Property can be a complicating factor in relationships. If you and your partner separate, chances are you will be affected by the Property (Relationships) Act (PRA). This is because the PRA covers all sorts of relationships, including marriages, civil unions and de facto relationships.
Although most people are not familiar with the PRA, it is important for new couples, perfectly content couples, and incompatible couples to be aware of how it will impact them if they separate.
This is because of the presumption the PRA imposes: that each partner contributes equally to their relationship and therefore a just division (or, an equal division) of the relationship property should take place if a separation occurs. Of course, any children, and their care arrangements, will have to be considered also.
Who does the PRA apply to?
For this presumption to apply to you, you will either be married, in a civil union, or living in a de facto relationship for a minimum of three years. De facto couples should, therefore, note the date they commence their “de facto” relationship so they know when this presumption will apply to them.
Because of this, we always recommend couples have a discussion with their partner, firstly at the beginning of their relationship, and then at regular intervals throughout, to talk about how they want property to be divided if there was a separation. This gives the couple an opportunity to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
For example, some people who enter a relationship already owning their own property might consider a Contracting Out Agreement (COA). A COA allows you to contract out, or opt out, of the presumption provided by the PRA, but only in certain circumstances.
For example, if you purchased and owned a property prior to meeting your current partner, you may want to ensure that property is classed as separate property. This means that if the relationship comes to an end, rather than it being divided between you both, you retain sole ownership.
If, on the other hand, you are in a relationship that has ended and you are wondering how your relationship property will be divided, chances are there is going to be a 50/50 split due to the presumption under the PRA.
If you are either beginning a relationship, or experiencing a separation, and want to talk to someone about how your property will be divided or how you can protect your assets, please contact one of our family lawyers.