Property Settlement Matters

You’ve worked hard to achieve your current lifestyle, from the car you drive to the home you’ve come to know as your own.

When a marriage begins to dissolve, it can be tricky to divide property fairly and objectively – we’re here to help you manage the process and reach the best possible outcome without wasting years and tens of thousands of dollars. When it comes to property settlement law clients need decisive advice, clear guidance and a experienced family law solicitor.

What is property settlement law?

Property settlement law refers to a diverse list of physical and monetary assets. While most of us think of property as physical dwellings or things like cars or expensive electronics, it also covers intangibles like superannuation, savings, business interests, inheritances, shares, investments, jointly and solely owned assets, property acquired before the relationship began or after separation, family trusts, property owned with others and debts.

So, you end up with half of everything?

There is no rule all assets and liabilities are automatically divided in half. Instead, each case is carefully considered, taking into account all assets, liabilities and any resources available to either party to define what is fair and equitable. The court must consider the financial responsibilities and needs of each spouse, and contributions by each party which assisted accrue those assets and liabilities; arrangements for children, the health of all members of the family, each parties capacity to work.

Advising clients of a reasonable parameter they can expect to receive of the pool of their assets and liabilities, how to best take advantage of tax exemptions in certain circumstances, how to delay tax debts for investments, why keeping some debts might work in your favour, how associated agreements regarding child support might impact on the division of property and other technicalities to help you achieve the best result possible in your circumstances, is what we do. We won’t inflate what we expect you might receive upon conclusion of the matter. We aren’t interested in giving client’s inflated expectations which ultimately lead to higher legal fees fighting an unachievable outcome and you shouldn’t be either. Remember the old saying; “If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.”

Does it matter if you were in a de facto relationship? Are there different rules?

No. You do not need to be married in order to make a property settlement claim – de facto couples are subject to the same process and review.

What if you’ve already separated? Is it too late to begin the process?

No. There are three possible paths of action you can take if you’ve already separated:

  1. You can arrange a property agreement with your spouse by entering into and applying for consent orders in the Family Court. The court may grant the orders but if ultimately what you have sought is actually unenforceable, you will be left with orders which you are bound to, but which you cannot force the other party to carry out. This is why getting advice is so important.
  2. If you cannot agree on how your property will be divided, you can apply for financial orders in the Family Court, beginning a potentially drawn out process.
  3. Or you can talk to Thornton Storgato Law and we’ll help you focus on the outcome you want from the outset, and then expeditiously achieve this. We won’t get bogged down in irrelevant and costly tactics. We will negotiate on your behalf to disregard what is unnecessary and focus on what is integral to achieving your desired outcome, based upon our many years of experience negotiating and representing clients in family law matters.

Separation is a highly emotional period for anyone. While you’d like to believe you can come to an equitable and enforceable arrangement without the involvement of a legal team, it can be extremely challenging to ensure your interests are being properly represented, that the outcome you achieve is finalised in a way you can rely upon forever more, that you have taken advantage of tax exemption available to you, that various issues are integrated to make sure your property, parenting and child support issues are seamlessly resolved.

You’re thinking about divorce. Is property settlement necessary?

Yes. Divorce ends the legal relationship of spouse and spouse. A property settlement concludes who will remain entitled to what and who will be responsible for which liabilities and debt. Once a divorce is granted if property orders have not been commenced or agreed before the lapse of one year, you may become statue barred from asking the court to divide your asset.  We recommend reaching a property settlement before you apply for a divorce.

How do you manage shared finances during a divorce?

Ensure you’re protected from the moment you decide to go your separate ways by establishing a bank account in your name. Once you’ve set up somewhere for your income to go and let your employer know about your change in details, close any joint accounts. We know it’s easier said than done, particularly if your former half controlled money matters, but it’s highly necessary to ensure you have access to cash you’ve made since the split.

You both need to agree to close a joint account. In the event your other half disagrees with this move it may be necessary to get in touch with your bank and let them know there’s a dispute. They may be able to freeze the account or instate a two step transaction authorisation rule, meaning you both need to approve a purchase or expense before it goes through.  However sometimes closing the joint account.

