If your relationship breaks down, you may be able to sort out what to do with the property of the relationship in a friendly way with your partner. Alternatively, you may need assistance to reach an agreement. Your family lawyer can help you negotiate a settlement with your partner.

Property Settlement Lawyers in NSW

Is the law the same for married and defacto property settlements in NSW?

Yes, the law relating to property settlements is the same whether you are married or whether you are in a defacto relationship. An exception to this is if you were in a defacto relationship and you separated before 1 March 2009.

A defacto relationship can exist between two persons of different sexes. A defacto relationship can also exist between two persons of the same sex. A person can be in a defacto relationship even though they are legally married to someone else or they are in a defacto relationship with another person.

What is a Separation Agreement?

If your relationship breaks down, you may be able to sort out what to do with the property of the relationship in a friendly way with your partner. Alternatively, you may need assistance to reach an agreement.

Your family lawyer can help you negotiate a settlement with your partner.

Mediation can also help. At mediation you are assisted by an independent person to negotiate an agreement.

If a settlement is reached it should be formalised. That can be done by Consent Orders made by the Family Court or by a Binding Financial Agreement (Separation Agreement). A separation agreement provides finality so that neither party can make a future claim. It also provides exemption from stamp duty for assets transferred pursuant to the Order or Financial Agreement.

In fact, people can enter into Financial Agreements before they are married (Prenuptial Agreement) or when they commence living together. They can enter into Financial Agreements during their marriage or relationship (i.e. while they are happily together). Such Financial Agreements provide for what happens regarding division of property should they separate. These Financial Agreements are binding (provided that they meet the conditions set out in the Family Law Act).

Related Article: A step by step guide to obtaining a separation agreement

What is involved in going to Court for a property settlement?

If agreement can’t be reached then the matter will go to Court, either the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court.

If you were married and are now divorced, then you need to commence Court proceedings within 12 months from the Divorce Order taking effect (if you are late you have to get permission from the Court to commence your case).

If you were in a defacto relationship, then you need to commence Court proceedings within two years of the date of separation (if you are late you have to get permission from the Court to commence your case).

What are the steps taken to divide property in a settlement?

The steps in working out the appropriate division of property are as follows:

  1. value the assets of each party.
  2. determine whether it is just and equitable to make an order.
  3. make an assessment of the contributions made by each party.
  4. make an assessment under s75(2) of the Family Law Act. There are many factors listed in this section to take into account in the property settlement. Most commonly this involves considering the arrangements for children and the income of each party.
  5. determine whether the order which is proposed is “just and equitable”.

What do you need to show to be eligible for spousal maintenance?

In some cases, one spouse may be entitled to spousal maintenance. To be eligible for spousal maintenance you need to show:

  1. That you are unable to adequately support yourself eg. because of caring for children under 18 years of age;
  2. That your spouse is reasonably able to pay maintenance.

If you were married and are now divorced you must apply for spousal maintenance within 12 months of your Divorce Order taking effect (if you are late you have to get permission from the Court to commence your case).

If you were in a defacto relationship, you must apply for spousal maintenance within two years of separation (if you are late you have to get permission from the Court to commence your case).

What is the first step?

We understand that commencing a property settlement is a difficult decision for both parties. It’s an emotional time for everyone involved and the complexities surrounding dividing assets can be daunting. For these reasons we designed a ‘First Step Package‘ (FSP) for those taking their first steps in family law.

The FSP is a fixed-cost consultation with one of our highly experienced family lawyers.

During the FSP your lawyer will:

  • Explain what the law states in relation to your specific circumstances;
  • Explain the property settlement process and all the steps involved;
  • Aim to provide you with an example of how the Court will likely deal with the split of assets (depending on the level of information you are able to provide in relation to those assets);
  • Explain your liabilities; and
  • Provide you with an estimate of ongoing legal costs.

Following the FSP you’ll receive a written report about your situation, which will outline what was discussed (above) and provide you with recommendations on the next steps you should take. You’ll also receive a free information pack that will be tailored to your situation.


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