If you and your spouse have decided to separate, and you are starting to have conversations about dividing your property, there are a number of ways to reach an agreement about how you will divide your property:
- Private discussions;
- Collaborative process;
- Lawyer assisted discussions;
- the Court process.
These tips focus on preparing for private discussions or mediation.
Whether you reach agreement privately, or with the assistance of mediation, it’s really important to know your numbers for those conversations.
By this I mean it’s important to know what you own and owe, together or separately – your assets and liabilities… all of them.
It’s also important to have relatively precise figures rather than estimates that aren’t based on any concrete information – car values can be found on redbook; house values can come from a real estate agent appraisal, or a formal valuation; balances of your loans, savings and superannuation can be taken from recent statements.
Business values can be a little more complicated – your accountant may be able to offer some guidance, otherwise, depending on the kind of business you have, consider engaging an expert valuer to provide an opinion before mediation.
It’s okay, and in fact, necessary, to share that information and your numbers with your spouse.
It’s a good idea to see if you and your spouse can agree on your asset pool before you go into mediation, or identify what things you don’t agree on.
You don’t actually have to talk about how you will divide your property before you agree on the numbers.
Once the numbers are identified, you can start to talk about how to divide your property.
If the conversation through private discussion becomes too tricky, mediation provides an excellent opportunity to continue the conversation with the help of someone who is independent, and not emotionally involved.
The mediator isn’t responsible for checking the accuracy of those figures, but will help you work with what you’ve got. That’s why it’s important your asset pool is based on relatively precise figures.
Side note: if lawyers are attending mediation or a conciliation conference, generally speaking, we exchange our asset schedule before the meeting so that there is the chance to check figures and work out what we do and don’t agree with.
Either way – the more the two of you are on the same page about what you own and owe, share the same understandings and have the time to ask questions, the better your opportunity of success at mediation will be, and the greater the likelihood that your agreement will remain solid post-mediation.
Once an agreement is reached in mediation, often one or both parties ask a lawyer to prepare, or review, the legal documents used to formalise the agreement.
As part of that legal process, the lawyer/s will usually ask to see the documents that support the values of the assets used for negotiations, and as part of their professional responsibility, they will provide legal advice about the agreement that has been made.
The best way to make sure that agreement doesn’t start to unravel at the end, is to make sure the numbers you’re working with from the start are as accurate as possible!
If you would like a simple worksheet to help you work out what your assets and liabilities are, get in touch and I’ll email you one: email@example.com