If you want legal advice about your entitlement from a property settlement, you can reduce your legal costs by compiling your own list of ASSETS & DEBTS before you see your lawyer...

Not surprisingly, the first step in sorting out a property settlement is to get together an accurate list of assets and debts and their values... whether the asset is owned in joint names, your name or your partner’s name.

When you see a solicitor, one of the first things they will ask you is "what do you and your partner own?"

If you go to mediation the mediator will want a list of assets and debts and their values.

If you go to court then both you and your partner will need to complete a Financial Statement which, among other things, will list your assets and debts and your estimate as to their value.

Naturally, it helps if you have documents to verify the existence of the asset/debt and your estimate as to value.

What can I do to save money on my Property Settlement?

So, what can you do to get things going quickly (and reduce your legal costs by making things easier for your solicitor!)? Here is a list of some common assets and debts and what you can provide:  

  1. House (and investment properties if relevant).  Get two or three written market appraisals by real estate agents. If your partner lives in the house hopefully they will cooperate (if not, you can describe the house to the agent and get the agent to do a ‘drive by’ appraisal). At some point in time it may be necessary/helpful to obtain a formal valuation.  Normally you wouldn't get a valuation right at the outset and you would normally talk with your solicitor before doing so.  You should also get an up to date mortgage statement.
  2. Cars.  Go to one of the many websites (eg www.redbook.com.au) and obtain a print out for all relevant vehicles.  It is not a valuation for the car, but in most cases agreement can be reached eg to take the midpoint of the private sale figure.
  3. Superannuation.  For both for you and your partner obtain two things:
    1. A copy of the most recent statement for each relevant fund.
    2. An up to date figure (you probably won't be able to do this for your partner).  In recent times values of super have changed quickly and the most recent statement may be many months old.  Go online and print off the up to date figure or, if you don't have this access, make a phone call to the fund to obtain the current figure.
  4. Shares.  Provide evidence of all shares.  This can be done in various ways, eg providing a copy of the most recent dividend statement.
  5. Savings, credit cards, loans.  Provide an up to date statement to show current balances.  In some cases it may be necessary to provide statements going back further in time.
  6. Companies, trusts, partnerships and businesses.  Provide complete financial statements and tax returns for the last three years.

Although not an asset, it is helpful to have the last three completed tax returns and Notices of Assessments for both you and your partner.  It is also helpful to have the last few payslips.  They will provide evidence of current income and usually also provide evidence of leave entitlements.

It is highly likely that you won’t be able to get the above for both you and your partner. The more you can get the better. It may be that your solicitor will have to write to your partner to obtain their complete disclosure.