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Property Settlement Agreement – Can the Court Split Employment Bonuses?

What is Property?

When negotiating a property settlement agreement, one of the first steps to be considered is what property you and your former spouse have or own. This step is important as only property can be subject to a property settlement agreement. The Family Law Act defines property as “any property in the possession of either party, either vested or in remainder.”  Property of the relationship generally includes:

  • All assets that are owned, g. the family home, motor vehicles, personal items
  • All assets under your control, e.g. a business, superannuation, shares and funds at bank
  • All liabilities, e.g. mortgages, credit cards, hire purchase agreements

Are Employment Bonuses Property?

In the case of Ilannello & Ilannello (No 3) [2018] FCCA 3752 (19 December 2018) the Court considered the question of whether the wife’s future employment bonus payments could be the subject of a property order.

Facts of the Case

In this case, the husband had suffered a workplace accident and had been unemployed since 2013. The husband was living on a permanent disability payment from his super fund. While he owned about $78,000 in shares, he claimed that his legal fees were equally as much. On the other hand, his wife had a base salary of $190,000 per year plus employment bonuses. In the previous year, the wife received $54,000 in bonuses.

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Quick Questions Answered: Property Settlement Agreement

  1. What is a Property Settlement Agreement?

A Property Settlement Agreement contains the agreed terms to divide property between you and your former partner following separation. This includes assets, liabilities and superannuation.

  1. When Can I Get A Property Settlement Agreement?

You can finalise a property settlement agreement as soon as you and your former partner have decided to separate i.e. end your relationship.

  1. What if we are still living under the same roof?

You can be living under the same roof but still be considered ‘legally separated’. You do not need to be living in separate households; however, your relationship does need to have ended.

  1. What are the deadlines for obtaining a Property Settlement Agreement?

The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) provides some “deadline dates” depending on whether you were married or in a de facto relationship. There are some exceptions however, the general rule is:

For married couples: You have 12 months from the date your divorce* comes into effect to make an application for a Property Settlement.

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Property Settlement Agreement

The law encourages parties to negotiate and reach an amicable agreement as to the division of property following separation. If you have come to a Property Settlement Agreement with your former partner then you may wish to formalise this by entering into a binding property settlement agreement.

Sometimes parties come to an agreement without having properly considered the nature and effect of their agreement.

When negotiating a Property Settlement Agreement some things to keep in mind include the following:

  1. Property Settlement Agreements differ depending on your particular set of circumstances.
  2. A fair Property Settlement Agreement may depend on the length of your relationship or marriage and this is just one of the factors to be considered.
  3. There may need to be an adjustment for financial contributions made prior to the relationship by either party.
  4. There may need to be an adjustment for one of the parties’ future needs such as their age, health, ability to work and their earning capacity.
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