I am often asked “How long will my property settlement take?” It is a difficult question to answer.
In a typical family law property settlement, the matter usually proceeds as follows:
Both parties exchange financial disclosure e.g. tax returns, bank statements, super statements and evidence of significant financial events (e.g. inheritance). This is a requirement under the Family Law Act and is an important step in ascertaining the assets, debts and contributions of the relationship.
In most cases exchanging of documents should take just a few weeks, but sometimes it may be drawn out (which might be a sign you need to commence court proceedings). If there are complicated assets, businesses or significant financial events, the process may take a month or more.
If the value of an asset or debt cannot be agreed, a valuation will need to be obtained. This could take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months in the case of a business.
Once disclosure is made, you have three options:
- Negotiate a settlement with the other party or their solicitor through correspondence;
- Attend mediation;
- Commence court proceedings.
In most cases, negotiation should result in an agreement within a month or two. Mediation can be booked in immediately. Again, if this process is drawn out, it may be a sign that court proceedings need to be commenced.
If agreement is reached as to the division of property, the agreement can be formalised by Consent Orders which are filed with the Court. Court Orders are usually made within 6 weeks of being filed with the Court. They then need to be implemented in accordance with the time frames set out in the Orders…usually about 2 months if transfers of real estate are involved.
If you choose to commence court proceedings (as a first option or after attempting negotiation and/or mediation), the first date in court will be approximately two months after the documents are filed at court. You will be ordered to participate in court based mediation (called a Conciliation Conference) usually about 2 months after the date that the Judge is convinced that full disclosure has been made and that the matter is ready for the Conciliation Conference. If the matter is unable to be settled at the Conciliation Conference, a timeline will be provided by the Court for preparation of the matter for final hearing. The Hearing will usually take place approximately 12-18 months after the filing of the Initiating Application.
As can be seen, cases vary. This is because it depends alot on the timeliness of the other party (which is unknown), your patience and your approach as to how you want the matter to proceed. We offer a Fresh Start Plan to help you take the next steps.