Relationship Property

When people who have shared their lives with one another decide to go it alone, disputes may arise over who gets what. Relationship property (once called matrimonial property) is the assets and liabilities owned by individuals who are in a marriage, a civil union or de facto relationship. The Property (Relationships) Act 1976 establishes a presumption of equal sharing of relationship property.

It is very difficult to avoid the equal sharing presumption (subject to rules about relationships of short duration), but not if a contracting out agreement is drafted either prior to or during the relationship. To avoid any doubt as to what you are entitled to if you separate, the best advice anyone can have is to get a contracting out agreement (sometimes called a prenuptial agreement).

However, it is important to remember that these agreements can also be very useful for families during healthy relationships, as they set out current ownership rights and can avoid conflict with inheritance expectations. Contracting out or section 21 agreements can also be a useful aspect of asset planning for business purposes (for example for farming families or where one of a couple is in a high risk business). Trusts can be a useful means of implementing these agreements.

If you don't have an agreement, all is not lost. The best solution in this situation is to negotiate a settlement. If that is not possible, the parties may end up in court. Experienced legal representation may well make the critical difference to the end result.

Brookfields' experience when dealing with the division of relationship property means that we can offer an efficient service combined with thorough professionalism. We can:

  • Identify what is and isn't relationship property
  • Advise you on areas of potential risk
  • Advise on long term asset planning needs
  • Draft a section 21 agreement/contracting out agreement
  • Negotiate settlements in disputes
  • Provide representation in court.

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