You should request a 12 month statement for of any joint credit card accounts, direct debits and savings. Cancel any direct debits and work out another way to pay these bills and settle any overdrawn accounts.

But remember, nothing beats considered, insightful and experienced legal advice.

Everything You Need to Know About the Property Settlement Process

What Thornton Storgato Law Do Differently

We won’t tell you how to feel or how to react, but we will help you navigate what comes next. Thornton Storgato Law employs a listening based approach to learning how to best resolve even the trickiest property settlement claim – we devise a legal strategy to best meet your desired outcome and we start this right from the first meeting with you. We don’t believe in long, drawn out processes for the sake of it – instead, you’ll walk out of your first meeting with a clear idea of what a judge hearing your circumstances would decide, so you can focus on achieving a realistic outcome right from the beginning.

Our Approach

Step 1: We meet with you to draw up a census of your assets and liabilities so the final orders provide for every single one, and once final orders are entered into, you know exactly what assets & what liabilities you are entitled to and responsible for.

Step 2: Work out from the beginning what will be integral to resolving your matter by focusing on those assets and liabilities, those special circumstances which will lead to achieving the best outcome we can for you, in the most efficient time possible.

Step 3: Determine how the asset came into your hands. What financial contributions did you make, what financial contributions did your spouse make, what gifts, inheritances, redundancy payments did you or they receive and how were assets funded originally.

Step 4: Who made non financial contributions? Did one or both parties undertake significant activity to acquire, improve or conserve assets of the parties? Were there any negative events or debt that impacted the asset pool?

Step 5: If you have young children, did one person stay home more than the other? Their contribution is recognised and valuable.

Step 6: Are there other issues at play? Is there a reason why a parent can’t go back to work? Does a child need special care? Are there any health issues of either parent that need to be factored in?

Step 7: Does somebody require financial maintenance? Is there an available source of income to fund the spousal maintenance?

Step 8: If the court reflected on the order as a whole and made a decision today, what would be the most equitable outcome?

Goal: Minimise the need for a continuing financial connection between two parties and resolve all matters in contest so you have certainty of your assets, liabilities and outgoing income or financial responsibilities going forward.

At the end of the day, our aim is to avoid going to court. We’ve built our practice in keeping clients like you fully informed from the first meeting – you’ll know precisely what lays ahead so you can make the best decision for yourself.

Are there any guidelines you should be aware of?

Your local family law practitioners Thornton Storgato Law understand and communicate the small print of property settlements. As you’re getting started, keep the following in mind:

  • Although you must be separated for 12 months and 1 day to file a divorce order, you can sort out property settlement and asset division advice.
  • Do not try to hide the existence of income, assets, gifts, inheritances or physical property.  We can help you address how you may be able to claim ‘credit’ for these anyway.
  • Always seek legal advice independent of your spouse.
  • Open your own account – ensure your income (including Centrelink payments) is deposited into an individual bank account belonging solely to you.
  • You must commence proceedings to distribute the matrimonial property before the lapse of 12 months from the date the divorce was granted, so focus on property and parenting orders first, divorce last.
  • Let your accountant know we’ll be in touch. With access to your records, we will provide you with advice on stamp duty exemptions, capital gains tax roll over relief and work with your accountant to ensure any hidden taxes are avoided.
  • We’ll give you a list of documents to collect so you can move onto discussions about final orders as soon as possible.

How much does it cost?

The final cost depends on your circumstances and the simplicity of your order. While it may be tempting to DIY a property settlement order, prodded along by a downloadable kit, there are often technicalities or issues you don’t expect and have no idea how to address. Let us advocate for you and make sure your property settlement agreement is worth the paper it’s printed on.

At Thornton Storgato Law, we ask relevant, clear questions, evaluating your needs and desired settlement options from the first meeting to the last call. Ensure your property remains in the right hands – yours – with a clear course of action.