Yes, I can and the best way for that to occur is by working together. So, to quote Jerry Maguire: “help me help you!” To do this, you need to understand how you can help me provide you with the best advice possible.
Now before you ‘turn off’ and say to yourself: “This isn’t what I want … I don’t want a Family Court trial,” just remember that the vast majority of family law property matters do not end up as trials before the Family Court. The majority of people can become informed and negotiate a final property settlement without commencing proceedings in the Court.
The quickest and easiest way to do this is for you to do some homework before you arrive. Often if you have spoken to me by telephone prior I would have told you what information I need. That saves you time and money.
So, when you come to me have the following information:
Firstly, I want to know what property interests you and your partner have. Those interests can be legal interests or equitable interests. It is helpful to know what name property is held in and that can include as a sole trader in a business, a company or a trust.
Your property includes motor vehicles, shares and if you are married, preserved (or unpreserved) superannuation entitlements. These interests will be written down in what we call an: Asset and Liability Schedule (the A & L).
Once that A & L is drafted I can see what interests there are and who holds them (this includes property and debts or liabilities). This is important because family law legislation requires that any property settlement must be just and equitable.
Short timeline of your relationship
The next important step for you to help with is a short timeline or chronology of your life together. Remember that the starting point is when you begin living together (cohabitation) and not necessarily any date of marriage.
Your history forms the basis of much advice. I need to know how each person in the relationship made contributions.
Those contributions can be financial, non-financial and with respect to the welfare of the family. Ideally, your chronology will not be longer than two pages. After all, you do not want to sit and watch me read! The goal of this chronology is for me to develop a good understanding of your family law relationship and property in the shortest possible time so I can get to the part you need the most: the advice.
Once I have that information, I will consider both your and your partner’s contributions to the relationship and I will try and make an informed assessment about those contributions. Generally, my assessment will be framed as a percentage.
With your help, I will then move to the part where I need more information about what you and your partner are doing now, as well as your plans for the future. This involves making another assessment of your circumstances and comparing them with your partner’s. Officially, this is known as considering the section 75(2) factors of the Family Law Act or if you were in a de facto relationship, section 205Z matters.
The factors or matters which I will need to take into account are things such as each person’s:
- Income earning ability;
- Resources available to them (superannuation etc) ;
- Care of children;
- Child support; and
Any other fact or circumstance which, in the opinion of the court, the justice of the case requires to be taken into account.
What happens then?
After considering these factors, I will be well placed to offer you advice about what may be the end result of any property settlement if you were in a trial in the Family Court and a judge determined the matter.
That is extremely helpful because you can take away from your meeting an understanding of the type of settlement that you can seriously consider negotiating.
Importantly, you can do so in the knowledge that you may be able to achieve your settlement in an amicable manner between you and your partner.