Splitting up? Consider a property settlement

We look at property settlements and how these can be a quick and cost-effective method to finalise financial matters with your ex-partner.

Andrew O’Bryan has over 20 years experience and heads up the family law division of Galbally & O'Bryan.
Andrew O’Bryan has over 20 years experience and heads up the family law division of Galbally & O’Bryan. Source:  Galbally & O’Bryan.

Breaking up with a spouse is undoubtedly one of the “most stressful and traumatic events” in your life, says Andrew O’Bryan, a partner at Galbally & O’Byran in Melbourne.

That’s why it’s important to know a little bit about the property settlement process.

Sophia Pippos, a family lawyer at Butlers in Perth, Western Australia would agree. “Everything is divided 50/50, right?” is a question that Ms Pippos commonly gets from clients, revealing what she says is a common misapprehension about how family law operates.

FYI the answer is NO; and neither is 50/50 the starting point“, says Ms Pippos.

Comically, there was a “guy [who] understood this common myth to be gospel and literally divided everything in half before obtaining some family law advice.”

Four things are relevant, says Mr O’Bryan, in understanding the division of assets.

  • First, you need to work out the asset pool, this is “all assets, liabilities and financial resources“. You need to identify and value these.
  • Secondly, you need to take into account “your partner’s contributions at the start and during your relationship and after separation“. These include financial and non-financial contributions and include things like whether you owned a house at the start of the relationship and whether you did most of the housework and domestic chores.
  • Thirdly, one needs to look at the circumstances of each of the partners, including their age, employment, health status, income and future earning potential.
  • Finally, the division needs to be “just and fair“.

In almost all cases, it will be most cost effective for both partners to discuss these matters and come to an agreement, prepared by lawyers and legally enforceable.

This will “avoid the time and cost of going to Court”, says Mr O’Bryan.

It’s important however to get independent legal advice on any agreement and make sure you understand the terms of the agreement.

While it can sometimes be expensive, you should clarify the cost up front with your lawyer so there are no surprises. Make sure “the law firm has given you an estimate as how much the case will cost”, reiterates Mr O’Bryan.

There are a number of options.

“At Galbally & O’Bryan we usually take on property settlement cases on a deferred cost basis. Costs are paid out of the property settlement and not before”, says Mr O’Bryan.

Getting help with the financial aspect of a relationship breakdown has also never been easier. Butlers, Ms Pippos’ firm in Perth, allows clients to book their appointments online, offers 15 minutes free advice by telephone and fixed-fee appointments for family law matters.

Galbally & O’Bryan also offers an initial consultation free of charge.

The focus “is on achieving just and fair settlements quickly without significant cost”, says Mr O’Bryan.

Similarly, Butlers “endeavour[s] to resolve all areas of conflict amicably, quickly and without recourse to Court”.

For more information on Galbally & O’Bryan, with more than 20 years family law experience in Melbourne, visit their profile here. To check out Butlers’ services for clients in Western Australia, review their site on family law issues or visit their profile. You can also book an appointment online.

This article has been derived from useful material published on the Galbally & O’Bryan and Butlers websites. The information therein is not intended to be legal advice and  is cited for informational purposes only. Seek your own legal advice.