Family Law Property Issues in Australia

(Victorian & Australian Law)

In recent times, the jurisdiction of property disputes in Family Law has broadened. Traditionally, property was only divisible between married or divorced couples. De-facto and same sex partners are now able to apply for a property settlement, though under different law. In the absence of agreement between the parties, an application for the settlement of a property dispute is made to the court, to be decided on the basis of need.

The settlement reached becomes legally binding and enforceable by the courts. Here’s a rough guide to what usually happens in these situations…

Applications

Parties can make a property settlement by agreement or, if agreement cannot be reached, make an application to the court for a property settlement. Applications for the division of property after divorce can be made to the Family Court or to the Federal Magistrates Court where a property dispute is worth less than $700,000.

Only parties who are or were married can make an application for a property settlement under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth). In the case of divorce, an application must be made within 12 months of receiving the decree absolute. De-facto and same sex partners can make an application under the Property Law Act 1958 (Vic) in the Supreme Court, County Court or Magistrates’ Court.

Once an application is made, the parties will be asked to attend a case conference, with the aim of settling the property dispute by agreement before it goes to court. Present at this conference will be the parties, any family lawyer involved and a court registrar. If this conference is unsuccessful, the parties will go to court.

Property disputes in de-facto and same sex relationships (domestic relationships) are dealt with under the Property Law Act 1958 (Vic). A domestic relationship is a relationship between two people (regardless of gender) who live together as a couple on a domestic basis but are not married. The domestic relationship must have existed for at least two years for an application for a property dispute to be made under Part 9 of the Property Law Act . If there are exceptional circumstances, for example children being born out of the relationship, this two-year period can be waived. The relationship must have ended after 8 November 2001 for Part 9 to apply.

Property

The type of property divisible in a property settlement includes assets, cash, real estate, investments, insurance policies and superannuation. Debts are also taken into account. In a domestic relationship, as governed by the Property Law Act , superannuation and retirement benefits are not included in a property settlement. In making an order for property settlement, the court calculates the total pool of assets of the parties.

The division of these assets is based on both contributions made by each of the parties to the asset pool and future needs. The contributions of the parties include non-financial contributions, which means a homemaker will not be disadvantaged in this assessment. Future needs takes into account who is responsible for the daily care of the children, earning capacity, age, health and the financial circumstances of any new relationship. The aim is to distribute the property fairly between the two parties.

If you believe your partner is going to dispose of assets before the total pool of assets is calculated you can obtain an injunction to stop the sale taking place. Bank accounts and proceeds from the sale of any assets that has already taken place can also be frozen.

Spousal Maintenance

A party can apply for ongoing spousal maintenance if they can prove they are unable to support themselves. This application must be made within 12 months of divorce. An application for spousal maintenance is often included with an application for property settlement so that all financial issues are dealt with at once.

Spousal maintenance cannot be applied for where a domestic relationship exists.

Enforcement

If an agreement is reached between the parties, they can apply to the court for consent orders. This will make the agreement enforceable by the courts in case of dispute. Consent orders, once made, are final. A party must prove fraud, impracticality or other exceptional circumstances if they wish the consent orders to be set aside or varied.

If a party is not complying with the orders made, an application can be made to the court for enforcement. In this application, the party applying must set out exactly what the problem is. The court will then decide whether an order is needed to enforce the existing order.

A family law property settlement is an important process to go through after the breakdown of a marriage or domestic relationship. A property dispute can be settled by agreement between the parties or resolved by the court. Each case is unique and will be considered by the court according to its own circumstances. The court will not consider who is at fault in the breakdown of a relationship. Rather, it will be resolved on the basis of fairness and need.

Your Other Last Resorts – Things To Try Before Trying Divorce

Getting a divorce is an incredibly serious decision and should be treated as such. This is a last resort that will tear apart your family, destroy your dreams for the future and put an end to what’s probably the most important relationship in your life.

Of course though sometimes divorce can seem like the only resort if you are constantly arguing and if you’re making each other unhappy rather than happier, or if you just don’t feel the love that you used to for that person anymore.

Often though there are other options even though it might not feel that way – you just have to be willing to try anything. Here we will look at some of the other things to try before you give up on your relationships once and for all.

Counselling

Marriage counselling is something that can seem abhorrent to many people who maybe see it as potentially awkward, forced or embarrassing, or who perhaps lack faith in the whole concept.

