Navigating a Family Law Property Settlement? Top tips to ensure it runs smoothly…

Article Kara Cook 04 January 2023

Communicating with your former partner or spouse after your relationship breaks down can be difficult.  In fact, even the most “amicable” of separations can be tested when it comes time to discuss how the property and assets of a relationship will be split.

Working in family law I see so many different scenarios and individual circumstances, yet my tips for navigating a family law property settlement are always the same. 


1. Seek advice and assistance from an experienced family lawyer.

This is actually a really important piece of the family law puzzle that couples often think they can avoid.  Whilst we have all heard of the high legal costs and lengthy time delays experienced in some family law cases, the vast majority of property settlements can be negotiated quickly and cost-effectively if you have the right advice from the outset.

Rather than taking advice from family, friends or social media, speaking to a family lawyer early in the peace ensures you receive advice, guidance and assistance that is appropriate to your situation.


2. Do your homework before speaking to a lawyer.

Before you make an initial appointment to see a lawyer one of the most important things you can do is collate the relevant information about ALL of the property that will be included in your settlement.  This will include any assets such as cars, jewellery, cash, savings, property, shares, superannuation, furniture and so on. 

If you own a family business together, the value of that will also need to be included in the discussions.

On the flip side, you should also have an accurate picture of any liabilities or debts that you owe including credit card bills, mortgages, personal loans, and so on.

The more detailed and accurate information you have, the easier it will be for your lawyer to determine what the best possible outcome could be and recommend a strategy for moving forward. 


3. Stay calm, measured and pragmatic.

One of the most important pieces of advice I can give to anyone involved in a family law property settlement is to try and stay calm and measured throughout the process:  try not to let emotions run away with you or take things too personally.  This can be difficult, but when you remain calm and measured, you are often able to see the bigger picture and avoid making rash decisions or exacerbating disagreements.


4. Make sure you fully understand your rights and entitlements.

In some cases, couples try to make decisions and determine a property settlement between themselves.   On the surface this seems like a practical and “mature” approach, however, unless the agreement they reach meets the ‘fairness’ test recognised by the Court, their property settlement may not be made legally binding.

Speaking to a family lawyer about your rights and entitlements will ensure that you have a sound understanding of what the settlement should look like, what a typical distribution of assets might involve and how your individual circumstances might affect the outcome.  An experienced family lawyer can help you to negotiate a settlement and reach agreement, document the outcome, and then lodge the settlement with the Court to be turned into Consent Orders.  Once this takes place, your property settlement is officially recognised and is legally binding – which reduces the potential for future conflict.


5. Don’t put things off.

Generally speaking, it is in your best interests to try and negotiate a property settlement as soon as you can following separation.

Having everything finalised and made into Court Orders will prevent future applications to the Court to commence proceedings and make a claim for the property.   For instance, without a binding Property Settlement, a former spouse who is suffering financial hardship can apply for leave of the Court to lodge a claim out of time even if several years have lapsed.

For married couples, the parties have 12 months from the date of their divorce to commence proceedings – although they do not need to wait for a divorce before negotiating a property settlement.

In de facto relationships, the parties have two years from the date of separation to finalise their property and maintenance matters. 


If you are experiencing the breakdown of a relationship, call CDQ Solicitors on 02 8556 0130 and ask for Kara Cook.  I would be happy to speak to you about your situation, what you can expect from the property settlement process and how to move forward.