If you are separating from your partner it is important to remember time limits when separating and protect yourself with a property settlement within this time frame. People who enter into marriages and de facto relationships create a very special relationship emotionally, socially, and legally. That special relationship brings many rights and obligations at law. It is these legal implications of a relationship that allow a property division to take place when a relationship ends or when a couple are separating.
Dividing up property and having a property settlement is different for every separating couple. To understand exactly what you need to do, it is best to speak with a family lawyer.
It is also important that you know that there can be time limits on when a property division can take place.
How early can we do a property settlement?
You can do a property settlement as soon as separation takes place. To ensure that your property settlement is legally recognised, you should engage with a lawyer and do things properly. This process can take a few weeks or a few months depending on the case.
De facto time limits
If you have been in a de facto relationship and you have separated, it is important that you know that you only have two years to make an application to the court to have a property settlement take place.
Example: John and Sarah separate on 31 August 2013. They have a house together, bank accounts, and cars, but they never got married. John and Sarah talk about how they want to divide up the property but can never reach an agreement.
John and Sarah must either enter into a legally recognised agreement, or make an application to the court by 31 August 2015. If they do not do this, they no longer fall under the Family Law Act, and this can cause serious legal issues for them.
Marriage time limits
If you have been married, it is important to know that there is no time limit on when a property settlement has to take place, unless you have gotten a divorce and more than 12 months has passed. This is very important to consider as it means that the legal rights and obligations that your marriage has created do not end until you do have a legally recognised agreement or a court order in place.
Example: Chris and Tammy have been married for seven years. They have each have superannuation, cars, bank accounts, and credit cards. They also have a house and a mortgage. They separate on 1 May 2012. Although they often talk about it, they cannot reach an agreement on how to split up the property and who should have to pay the credit cards. On 30 June 2013, Tammy applies for a divorce, and the divorce is granted on 1 August 2013. Chris and Tammy then only have until 1 August 2014 to enter into a legally recognised agreement or make an application to the court for a property settlement. If they do not do this in time, then they no longer fall under the Family Law Act and this will lead to serious legal issues for both of them.