Current statistics show that one in three marriages end in divorce in Australia. For those of us who are happily married (or just ‘married’, depending what day of the week you ask me), we like to think to ourselves: ‘divorce will never happen to me’. But relationships are complex and people change, or in some cases, they don’t change when you want them to (I will need to think of a place to hide this article… possibly in my ironing board cupboard – I don’t think my husband knows we even own an iron).
Whilst I sit here and stew over my own husband’s domestic ineptitudes, I do take some small comfort in the relatively recent changes to how property settlements play out in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, and how this has helped guide separated parties towards a property settlement process that can play out smoothly and efficiently.
In September 2021, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Rules 2021 were introduced. One of the broad purposes of the Rules is that separated couples are encouraged and required to resolve their family law matter (property or parenting, or both) in a timely and efficient manner and to avoid the necessity to go to Court.
The new Rules make it compulsory for parties to complete certain preliminary processes such as disclosing financial information, obtaining valuations of assets, exchanging settlement offers, or participating in a dispute resolution process, like mediation.
Most separated couples are able to come to an agreement amicably and by private agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached after all of the preliminary steps have been completed, then the parties can apply to the Court to determine their matter.
If parties can navigate their property settlement with reasonable expectations, the support of an experienced family lawyer, and they are willing to participate in the processes, the settlement process can be relatively efficient, stress-free, and the costs kept to a minimum. A short and sweet settlement leaves everyone involved in a much better place.