My ex and I have reached agreement, now what?
By Liz Catton, Legal Practitioner, Accredited Family Law Specialist
This question is not uncommon for many couples who have made the decision to separate and have agreed on how their matrimonial assets and liabilities will be divided.
It is important to consider the types of assets you have which may include jointly owned real estate, superannuation or shares in a private company. Do you even know what all of your interests may be, let alone what they may be worth?
You may also need to consider whether there are any loans secured by a mortgage, loans owing to family members, or debts to shareholders, and of course, the tax implications that may flow on from this.
What you thought was a simple agreement to divide everything equally may not be so simple when you embark on this exercise without advice.
Similarly, taking no steps at all for an extended period can have unintended outcomes. You can continue to live separated under the same roof, or work in the same business, but with time the value of assets will fluctuate and human nature is such that each party usually perceives their contribution to preserving assets post-separation differently.
So what do you do? You formalise your agreement by entering into a correctly drafted financial agreement complying with the Family Law Act after both spouses or de facto parties have each had independent advice, or you apply to the Family Law Courts for Orders made in the terms you have agreed, known as Consent Orders, dealing with adjustment of all of your assets and liabilities in a timeframe you set.
It is important to note an informal document such as an agreement written down and signed by the parties is not binding. This document will not prevent a later request for further property adjustment and you having to deal with that request.
Having a formal agreement in place will result in the completion of your property settlement, certainty as to your financial position from which to move forward, and in some cases exemption from certain statutory fees and charges, if the transaction has been correctly identified as being a relevant transaction under the Family Law Act.