In my view, if you go through a separation, it is best to have a property settlement as soon as possible and get on with your life.
I find that people often don’t promptly sort out a property settlement as they think that assets acquired by them after separation won’t come into the property settlement. This is wrong, as shown (once again) by a recent case before the Full Court of the Family Court.
The simplified facts were:
- The parties married on 2 February 2002.
- The husband brought considerably more property to the relationship than the wife did.
- They had one child, born in 2005.
- The parties separated on 9 April 2010.
- After separation the child lived week about with each party.
- The parties were divorced on 2 August 2011.
- In January 2014 the husband received an inheritance.
- The wife filed an Application for property settlement in January 2015. This was obviously much more than 12 months after divorce, but the court gave her leave to proceed with the Application.
- At the time of the hearing before the trial magistrate, the value of the net property, other than the inheritance, was $909,633. The husband had assets from the inheritance valued at $430,686. The combined value was $1,340,319.
- The trial judge assessed the contributions at 75% to the husband and 25% to the wife. He made a 10% adjustment in favour of the wife for future needs factors, primarily because the husband had a higher income than the wife.
- The end result was that the wife received property with a value of 35% of $1,350,319 ie $472,611.65 and the husband received property with a value of 65% of $1,350,319 ie $877,707.35.
- The husband appealed to the Full Court. The main ground being on how the trial magistrate had treated the inheritance.
- The Full Court dismissed the appeal and ordered the husband to pay the wife’s legal costs of the appeal.
It is my experience that cases which remain unresolved for a long time after separation almost always become more complicated.
In this case the husband would have been better off if he had sorted out the property settlement soon after separation. The assets that existed at that time would have been divided. He would have kept his inheritance.
So, sort out your property settlement as soon as possible! And, don’t forget, that to be binding it needs to be formalised by Orders made by a court or by a Financial Agreement.