How to Get Started on your Divorce Property Settlement

 

If you have recently separated, you may be starting to think about bringing your financial partnership to an end by negotiating a property settlement.

 

As an NMAS mediator, I believe that for most couples, mediation is the best way to go about negotiations, to keep costs down and stay out of court.

Mediation is a facilitated discussion where the couple who are separating are guided through the process of reaching the agreements they need to make about their property, finances and arrangements for children if they are parents. Because the mediator merely facilitates and doesn't judge or make the decisions for the couple, unlike litigation, there is no potential benefit in “point scoring” with the judge or decision makers by, for example, belittling the other party’s contributions throughout the relationship or attacking their character or parenting ability.

In my experience, this gives the couple a far higher chance of walking away from their relationship and maintaining civility in their future dealings with each other – a huge plus for those who must have a co-parenting relationship going forward.

I believe in the process of mediation, but I am unconvinced that a few hours of mediation without putting in serious groundwork beforehand is anywhere near appropriate to unpack the issues involved in dissolving a long-term relationship.

I recommend you commit to tackling it in manageable blocks over several sessions spaced fairly close together. If you do reach full agreement at the first attempt, that's fantastic but when you consider how long it may have taken to erode your relationship to the point you no longer wished to live together, it's perhaps unrealistic to expect to dissolve it and wrap it all up in one 3 hour session. I feel that tempering your expectations and committing to working through it amicably until all of the issues are resolved is a better plan than having one session, calling it quits and heading to the courts.

Whether you decide to thrash it out between yourselves, work with a mediator, or engage a lawyer to help you reach a property settlement, you are going to need a snapshot of your family, personal and financial life.

 

The Discovery Process

On top of all the emotional turmoil, it can be overwhelming when you start trying to put together a snapshot for a complete stranger that represents the story of your life.

 

To help you get started, review the list below. If it is relevant to your circumstances, gather the information relating to the following:

  • List of assets, whether jointly owned or in separate names – with the respective valuations and whether both parties agree on these values

    • Real estate - family home, holiday home, a home purchased for another person to live in, investment properties, cars, and other vehicles including, motorbikes, scooters, trailers, trucks, caravans and watercraft, furniture and household contents, bank accounts, shares and other investments, business entities including trusts, companies, partnerships, syndicates, sole and joint trading ventures, machinery, specialist hobby or leisure equipment of commercial value, tools of trade, livestock, intellectual property - patents, trademarks and copyright with commercial value, life insurance, jewellery, collections such as art, antiques, stamps etc., airline or other loyalty points of value, unused annual or long service leave, money owed by a third party List

  • List all of your liabilities whether jointly held or in separate names – with the respective valuations and whether both parties agree on these values

    • mortgage, personal loan, taxation liability, credit cards, finance facility or store cards, CGT, Stamp duty or other costs payable as a result of property distribution, money owed to a third party, 

  • Do you have Superannuation? What type of Superannuation policies are held and the current balance?

  • Do you have an interest in any businesses?

  • Are there Trusts or other entities to be considered?

  • Are there any assets or financial resources, such as pension funds, overseas?

  • Are you aware of any outstanding tax liabilities?

  • When did the relationship start and end?

  • What did each of you bring to the relationship in terms of net assets and earning capacity at the start of the relationship?

  • What have been the contributions each of you have made both financially and non-financially – before and during your marriage as well as since separation? Please be aware that the Family Court considers care of children and domestic duties of significant importance. Other non-financial contributions may include renovations and upkeep to property or managing the financial affairs and admin for the family.

  • Are there any children of the relationship or children you are responsible for?

  • What is the current salary as well as the earning potential of each of you and a rough projection of your independent living expenses?

  • Are you aware of any circumstances that will hinder the ability to earn – health issues, caring for children or other family members?

  • Briefly, what do you believe was the cause of the breakdown of the relationship.

  • Do you current financial orders exist such as spousal maintenance or child support to a previous partner?

  • Are you currently in another relationship or receiving financial assistance from anyone else.

 

My 270-page book, The First Steps through Separation and Divorce explains this process in far more detail as well as offering advice and information on supporting children, protecting yourself, managing your emotions, understanding the family law system and thriving in your new life.Divorce Australia
Click here to get your copy

 

Visit the Divorce Resource website for some general information about the family law system and dealing with the process of separation. 

These links are a good starting point:

Why the Benefits of Divorce Mediation Are More Than Just Financial

Three good reasons to stay out of Court through separation and divorce

Four Step Process for property settlement

What is included as property to be split?

7 Ways parents can help children cope with separation and divorce

Divorce isn’t fair … and nor is a black dog’s bum

Christine Weston Divorce Resource Split Kit

Published by, Christine Weston
Founding Director and Creator of Divorce Resource
Australian Nationally Accredited Mediator and Divorce Coach

 

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The information in this article is general in nature and should not be considered as professional advice. You should seek the advice of a registered professional who will be able to appropriately assess your specific circumstances before offering their expert opinion.

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