How Property Settlements Work in Family Law

How Property Settlements Work in Family Law

In this video, Page Provan Managing Director and Accredited Family Law Specialist, Bruce Provan discuss how property settlements work in Family Law.


Good morning, my name is Bruce Provan I’m the Managing Director of Page Provan Family and Fertility Lawyers, we are a law firm in central Brisbane, which practices exclusively in family and fertility law.

Most of my practice involved assisting people with property settlements. In other words, assisting people to try to reach an agreement with their former partner or spouse about how their property is to be divided after a separation and if we can’t reach an agreement to then litigate the matter up to and including a hearing in court.

Now, the vast majority of property settlement matters don’t go to court. The vast majority of matters either settle out of court or even if court proceedings have begun, they settle during the court process prior to going to a final hearing in court. So to assist the parties and our clients to resolve the property settlement issue, there’s usually a number of options available.

When a client first comes in to see us, we give them some advice about their property settlement entitlement, the process, the likely cost, etc. Often what happens is that those people will go and have some further discussions with their former spouse or partner and reach an agreement between themselves, how everything’s going to be divided up, and they come back to us and ask us whether we think that’s a good deal, and ask us to formalise the agreement by way of either a binding financial agreement or an application for consent orders.

If that doesn’t resolve the matter, often what happens is that letters are exchanged between lawyers. So for example, we would write to our client’s former partner to try to engage them in negotiations and the process of the disclosure of relevant documents. That often leads to an exchange of offers between lawyers in correspondence, and sometimes that will resolve the matter.

If it doesn’t, there’s a few options. One option is to have a meeting with both parties and their lawyers in an office and to try to resolve the matter at that meeting. That can work if relations between the parties are fairly amicable and they are able to talk to each other.

If that’s not an option, then what commonly happens is that the parties agree to participate in mediation, and what mediation involves is the parties sitting down with or without their lawyers to try to negotiate an agreement.

A mediator is an independent person, often an experienced family lawyer or a former judge, and their role is not to give the party’s advice or to make parties settle, but is to simply to guide the parties in their negotiations and with their considerable experience are able to guide the parties and lead the negotiations between them.

A mediator can’t impose a settlement on the parties or tell the parties what the outcome will be in court. It’s simply to guide their negotiations, and mediations are successful most of the time and even if the matter doesn’t resolve that mediation, what so often happens is that the parties keep negotiating and they end up reaching an agreement, sometimes weeks, months, even years later, but without the matter being resolved through the court process.

Another way of trying to resolve the matter is through collaboration. Some lawyers are trained in collaborative law, and I’m a trained collaborative lawyer and the collaboration process involves the parties and their lawyers having a series of meetings to try to reach an agreement between themselves.

Often those meetings involve third parties such as divorce coaches, or accountants, or financial planners and often they will lead to a settlement. If they don’t lead to a settlement, then the deal is that both lawyers opt out and the parties need to engage other lawyers to represent them in litigation between the court.

So they’re the options available, as I mentioned, the vast majority of property settlements can be resolved amicably, and if we can assist you to resolve the property settlement with your former partner, please contact us.

My name is Bruce Provan, Managing Director of Page Provan Family and Fertility Lawyers.

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Family Law Section Law Council of Australia Award
Member of Queensland law society
Family law Practitioners Association
International Academy of Family Lawyers - IAFL
Mediator Standards Board