- What are the most common mistakes you see made with regard to property settlements in family law cases?
The most common mistakes I encounter include the following:-
- Poorly drafted and shoddy property settlement agreements – done quickly and cheaply without covering all important issues and lacking certainty and clarity.
- A failure to properly disclose a party’s financial interests;
- A failure to properly value relevant assets;
- No attention given to potential tax and other revenue implications in any proposed settlement.
- What misconceptions do you often find people have around property settlements and each party’s rights?
People often think that property settlement is 50/50 and also a common misconception is that property settlement relates only to assets that existed at the date of separation whereas it is current assets and their current value at the time of the settlement that is important.
- What are some steps clients can take to ensure they are not unfairly taxed as they negotiate their settlement?
Clients should ensure their agreement has been drafted by an Accredited Family Law Specialist who has some commercial nous. Also, the agreement should be checked carefully by their Commercial Lawyers (if they have one) and Accountant and Financial Advisor to ensure that there are no unforseen tax issues, rather than having nasty consequences arise once the Orders are put into place.
- Do the legal processes involved in family separation mean property owners must sell immediately, or can they still wait to strategically market their property?
If parties can agree on an amicable settlement then this sometimes involves the parties working towards solutions that maximise the benefit they will both get from the property settlement. If this involves transferring or selling properties at a date later than the settlement date, then this can be achieved. However, a party must obtain specific advice from an Accredited Family Law Specialist about whether it’s desirable and in their best legal interest for there to be any significant delays prior to settlement or transfers of property.
- What is one of the most unusual cases you’ve work on in the property space?
I was involved in an unusual property case where one of the spouses, after a long marriage, had secretly disposed of substantial matrimonial property by fraudulently executing transfer documents and falsifying bank statements. The fraud and the extent of it was substantial and meant that close to half of a $10 million estate was lost or unaccounted for. The case involved many different aspects of Law rather than just Family Law and touched on areas such as:-
- Criminal Law;
- Bankruptcy Laws;
- Commercial Litigation; and
Trust and Superannuation issues.
The case was unusual and unique, but complex. It required a lot of attention to detail and effort.