Even if you don’t love the sounds of it though, you should always give counselling ago, just so that you can say you’ve tried everything. You may be surprised at just how insightful some counsellors can be, but more to the point you’ll find it sends an important message to your partner that you don’t want to give up.

You may also find that individual counselling can help. While you probably don’t see your dispute as your fault, it does take two to tango and if you aren’t happy in your relationship then this is going to come across in the way you deal with one another. Consider getting counselling then in order to deal with any issues that may be manifesting themselves in your relationships.

Time Apart

Sometimes you don’t appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone. If you wait until your divorce has gone through to realise this though then it’s of course going to be a little too late. Instead then, try spending some time apart from one another before you reach that point and see how much you find yourself missing your partner. At the same time, spending time on your own can help you to work through your problems and to gain perspective. Sometimes we just need some ‘space’ and some time to think, and going away for a few days can help us to come back with a new game plan, a new sense of perspective and a better idea of what you want from your relationship and from your partner.

Talking Frankly

On other occasions though, this is something you’ll need to talk through together. If there are things each of you are unhappy with, then simply raising your concerns with one another can make you more likely to come to a conclusion. Try listing the things you are unhappy with for instance, and explaining why you feel the way you do. Too many of us avoid honest, frank discussion because we don’t want it to turn into an argument, and ironically this will often mean that when those issues finally do come to the surface, they end up being much more intense and degenerating into a full blown argument where both parties lose their cool.

If you try to ‘re-draw’ the terms of your relationship, you can change things that you’re both unhappy with, or just introduce new rules and ideas to try and make things easier. Perhaps for the sake of your children, agreeing to maintain a friendly relationship but sleep in different rooms could be a workable solution and this could eventually lead to a rekindling.

The Other Issues

Sometimes a marriage or a relationship can be doomed by circumstances outside of your control. For instance, if you are both very stressed by your careers, your living arrangements, or illnesses in the family, then this might mean that you end up arguing and feeling very tense when actually you could have been perfectly happy together.

If you suspect this might be the case, then see if changing your circumstances can help to make your relationship easier again. Perhaps you could move somewhere new, or maybe you could address your careers. This is of course a lengthy process though, so to find out more quickly if this is indeed the cause of your problems, try taking time off to go on holiday together and see if you can re-find your rhythm.

Featured images:
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Beatrice Mackenzie is a regular blogger. She gives relationship tips and advice on her blog. She says choosing a divorce law firm can be a overwhelming task but with little patience and guidance anything is possible.

My spouse and I are looking to divorce but are worried about the costs involved in the process, is there any help we can get on this matter?

The result of a divorce or separation is that two households will often have to exist on the same amount of money as one did previously. This is unfortunately made worse by the costs that will flow from your divorce. There are three main ways in which you can reduce on your legal costs in this procedure.

The first method would be to attempt to carry out the divorce informally, known as informal separation. If you and your partner are married, you can separate by such an informal arrangement. If you and your partner agree, you can also make arrangements about children, money, housing and other property without going to court. However, any informal arrangement made when you separate may affect future decisions if you do ever go to court. You should be aware that a court may change an arrangement you and your spouse made if it considers it to be unreasonable or, in the case of a child, not in their best interests.

Another method that can be employed to reduce legal costs is through what is known as a separation agreement. This is a written agreement between you and your spouse when you intend to stop living together. It sets out how you wish to sort out financial arrangements, property, and arrangements for the children. It is advisable to consult a divorce solicitor when drawing up a separation agreement, but you should work out in advance the general areas you want to cover. This will help to reduce your legal costs.

A final method that may be used in such circumstances would be for you to utilize the services of Legal Help. Legal Help allows people with a low income to get free legal advice and help from a specialist divorce solicitor or an experienced legal adviser. The solicitor or adviser must have a contract with the Legal Services Commission (LSC) to be able to provide Legal Help. You should be aware that in such cases the divorce solicitor will only be able to help you with legal advice and not with the drafting or endorsement of any legal documents.

Welcome to Family Blawg

Welcome to Family Blawg, a legal news blog on family law for family lawyers, the general public and potential clients of family solicitors.Family Law Justitia Image

A complex area requiring advice from specialist solicitors with an understanding and appreciation of sensitive issues, family law and practice involves divorce, separation, wills, children’s rights and divorce settlements.