The end of a long-term relationship is an emotional and often stressful time – which is why meeting a deadline for arranging the division of assets might be the last thing on your mind. However, it’s important to be aware that the Family Law Act has set a time limit on property settlement after divorce and de facto separation.

If you have parted ways permanently, we strongly recommend beginning your property settlement proceedings as soon as possible. Otherwise, you may run out of time to file a claim with the Family Court.

Below, we break down the property settlement time frame for both previously married and former de facto partners.

Property settlement time limits

Time limit for property settlement after divorce

If you are divorcing your spouse, the time limit for filing a property settlement application is 12 months from the date your divorce order is finalised.

However, as this one year period only starts ticking once you are officially divorced- and you will need to be separated for at least one year prior to even apply for a divorce – you actually have a minimum of two years to get your proceedings in order.

On that note, you do not need to wait until your divorce order is granted to apply for property settlement. Rather, you can begin negotiations with your former partner and lodge an application for property settlement with the Courts any time after separation.

At Affinitas Legal, we strongly recommend initiating such proceedings as early as possible to avoid any time pressure.

Time limit for de facto property settlement

If you have ended a de-facto relationship, you must file a property settlement application within two years of your official date of separation.

Our lawyers understand that a date like this is often far from clear cut. For instance, you may have separated but remained living together for a few months or briefly reconciled after initially parting ways. That’s why noting down and agreeing on your date of separation is so important.

We also suggest seeking expert legal advice as soon as possible in this process, particularly if there is disagreement or confusion over the date of your separation.

What if I miss the deadline to apply for property settlement?

If you miss the deadline to apply for property settlement, you can still initiate proceedings in certain circumstances. Under section 44(6) of the Family Law Act, the Court may grant you permission to file an application for property settlement beyond the specified time limit.

That said, these property settlement applications are not guaranteed and can be quite expensive, stressful and time-consuming. To be approved, you must demonstrate to the Court that you would suffer hardship if prevented from proceeding with property settlement.

However, the concept of hardship remains undefined in the Family Law Act or the Family Court Act, meaning the Court must decide what counts as hardship according to the circumstances of each case. The Court will also review other factors before making a final decision, including:

  • The reasoning behind the missed deadline
  • The likelihood of a successful application
  • The potential legal costs of subsequent proceedings
  • The risk of prejudice to the other party if the application was granted to proceed

Get personalised legal advice on your property settlement

Have you recently separated or divorced your partner? Seeking legal support from an experienced family lawyer now will help to safeguard your interests into the future.

If you would like expert advice on your property settlement rights or have missed the deadline to lodge an application for property proceedings, we recommend contacting Affinitas Legal as soon as possible. Our trusted property settlement lawyers can assist you with any legal matter. Please get in touch for tailored support.