Property Disputes in Family Law – Will a Caveat protect me?
Property disputes arise in the context of separation when ex-spouses and partners no longer trust the other partner to do the right thing by them or to be honest in their dealings around the matrimonial assets.
It is not unusual in relationships, to have one partner hold the legal title of property such as the family home , investment property or other real estate. Whilst the couple are happily together, there is no concern about property being sold or transferred or disposed of without the partner’s awareness.
Unfortunately when a marriage or de facto relationship breaks down, the financially dependant person , who does not own any property understandably want to protect assets of the relationship.
Dianne was a client of ours who had been in a same sex relationship with her partner Meg for 18 years and during this time Dianne and Meg agreed that for tax purposes it was best if Meg purchased their investment property in her name. The investment property was worth a considerable amount of money, having been purchased in early 2000 and was a very significant asset for both Dianne and her ex. Dianne was very concerned that as she was not the legal owner, Meg could sell the property without Dianne even knowing about it.
Dianne had heard from her friends about caveats and wanted us to immediately lodge a caveat so she could protect her interest. Dianne had heard that a caveat would stop Meg from being able to sell the investment property.
“My friend Geoff, said I should get a caveat, I’m really worried Meg will sell it and take all the money. She has been very secretive since we broke up and I know she is up to something.”
We explained to Dianne that before she could lodge any caveat, she had to have a caveatable interest and in her particular case, she did not have this. If she had gone ahead and lodged a caveat, Meg could easily have served her with a lapsing notice, which would mean that if Meg did not pursue her caveat, then she had no protection. To do this would cost Dianne a lot of money and she would also have to pay the legal fees of Meg who would defend the caveat.
We understood how important it was to protect Dianne and she had a right to make an application to the Family Court for an order that prevented Meg from selling or mortgaging the investment property, which would ensure that Dianne’s interest in the property would be protected.
The above information is legal information and is not intended as legal advice. If you have a property dispute, please contact us on 8999 1800 to speak to a specialist Family Lawyer.