Whether we like it or not, there are times in life when we have to choose our battles. In other words, we have to decide whether it is worth arguing over the issue at hand. This decision is often a factor when separated or divorced couples try to reach agreements regarding the division of property.
The bottom line if you’re currently trying to reach a mutually acceptable property settlement is that you and your former partner must be willing to negotiate. This is not the time for either one of you to be stubborn or make unreasonable demands. Beyond that, here are four (4) important things to consider when negotiating your property settlement.
Honesty is the best policy when identifying assets and liabilities
Australian family law mandates full and timely disclosure of all relevant financial information – including the assets and liabilities for inclusion in a property pool. Aside from the fact that the court doesn’t appreciate it when parties don’t comply, accidental or deliberate deception can have unpleasant consequences. Firstly, it may lead to heightened suspicion, scrutiny and tension between you and your former spouse, which makes a settlement less likely at mediation. Secondly, if you have not disclosed your entire property portfolio, it will open the case up at a later date for review.
If need be, don’t be afraid to consult qualified legal and financial professionals who can help you identify and value everything that should be included in the property pool.
Compassion and consideration are important
It is understandable if you harbor resentment or anger towards your former partner or spouse – especially if violence or infidelity led to your separation. However, if it is at all possible, it is important to consider his or her immediate needs. This is because he or she may have legitimate concerns about making ends meet or finding a place to live in the short term. Agreeing to terms that address these needs will undeniably benefit you both in the long run.
Be realistic when assessing your needs
It is also important to think things through when assessing your own needs in the context of a property settlement. Do you really need a greater portion of the total property than your former partner or spouse? Or are you just trying to get it out of malice, or spite? Then again, is splitting everything equally actually ‘fair’? Are you thinking about your immediate and long-term needs?
These are all valid questions because the reality is – assets rarely hold their value. Some will be worth more in the short term, less in the long run and vice versa. This means a successful property settlement isn’t necessarily one in which you ‘get’ more than your former spouse, but rather one in which you get the assets most compatible with your current and future financial needs.
Within this context, it may be helpful to start with an honest evaluation of your current situation, and your immediate and long-term goals. Again, it is perfectly okay to consult with a financial planner, accountant or similar financial professional if you don’t feel comfortable doing this on your own.
Don’t let your emotions dictate the outcome
Even if you and your ex are still on relatively good terms, tempers may flare during property settlement negotiations. This may be due to lingering, unspoken resentment or something else altogether. In any case, heated emotions can and do kill negotiations. If that happens, you may be forced to turn to the courts – which can be extremely expensive and unpleasant.
Although it can be incredibly difficult, it’s essential that you try to keep your own emotions in check, and handle the property settlement negotiations the same way you’d handle any other significant business transaction. By putting your own feelings on the back burner, you can concentrate on maintaining a civil dialogue, pick up on any cues that the negotiations may be in jeopardy and act accordingly. Your lawyer should handle the situation without the emotion.
Finally, it’s important to remember that you know your former partner or spouse better than any outsider does. This means you shouldn’t feel compelled to begin or continue negotiations if you know the other person isn’t amenable to moving forward at the time. Doing so can easily backfire and, in a worst-case scenario, end the chance of having any constructive discussions at all.
Clearly, how you approach your property settlement will depend on the specific circumstances of your case, and these are just a few general pointers. For more information about reaching a property settlement, please feel free to send us an enquiry or contact us today.