If you are about to begin your property settlement following separation or divorce, you can be forgiven for wondering where the hell to start.
Depending how long you have been together with your now ex-partner and the number/type of assets you own between you, it could be a complex process. It can also be fraught with tension and emotion which has a terrible habit of shifting your focus.
Further reading: Ways to remove your emotions from a financial settlement process.
Getting professional support is highly recommended.
The question: Who do you turn to for help with your property settlement in the knowledge that you are in the best hands for the best outcome?
For many, this is no-brainer … a lawyer, of course. And there are some separations, especially those involving complex child custody or domestic violence that do require legal advice and/or support.
However, if you need professional assistance with your financials when you break-up, a smarter choice is to use a specialist separation accountant. In fact, many lawyers will look to an accountant for advice if they have been assigned a complicated financial split.
So why not cut out the middleman (or woman)?
Instead, use a specialist separation accountant who will work with both you and your ex-partner to find the absolutely best way out of your joint financial obligations by providing solution-driven advice, tailored to your financial separation. They can even get consent orders signed-off by a family court without you stepping foot inside one.
In short, a specialist separation accountant will keep your financial separation on track and allow you to make educated decisions based on targeted advice for a shorter, more amicable and less expensive separation.
To dig deeper into this topic here are some tricks for a successful property settlement (that your lawyer may not mention).
COMPLETE UNDERSTANDING OF A CLIENT’S FINANCIAL POSITION
A separation accountant will work to understand each of the clients’ financial positions. This includes all the assets and liabilities that make up the asset pool, including superannuation.
They can then outline specific financial matters for clients to consider possible options and outcomes for their particular situation. Arming ex-couples with as much knowledge as possible as well as realistic results empowers them to make confident decisions for the good of their whole family
Property settlements are too important and personal to use a “one glove fits” all scenario.
THINK FORWARD IN RELATION TO ASSETS AND LIABILITIES
Although many separating couples are desperate to split and move on, thinking forward is a huge part of ensuring the financial split is just and equitable.
To do this a separation accountant will offer practical advice along-side step-by-step action plan support in relation to what to do with each asset and liability. Here are some examples:
- Where couples have no children at home and propose one buying the other out of the house, a separation accountant will ask them to consider if this house still meets their needs. This is because if they plan to down-size they are best to sell the home now to gage what the exact numbers are, rather than working on estimated values and then have one party sell the property down the track. Only use estimates if a person is to keep a property. Otherwise, it is best to deal with actual costs to prevent an estimation benefiting one person and disadvantaging the other.
- When house and super are the only assets, and the house needs to be sold to split assets, a separation accountant will work with a couple if they want their children to stay in the family home for few years. They can structure a deal that has the home being sold in the future and a formula in place for how much the other party is to be paid. This would include who pays the mortgage and house expenses in the interim.
- When one person is finishing studying and will then be able to earn a full-time income in the future on a higher salary, a separation accountant will structure supports to enable that to occur as it will benefit both parties down the track.
WORK THROUGH BORROWING CAPACITIES
For many couples going through a separation, the ideal scenario is for them to each be able to borrow and purchase their own property in their own names.
A specialist separation accountant will encourage clients to determine their borrowing capacities with banks and/or mortgage brokers. This information will then be used to decide how to allocate cash and super between the parties for the desired outcome of purchasing a home each.
EXPLORE OPTIONS TO FUND THE KIDS
Moving forward as a separated couple with children comes with some unexpected expenses. These, if not accounted for during a property settlement, may cause conflict and tension in your co-parenting relationship.
For this reason, a separation accountant will encourage you to explore options to fund your children at the time of separation.
These costs may include items such as:
- Private school fees
- Expensive extracurricular activities
- Orthodontist fees
- School trip expenses
- Vehicles (when your children start to drive)
Exploring these options and agreeing on how to fund children’s costs at this time of financial transition will smooth the path moving forward and prevent financial conflict upsetting a carefully balanced co-parenting relationship.
SEPARTING WITH A FAMILY BUSINESS
For ex-couples who own a business together, the financial settlement will be further convoluted and definitely worthy of an accountant, rather than a family lawyer.
Considerations will include a transparent understanding of the business structure, as well as how to value the business and how it fits into a property split.
TAX IMPLICATIONS IN A PROPERTY SPLIT
Separation can lead to some unplanned and significant tax consequences.
Irrespective of your financial situation it is important that potential tax implications are considered to ensure the split of assets and liabilities is consistent with the split you have agreed.
If assets are to be transferred and account for future tax payable, a specialist separation accountant will ensure that one person does not inherit liabilities which have not been accounted for.
At Divide, no matter how simple or complex your family financial structure is, we can assist you to work through the tax implications of your separation.
Get a better understanding here: Tax consequences of divorce.
SUPER AND SEPARATION
Superannuation can be confusing at the best of times and it is often a big component and sometimes a bone of contention in a property settlement.
If self-managed upper funds are to be split or wound-up, we will give you options as to how the assets in these funds can be treated so that member balances can be converted to cash. Or we will work with clients to wind up self-managed super funds and roll out member balances into retail funds.
Understanding exactly how super fits into your separation in a way that is beneficial to both parties, now and in the future, can significantly change the outcome for the better. It also gives you and your ex-partner the knowledge to make educated decisions that sit comfortably with you both.
For more support see: Superannuation and separation – How it works.
Here at Divide, we are Chartered Accountants who specialise in property settlement and have extensive knowledge that will be of benefit to any separating couple. We also take pride in working with both parties to create a “team” environment for a fast, solution-driven, more peaceful settlement. Book a free chat with us to discuss your personal situation.