Even if you are breaking up amicably, you may need a formal agreement to legally end your relationship. It’s great if you can come to an amicable agreement about finalising and separating your finances when a relationship breaks down. But beware, such agreements may not be worth the paper they are (or are not) written on!
The Benefits Of Family Court Consent Orders
There are real advantages in getting your agreements written up as Consent Orders and registering them in the Family Court including:
- certainty about what is going to happen with your assets and liabilities;
- stamp duty exemptions when transferring real estate;
- capital gains tax relief on real estate transfers;
- finality of the financial relationship
- a legally enforceable and binding arrangement.
Under the family law, written or verbal agreements about financial matters and property settlement are not legally enforceable (and no-one has to follow them) unless and until they are formally registered by the Family Court as “Consent Orders”. Even if you write your understanding down and have the document witnessed, it will mean nothing when and if things change later on unless you go through the formal process. Bad luck if someone breaks the agreement and you want to enforce the terms you agreed in such a friendly spirit when you separated.
This does not mean you have to go to the trouble and expense of hiring lawyers to write up your agreements (although, if it’s a complex arrangement, you may want to shift the responsibility to a lawyer). You can go to a Family Court website and download all the necessary documents and do it yourself. Or you might choose to engage an experienced family mediator in Perth to help you work through the issues that have to be dealt with in preparing Consent Orders. And to make sure you have all the bases covered.
Be careful also with informal agreements about what will happen with the kids. Again, unless the agreements have been prepared as part of Consent Orders, you run the risk that if things go off the rails it may be difficult to get the train back on without having a fight in the Family Court – at potentially great expense in time and money. Your agreements don’t have to be complex but you do need to cover eventualities, like one of the parents deciding to move inter-state or wanting the kids to spend extra time with them during holidays.
Talk through these issues with an experienced family mediator in Perth so that you get the certainty you want and the kids need as they grow up and circumstances change.
Remember, Consent Orders can be registered in the Court for a minimal fee (currently around $160), which might save you a lot of heartache and expense down the track.