What You Need to Know About Property Settlement When Separating From Your Ex

Family Law

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DATE PUBLISHED: January 20, 2022

Have you recently separated from your spouse and need a property settlement but have no idea where to start? We've created this guide for you to find out what you can do now and to learn about the risks involved in delaying your property settlement.

what should i do right away?

6 things you can do right now to help with your property settlement include:


Collate your financial documents

It's very important you take a copy of your financial documents, including tax returns, banks statements, deeds for any trust, payslips and annual superannuation statements.

Having copies of your financial documents can assist a lawyer in understanding what assets, liabilities and superannuation there are in the property pool and provide more tailored advice on what you are entitled to in a property settlement. If your ex was responsible for the family finances and you do not have access to copies of your financial documents, we can request your ex provide them. We will know what documents are required for your matter.


Take any furniture and personal belongings 

If you are leaving the matrimonial home, it is important you take any furniture or personal belongings (including photo albums and sentimental items) which you would like to keep as a part of the property settlement with you when you leave. You should only do this if you feel safe to do so. If you do not feel safe, we can write to your ex and request they provide any items you require.


Beware of informal agreements

Be wary of making any informal agreements with your ex. Any agreement made between the two of you is not binding until it has been formalised into Court Orders and made by the Court or recorded in a Binding Financial Agreement. For example, if you and your ex agreed you would keep the house in exchange for you paying your ex cash, and you pay them the cash without formalising the agreement, your ex may try to make you pay more before they sign their interest in the house over to you.

If you and your ex reach an agreement on how to divide all of your property, then you should formalise this agreement by way of a Consent Order or Binding Financial Agreement as soon as possible. For more information on how to formalise an agreement, see our article here.


Preserve matrimonial assets

You should contact your bank to ensure that any debits from joint bank or loan accounts (including offset accounts) require you and your ex's joint authorisation. You may also consider cancelling any joint credit cards or reducing the credit limit for any credit cards.


Consider seeking therapeutic support 

It is important that you have a support system in place. In addition to support from family and friends, it may be beneficial to see your GP to obtain a referral to a psychologist or counsellor who can support and guide you through the separation process and provide you with strategies on how to communicate with your ex.


Speak with a family lawyer 

To put yourself in the best position, you should consider speaking with a family lawyer as soon as possible after separation, so you can discuss your individual circumstances. Please contact us to arrange an obligation-free initial meeting either in person or by video or telephone, without delay.

The steps we have set out here are a broad overview of the things you should do after separation.  Some other practical tips you should consider if you need to include: 

  • Re-direct your mail if you have moved;
  • Open a new email account or change your password for your current email account; and
  • Change your passwords for all other accounts. For example, bank accounts, social media, cloud storage etc.

what are the risks if i delay my property settlement?

There are important reasons you should not delay you property settlement and attempt to negotiate an agreement with your ex after separation. We have outlined the three key reasons and why below.


the property pool is valued at the time of settlement or trial - not separation

It is a common misconception that only assets, liabilities or superannuation which existed at the time of separation are included in the property pool and that they are given the value they had at the time of separation. This is not the case. Any property which is in existence at the time an agreement is reached or at a trial is included in the matrimonial property pool at the current market value. For example, if you purchase a house after separation, the value of the house can be included in the property pool.

If you want to retain the matrimonial home as a part of the property settlement, you should keep in mind that the home may increase in value more quickly than other assets in the property pool in the current market.

Any inheritances or other windfalls that you receive after separation but before an agreement is reached will be considered as a part of the property settlement. Similarly, if your ex accumulates debt following separation, that may be included in the property pool and will reduce the overall assets available for division between you and your ex.


Property settlement becpmes more complicated the longer after separation it occurs

Your property settlement may become more complicated the longer after separation it occurs due to:

  • Your relationship with your ex becoming acrimonious. While some couples maintain an amicable relationship following separation, this might quickly go downhill. If you have an amicable relationship with your ex, you should try and reach an agreement as soon as possible. You should seek legal advice so that you are informed about what a reasonable offer to make to your ex is, as you do not want to be in a position where you are making offers well below what you are entitled to or might result in an unfair outcome for you. 
  • Post-separation expenditure. If you know your ex is not good with money or tends to live beyond their means, you may want to finalise your property settlement as soon as possible. This is to avoid needing to make any arguments about whether the money spent by your ex was reasonable and whether it should be added back into the property pool and treated as property your ex has already received in the property settlement. 
  • Future needs. It is possible that you or your ex’s circumstances may change after separation, and this could impact your property settlement. For example, if your ex is currently employed in a high paying role but is made redundant and is unable to find another job or if your ex has children with a new partner, then this would be taken into account in determining what you and your ex’s future needs are, and may affect what you receive in the property settlement. 


time limits do apply
make sure you do not run out of time to make your Application

If you cannot reach an agreement with your ex and need to apply to the Court for a property settlement, it's important that you're aware time limits do apply. These include:

Relationship Type

Time Limit to Apply to the Court


One year from the date your Divorce Order takes place

De Facto

Two years from the date of separation

how we can help

The Family Law Team at McInnes Wilson Lawyers is here to help you with your property settlement. They will provide you with quality legal advice about what you should do after separation and what you are entitled to receive in a property settlement. If you have any questions, please fill out the enquiry form below for an obligation-free appointment.

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