How does mediation work for property settlement?

by | 16th Mar, 2024 | family dispute resolution, Mediation, Property settlement, separation

Property settlement after separation can be daunting. If you have separated and want to divide your assets, you might be asking: How can I reach a settlement quickly? Do I…
Property settlement can be quicker and more cost effective with mediation.

Property settlement after separation can be daunting. If you have separated and want to divide your assets, you might be asking:

  • How can I reach a settlement quickly?
  • Do I need a lawyer?
  • How much will it cost?

Family mediation (also known as family dispute resolution) can help people reach property settlements sooner, saving time and money. This helps you keep more of the cash assets to divide between you, instead of going towards legal fees. Renee Toy, a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner and Nationally Accredited Mediator, answers some questions about property settlement and family dispute resolution below.

How can I reach a settlement quickly?

There are different ways to reach a property settlement. These include:

  • Negotiating directly with your ex-partner;
  • Negotiating through lawyers (this can include using lawyer letters or informal meetings to exchange information and make offers);
  • Collaboration (negotiating with lawyers using a specific process, where the focus is on resolving issues and avoiding Court);
  • Attending property mediation (family dispute resolution).

Negotiations (either directly or through lawyers) can sometimes get stuck on a particular issue or issues. You might be waiting for a response from the other person or their lawyer, or you might feel like your requests for information or proposals for settlement are being ignored. Protracted negotiations can be costly and eave you frustrated with the lack of progress or agreement. These situations benefit from sitting down with an FDRP to work together through any roadblocks or barriers, help you to share information and understanding about the issues in a confidential way, and move forward towards resolution. Family dispute resolution (or property mediation) can be beneficial at any stage of property settlement.

What does property mediation involve?

An accredited family dispute resolution practitioner (FDRP) with legal training can assist you and your ex-partner work through the steps outlined in the Family Law Act to reach a property settlement. An FDRP will not take sides and will not provide legal advice to either party, working with you and your ex-partner in a neutral way.

There are two main parts to a property mediation. It usually takes one or two mediation meetings to work through both parts, depending on the complexity of the matter.

Part 1 of property settlement mediation – Information sharing and gathering

The first part of a property mediation helps you and your ex-partner consider the following questions:

  • What are the assets, liabilities and superannuation to be divided?
  • What are your respective contributions to the relationship (such as parenting, non-financial and financial contributions); and
  • What are your respective future needs to be taken into account?

The goal is to assist you and your ex-partner reach an agreed list of assets, liabilities and superannuation and their values (a ‘neutral balance sheet’). If this isn’t possible, the FDRP can assist you to agree on the next steps to progress the matter, such as valuing particular assets and/or exchanging further information. You will also gain a better understanding of what the other person is asserting regarding their respective contributions and future needs (i.e. the factors that might lead to an adjustment in the percentage split of the property being divided).

Part 2 of property settlement mediation – Decision-making

Part 2 assists you and your ex-partner to consider options and make offers to resolve the matter (i.e. who keeps what, and/or the proposed overall percentage split of assets, liabilities and superannuation). An FDRP works with you both in a neutral way, helping you consider the practical aspects of different options; weigh up the cost and risk of ongoing negotiation and/or litigation; and consider options that might meet both of your goals and needs.

Do you need a lawyer for a property settlement mediation?

You can attend property mediation with or without lawyers. You and your ex-partner can seek independent legal advice at any stage. If you want to mediate without lawyers, we still recommend that you seek legal advice on the options available to you to resolve the matter. This helps you to prepare for mediation. Any outcome reached in mediation is not legally binding. Both of you can seek legal advice before signing any agreement reached. We recommend that you engage a lawyer to assist in formalising any agreement reached in mediation.

How do I start my property settlement using mediation? 

For information about the property mediation process with Listen Talk Resolve, contact us here.

For general information about money and property settlement after separation, click here.

To book in your pre-mediation meeting, click here.