we fully understand your financial position, negotiations can commence as to how your assets and liabilities are to be divided between you. This can be achieved by such methods as:

  • putting an offer in writing;
  • an informal conference between the parties; or
  • mediation

At an informal conference, both parties and their lawyers meet to try and settle your matter.

Mediation, as the name suggests, involves a mediator who is usually an experienced family lawyer. The mediator will act as a neutral and independent person to try and help the parties come to a resolution. This can be a very effective way of settling matters.

If an agreement is reached, your solicitor will formalise the agreement in writing so that it is binding and enforceable.

If you and your former spouse/partner are unable to come to an agreement after making attempts to settle out of court, it will be necessary to issue proceedings at the Family Court of Australia. We will discuss with you in detail the steps needed to apply to Court and the costs involved in doing this before you make any decision about making a Court application.

The Law Society of Western Australia Family Law Practitioners Association of Western Australia Law Council of Australia Family Law Section