The Basics of Divorce Property Settlements

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People change. Sometimes so much so that even two people who were once so in love that they got married come to find that the old feelings are gone and that they no longer wish to spend the rest of their lives together. It’s a sad tale, but one told all too often, with over 60,000 people seeking divorces in Australia each year. It’s always a difficult time for everyone involved, not just the estranged couple, but their family and friends as well.

the basics of divorce property settlements

As if a separation leading to an eventual divorce were not difficult enough, add on the need for a property settlement after divorce, a legal issue that is actually its own process separate from the divorce itself, and one that must be resolved before the final papers are signed!

When discussing the division of property the phrase used is “Property of the relationship”, which refers to everything the couple owns, including their home, cars, furniture, appliances, entertainment technology, personal items such as jewellery and investment properties. Even if any of these items are in one or both of your names it’s not important, if they are present during the process of settlement, they are a blanket part of the “property of the relationship” and must be divided equally.

It will also be necessary to take any assets that either partner was in control of, such as superannuation or property held in a family trust, and businesses into account. All debt and liabilities like credit card debt and mortgages must also be included in the property settlement. There are also circumstances in which even assets held in one individual’s name acquired before the beginning of the relationship or in some cases after the separation must be tallied up and included in the settlement!

Moreover, one must be aware that after the separation begins there is a time limit on negotiating the property settlement. A married couple that intends to get a divorce are encouraged to begin negotiations over the property settlement as soon as it is apparent that the relationship is destined to end. In any case, it will still be necessary for the divorcing couple to be legally separated for a period of at least 12 months before they are able to file for the divorce. Once the divorce is finalized the clock begins to tick again on the strict 12-month time limit to agree upon a property settlement arrangement. All de facto relationships are required to reach a property settlement within just two years following the date of the separation.

By far the most efficient and cost-effective way to finalise a property settlement that includes the funds, liabilities, and assets accrued during a relationship will be to negotiate a mutually agreed upon document that will outline how everything will be divided up in careful detail.

The Australian Government’s Family Relationships Online Initiative offers more information on the subject of property settlements. Going through the property settlement process after a divorce can be intensely difficult, but remember that help is available. It is always in the best interests of both parties to obtain legal and financial advice to ensure the property settlement goes smoothly and is agreeable to everyone.

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