Following a breakdown of a relationship, property settlement is a crucial legal procedure wherein property and assets are divided between the involved parties. This includes all financial assets, liabilities, and estates among others.
For these matters, it is very important to seek guidance from a competent property settlement lawyer who will assist you with dividing the assets efficiently.
Basically, a property settlement lawyer is a family lawyer who follows specific procedures to ensure fair asset division. Property settlement can often involve conflicts and disputes.
In fact, this is why your property settlement lawyer needs to have the right experience to deal with all different types of situations and family law cases.
Moreover, in Australia, the Family Law Act (1975) makes provisions for property settlement matters for couples who have divorced or separated.
What Does Property Settlement Mean?
As briefly explained above, property settlement is the arrangement that two parties make when they separate. This arrangement is made to detail how two people divide their assets, liabilities and other financial resources when they separate.
When dealing with such arrangements, it is also important to know what “property” entails. It can include:
- All property owned by the parties either independently, or jointly;
- Trust interests;
- Business interests;
- Cars or other vehicles (boats, bikes)
- Money; and
- All assets that each party has acquired through inheritance.
Importantly, you must note that while dividing property, the property acquired during the relationship is not the only property that lawyers consider. They may even consider whatever the parties owned prior to separation, and even after separation.
Much like assets, two parties also need to divide liabilities. Liabilities include:
- Tax; and
- Any stamp duty obligations.
Time Limits After Divorce or Separation
A property settlement lawyer can advice you about the time limits within which you need to finalise all property settlement matters. Based on this your property settlement lawyer can draft up plans and arrangements to accelerate the process.
- Married couples have 12 months (one year) from the date their divorce to finalise their settlement.
- De facto couples have 24 months (two years) from the date of their separation to finalise their settlement.
What Does a Property Settlement Lawyer Do?
There is a four-step process in dealing with division of assets following a divorce or separation between couples. If you seek the help of a property settlement lawyer, he/she will follow these processes in ensuring a fair division of assets and liabilities.
1 – Identify the Asset Pool
As mentioned above, the asset pool consist of assets, liabilities and other financial resources.
Under assets, things like bank accounts (independent and joint), all property, motor vehicles, business, shares, furnishings and superannuation. Parties can hold these assets individually, jointly or with third parties.
Liabilities include credit card debts, personal loans, mortgages and all other debts of both parties.
Financial resources include assets which will be in the possession of the parties in the future. This includes some fixed future interest returns, or inheritance which is just in the process of finalisation.
All this falls under the asset pool. Your property lawyer can help identify each asset. Importantly, after having identified the assets, you will need to agree on the value of each item. If you cannot do this by yourself, parties can appoint independent valuers and your property lawyer will assist with the same.
2 – Check Contributions of Each Party
In doing so, there are various types of contributions that are checked. It is common for people to assume that only monetary contributions are considered. This is not the case. Instead, contributions could include:
- Non-financial contributions: These include contributions like assisting with operations of business, any assistance which helped increase overall wealth, or contributions like renovating the house.
- Financial contributions: These include assets brought into the relationship such as income from wages or any other investments.
- Contributions to the welfare of family: Many would be surprised to learn that such contributions like looking after the children and the house are also important considerations.
3 – Determine Future Needs of Each Party
This is an important consideration while finalising settlement. In determining future needs of the party, the factors involved include:
- The current income and financial resources of each party;
- The age and health of each party;
- The income earning capacity in the future of each party;
- Whether the party has financial support from a new partner; and/or
- Whether either of the involved parties is looking after a child/ren.
Why is it important to consider this? An equitable division of assets is important following divorce/separation. Every family law case is different from the other. But, it might be the case that one party has a higher income, whereas, the other party is spending more time looking after the child/children. Here, the latter party will have greater future needs.
4 – Ensure Fair Asset Division
It is important to ensure that the asset division is equitable, and that the processes are completed by taking into consideration all aspects of the case.
It should not benefit one party more at the cost of the other party. For these reasons having legal guidance is necessary. Your property settlement lawyer will act on your behalf and ensure that a fair and just agreement is reached.
JB Solicitors’ Property Settlement Lawyer
Matters of separation or divorce are stressful enough, adding to this, the issues around property divisions is very overwhelming. If parties cannot agree on an arrangement, it can often lead to conflicts or disputes.
If this happens, the concerned parties need to either approach a mediator, or if this doesn’t work then they need to approach a family court. This causes further delays in the process of finalising settlement, and often people fail to realise the time limits that are put in place for such matters.
Having an experienced property settlement lawyer who has expertise in family law and divorce/separation cases is beneficial as you can save time around such processes and you can rest assured that you will reach a satisfactory agreement with your former spouse.
Contact JB Solicitors and consult a lawyer, or make further enquiries on the topic.