There are some general matters that the Court will consider in determining a property dispute between separated de facto or married couples. The Court will usually follow a “four-step” process to determine how a property pool should be divided between the parties.
Firstly, the Court will determine the net asset pool of the parties by listing all assets and liabilities in which both or either of the parties has an interest. This property pool includes superannuation and any other financial resource. The value of the assets and liabilities are usually determined by the parties, or, in the absence of an agreement, an expert can be appointed to provide an opinion. The Court will then add up the values of all the liabilities and deduct this from the total value of the assets and superannuation entitlements combined. This value is described as the net asset pool amount.
Then, the Court assesses the contributions of the parties to the acquisition, maintenance, and improvement of the property pool value. Contributions may be categorised as financial contributions and non-financial contributions (including homemaker and parenting contributions). After hearing evidence about each of these types of contributions, the Court will determine on a percentage scale where each of the parties fell. In longer relationships, the Court is more inclined to find that the contributions by each of the parties are relatively even, or closer to 50/50.
The Court will then examine the needs of the parties going forward, essentially looking into a crystal ball to determine if either party has a greater future need compared to the other, that must be taken into account. Arguably, the most significant of these future needs may stem from the parenting arrangements, but other needs include the medical needs of either party, or their respective income earning capacities. After hearing the ‘needs’ of each of the parties, the Court determines whether a percentage adjustment is to be made on account of this.
Finally, the Court must decide whether the final division of assets (after the above steps is followed) is just and equitable, or whether a further adjustment is necessary.
If you require advice surrounding your property settlement, contact our office to speak to one of our Accredited Specialists in Family Law. Advice should be sought in respect to your particular situation and the likely range of outcomes prior to coming to an agreement with your spouse.