Areas to be Aware of
Your financial settlement will include dividing the things you both own- this includes all your ‘stuff’ from your home and all assets you both own to any mortgages and debts, superannuation and income.
When it comes to your financial settlement there are two main areas to be aware of:
- Property settlement – This is the division of what the law considers to be your ‘property’. In a simplistic sense this is pretty much anything you own that has value.
- Spouse maintenance – This is the term that relates to the financial support that might be paid by one spouse to the other when that spouse is unable to otherwise adequately support themselves. Spouse maintenance is similar to the American concept of alimony. It is usually in the form of a weekly or monthly amount, but can also include the transfer of assets or lump sum amounts.
1. I just want the house! Property settlements and the Family Law
The division of your assets, liabilities, superannuation and pretty much anything else with any value after your separation is known as your ‘property settlement’. A property settlement can be done at any time after separation and, in the case of married couples, you do not have to wait until you are divorced.
There are, however, some important time limitations that relate to property settlement matters.
If you are married, you have until twelve months from the date of your divorce to have either finalised your property settlement or to have at least filed an application in the appropriate Family Court seeking Orders for property division.
Alternatively, if you are in a de facto relationship, you have only two years from the date of your final separation to have formalised your property division or to have brought the necessary application. If you are outside of these time limitations, it is important that you seek legal advice immediately as this can have a significant.
We can assist you to plan, understand and negotiate an agreement to finalise your property settlement. You can learn more about how we can help you to do this here.
2. Do I need to pay them money after our separation? Spouse maintenance
Separate to your property division there is sometimes a need in a family for one partner to provide financial support to the other. This usually occurs when one party to the relationship is unable to financially support themselves.
Spouse maintenance can take different forms, including:
- Periodic cash payments – for example, a specific amount of money paid each week or month
- Payments in kind – meaning the payment of expenses on behalf of a partner including mortgage payments, utility bills and other regular fixed expenses, and
- Lump sum payments – like a $10,000 payment to enable a partner to meet their living expenses for a period of time.
Spouse maintenance is generally paid for a short and fixed period. It is not intended to be a payment that lasts forever, but it is assessed on a case-by-case basis. Often spouse maintenance is paid immediately after a separation until the property settlement is affected. Sometimes it is paid for a few years after the separation to allow a partner time to take steps to be able to financially support themselves.
Spousal maintenance is a complicated area of Family Law. Do obtain advice specific to your circumstances. There are many advantages in receiving (and sometimes even paying) spousal maintenance. There can, of course, be some disadvantages and it is important to consider spousal maintenance as a part of your overall financial circumstances, including your property settlement.
We can assist you to plan, understand and negotiate an agreement to finalise your financial settlement, including any spousal maintenance arrangements. You can learn more about how we can help you to do this here.
Take the Time
When it comes to your financial settlement, we recommend you take the time to obtain specialist advice from our team.
No marriage or de facto relationship is the same. There are so many different variables that impact on a property settlement, that it is very rare that the outcome in two separate relationships or two different families will ultimately be the same. Things like the length of the relationship, contributions that were made to it, the type of assets that are available for division and the financial future of the parties involved can create very different outcomes in similar circumstances.
We encourage you to take the time to get financial advice about how you can best structure your financial settlement to meet your needs.