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When involved in a family law matter that requires the distribution of property, it is likely you will come across a property settlement conference. Known also as a conciliation conference, they provide an opportunity for both you and your partner to make an effort to settle your differences before going to Court. If you end up reaching an agreement, it saves you both a lot of time and money in the long run.
How do we arrange a conference?
After you both, or your lawyers, have filed your applications for separation with the Court, the Court will arrange for you both to have a Case Assessment Conference. This is the first meeting you both will have before a Registrar of the Family Court to try and settle your issues. If, after this first meeting, you are unable to both agree, the Court then gives you some time before you are required to attend a second meeting, which is the Conciliation Conference.
What do we do before the conference?
Once a date for the conference has been set, you both have some things you need to give each other. These include copies of your financial documents, including tax returns, superannuation, any appraisals of property and any documents relating to a business if either of you have your own company, trust or partnership.
You will also need to provide evidence of any financial contributions you made during the relationship, any inheritances or gifts you received and details about your income and assets.
What happens at the conference?
On the date of the conference, the Registrar usually books in a time for roughly one hour. You and your partner are both required to attend but if you do have lawyers, they will undertake the discussions for you. Both sides will explain the issues to the Registrar, who will assess the situation. The Registrar does not provide legal advice, but they can give you some assistance in understanding the legal principles that apply.
Once both sides have discussed all of the issues at hand, hopefully there have been some agreements reached. If you have managed to agree on every issue in dispute, then your lawyer can prepare the terms of property settlement for you to sign. After this, the Court is given a copy of the property settlement to make Consent Orders. Once the orders are made, the settlement is finalised.
If, unfortunately, you have been unable to agree on all the issues, then your case will need to be decided in Court. Importantly, though, you are still able to settle the matter before going to a hearing. If you do end up attending a hearing, there will first be a Pre-Hearing Conference, which can occur between 6-12 months after the Conciliation Conference. You and your partner attend the conference with your lawyers and the Registrar. The Registrar will set out when you need to file your Court documents and will set the date for the Pre-Trial Conference, which is when the Final Hearing date will be determined.
The Final Hearing is when the Court assesses all of the evidence including witness testimony and submissions from lawyers. The Court will then make their judgment immediately or decide they need more time to consider all of the facts and will provide it at a later date.
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