When you’re in love, the sun shines brighter, the birds sing louder and the world’s a happy place. So it’s no wonder that you and your partner want to move in together to start a de facto relationship, also known as a domestic partnership.
Couples are in a domestic partnership if they live together as life partners without being married to each other. They can be opposite-sex or same-sex.
When things are so rosy, the possible break-up of your domestic partnership is the last thing on your mind, but taking a few steps along the way may help you avoid court later on.
Here are some tips for a dealing with a De facto split: 7 ways to avoid going to Court:
1. Know your dates
Make sure you have significant dates recorded somewhere – the date that you moved in together and (if relevant) the date you and your partner separated. The dates may be important later if things don’t work out.
2. Save it for a rainy day
If you know what your financial position is (or was) at the time you decide to live together, it can be much easier to sort out who gets what later on. This can be a very effective way of avoiding going to Court. Make a record of your assets and keep a copy of bank statements, mortgage documents, tax returns, superannuation statements and other documents that show your financial position.
Keep them in a “rainy day” file – hopefully you’ll never need them but if you do, you can easily find them.
Also keep records of what happens to your assets. For example, if you sell your house, keep all the paperwork.
3. The two-year trap
If, around two years after you first started living together, you and your partner separate, either person can apply to the Family Court to divide up the property of the relationship. This includes any property that either person has owned before or during the relationship, as well as anything that the couple purchased together. It also includes superannuation.
Take a good look at the relationship well before the two-year anniversary to work out whether it’s likely to last. If it’s not, consider getting out as soon as you can and if you’re worried, get legal advice.
4. Pay your own way
Combining your finances may make life easier, but in the long run it could send you to Court.
Maintain your own bank accounts, agree how bills are to be paid and most importantly keep any document that shows who paid and how.
The more proof you have of these things, the less complicated it will be to work out what you contributed to the relationship. Fewer complications usually mean less risk of going to Court.
5. Your contribution counts
Regardless of how much money you earned during the relationship, your financial and non-financial contributions count.
Make sure you have a clear idea of your contributions (for example, paying the mortgage, looking after children, cleaning the house). This may help you or your lawyer to negotiate a settlement without going to Court.
6. Binding Financial Agreements
Binding Financial Agreements (BFAs) are agreements that a couple can make about the way they manage their assets together. They can be made any time.
As they set out the couple’s intentions, a BFA can be useful to avoid going to Court. But they can also be disputed under some circumstances and, let’s face it, entering into a BFA is hardly a romantic way to start a relationship.
7. Lock it in
If your domestic partnership has ended, it’s important to try to get an agreement (consent order) about dividing up the assets. And this needs to happen pronto. It can be finalised without going to Court.
Why? Because any assets you acquire after separation can be included in the pool of property to be divided up.
The breakdown of a domestic partnership is difficult and there’s no foolproof way of avoiding court, but there are plenty of things that you can and should do to minimise the risk.
Websters Lawyers are highly experienced family lawyers in Adelaide and can help you with your domestic partnership issues, whether you are thinking about commencing a domestic partnership, in need of a BFA or require legal assistance to end a relationship. Call us now for a free initial interview. This article provides general information only. For advice specific to your needs, you should consult a lawyer.
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