Although a divorce and a property settlement are not the same thing, divorce lawyers in Sydney will be able to help you to deal with both processes. Property settlements are often the most contentious aspect to a divorce, and you will need a good solicitor to help get you a positive outcome.
While a divorce requires a year’s separation before it can be finalised, a property settlement can be negotiated as soon as the couple decide to split up. In fact, it is often best to sort out the settlement before the divorce is finalised, if only to allow the whole process to end quickly.
The steps for dividing property when a couple separate are complicated, and the process needs to be followed whether the partners were married, in a registered relationship or in a de facto relationship.
De facto relationships are the most complicated, because it is generally harder to establish the financial interdependence of the parties involved – and sometimes the mere existence of a relationship is disputed.
Even if the relationship was not a legal marriage, a divorce lawyer like the Norton Law Group will still be able to help with the property settlement.
The steps for the division of an estate can be very convoluted. Unless the couple agree to a split on their own, which is very rare and almost always ends in one partner worse off than they would have been if they had a lawyer, legal experts will be required to assess the situation.
Assets & Liabilities
The first step is to simply establish the assets and liabilities held by each partner, as well as joint assets. This step is a lot harder than it sounds, as the wealthier partner will often try to hide some of their money to get out of having to share all of it.
If one party is not cooperating, a forensic accountant might be needed to help to unravel complex financial structures. The cost of this will likely be recouped by a court order from the assets awarded to the party that is being deliberately obstructive.
Once it is clear what assets and liabilities are on the table, contributions by each partner are assessed. This is not just the amount of money earned by each partner. Indirect contributions such as housekeeping and childcare are also considered, and are often determined to have been at least as valuable as income.
Assets brought into the marriage and legacies that would have been left to only one member of the couple are also accounted for.
Next the future needs of each former partner will be considered. If one partner has a clearly higher earning potential than the other, they will be considered to have lower future needs and support. This is particularly true when one spouse has been responsible for childcare and housekeeping while the other has worked.
If there are children of the relationship, the parent with primary custody will also be judged to have greater needs in terms of money to support the children, as well as lower earning potential due to parenting responsibilities.
The age and health of each party will also factor into the future needs calculation, as will the support available to them from family. There have even been cases where one spouse has been judged to have lower future needs due to the expected size of their inheritance.
If one spouse has entered a new serious relationship by the time the settlement is finalised, this will also affect the property division – and most divorce lawyers in Sydney have seen cases where spouses have tried to hide new relationships.
After the size of the asset pool, the contributions by each party and the future needs of each spouse have been analysed, a fair division needs to be worked out. This is almost never an even split.
In reality, when a marriage ends the woman will usually get the lion’s share of the assets in the property division. This is largely because women are usually the primary caregiver for children, and men have greater earning power because they can focus on work while their wife does the housekeeping and childcare.
There have been cases where these gender roles have been reverses, and in these situations the man has come out of negotiations with the largest asset share.
If the couple reach an agreement without court intervention, it still needs to be approved by a judge. In cases where one party is clearly not getting a fair share, judges have been known to overturn agreements and order a more equitable division.
Because of the complexity of property settlements, and the many stages at which one spouse can hide information from the other, it is important to find a family law firm with good divorce lawyers in Sydney to help you with the process.