Whether you are starting or ending a relationship or mid-way through, you need to understand relationship property law. Failure to do so can be costly. This is the area of law where clients most frequently say to us “I wish I had listened to you”.
In respect of a marriage or defacto union of three years or more (or possibly a shorter union where a child has been born) there are significant property rights issues. In summary, the law is that at the date of separation of the parties or the death of one, any residential home will be subject to an equal division and likewise there will be an equal division of household chattels and other relationship property. This other “relationship property” might include assets purchased with the income of either party during the relationship and other property that was once separate but then brought in to the relationship – say a rental property or bach that is now in joint names or has joint borrowings against it – or a business…..
If you are in a relationship where you are the more wealthy party (or may become the wealthy party) then you need to carefully consider, as soon as possible, an agreement to protect your greater share . You need a Relationship Property Agreement (sometimes known as a Contracting Out Agreement, Section 21 Agreement, Pre-nuptial Agreement etc). There are strict requirements for such a written agreement to be enforceable: each party must have their own lawyer witness their signature on the agreement and such witnessing lawyer must add their certification to the document that he/she has explained the law and implications of the agreement to the client.
The drafting of agreements is not a precise science. One needs to be mindful that signed agreements that are unfair may be overturned by the court in the future. The more you depart from a fair document the more risk you take. Then there is the importance of foreseeing whether an agreement signed today by parties early on in their relationship will be fair and reasonable 10, 15 or 25 years ahead. Andrew specialises in this area and has a lot of experience drafting agreements.