What counts as 'property' in a family law settlement?

Date: Sep 17, 2015

Property settlements are an important part of family law proceedings. Deciding how a couple's assets will be split when a marriage breaks down can be a hotly contested issue, although the process can be simplified when the parties have access to the right legal advice.

When making orders for property settlement, the Court must ensure that the parties' assets are divided in a way  that is fair to both parties, while taking into account their respective financial contributions and future needs. A settlement typically deals with the pool of assets that exists at the time of settlement, as a result of the property brought into the relationship at the commencement of the parties' cohabitation, property accrued during the marriage or de-facto partnership and property acquired by either party after the separation.

But what constitutes 'property' for the purposes of the division of assets?

The term property in a family law context encompasses many different assets, such as houses, land, company shares, interest in a trust, savings and superannuation. It may also include:

  • Cars, boats, caravans and other vehicles
  • Lottery winnings
  • Compensation payouts
  • Inheritance
  • Furniture
  • Household items

Debts and loans will also be taken into account when determining a settlement. The process of ascertaining the parties' total pool of assets may be complicated, especially when such entities as companies, partnerships and trusts are involved.

Parties can start property settlement arrangements immediately after separation. A family law divorce specialist can help to get the process underway.

While there is no time limit on completing a property settlement upon separation, married couples that intend to do it through Court or consent orders must make an application within one year of their divorce. There are no time constraints if separated couple is not divorced. De-facto couples have two years from the date of separation to apply to Court for property settlement or file their consent orders.

A timely consultation with a family law solicitor may alleviate some of the burdens of property settlement, which normally happens in a highly emotional post-separation situation.