The law regulating property division, otherwise known as property settlement, is contained in the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth). All references in this section are to this Act unless otherwise stated.
The law sets out how separated couples, whether they were married or de facto (see De facto relationships, Two year time requirement – property disputes), can go about dividing their property.
The purpose of a property settlement is to bring to an end the financial relationship between the parties [see s 81 for married relationships and s 90ST for de facto relationships]. A property settlement should therefore cover all of the property between the parties and should take into account the whole financial situation of each.
The Family Law Courts have the power to make property settlement orders which alter the interests of each of the parties to the property between them [see s 79 for married relationships and s 90SM for de facto relationships]. However, before making any orders, whether by consent between the parties or following a trial, there are four main steps that the Family Law Courts follow.
Step OneIdentifying and valuing the property between the parties
Step TwoConsider the contributions of each of the parties
Step ThreeConsider the future needs of each of the parties
Step FourConsider whether the proposed property settlement is just and equitable
For information about how to work towards an agreement, with these steps in mind, please see Coming to an agreement.
See also the publication by Relationships Australia, A fair share: Negotiating your property settlement
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