Property Settlements

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes reached a property settlement two weeks after separation. Is this normal?

TomKat may have been able to come to a quick agreement, but asset splits are rarely that easy.

As is often the case in the celebrity world, things move at lightning speed.  Kim Kardashian was married to Kris Humpries for just 72 days, but this was probably the equivalent of five years in “Hollywood time”. 

Similarly, this week we have seen Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes reach a final agreement in relation to child and property issues just two weeks after separating.   Far from being the epic battle that many had predicted, their marriage has been neatly tied up in the whirlwind time of a mere fortnight. But how does this compare to other property settlements in the world of “normal” people? And what if an agreement can’t be reached? 

By any standards, finalising a matrimonial or de facto property matter within two weeks is extremely fast. While no two couples are the same, most people require adequate time to process their separation, reflect, consider their position and seek advice about where they stand. 

Separating with your spouse or partner can be a distressing and confusing time, and while many people hope that they can remain on amicable terms with their former partner this is sadly not always the case. 

A common point of tension between separating couples is deciding how the assets and liabilities that have been accumulated during the course of the relationship should be divided. 

While some couples are able to reach an agreement in relatively speedy fashion (like Mr Scientology and Ms Dawson’s Creek), for others it is a longer process, particularly when there are complex issues involved.  

If you are unable to reach an agreement with your former partner then it would be wise to see a lawyer and seek their advice.  How property is divided depends on a number of factors.  It is therefore important that you are aware of what your entitlement is and whether the division that you are seeking is fair. 

Once you have consulted a lawyer and received some advice, there are several directions that you may wish to consider. 

In some instances, it is appropriate to commence negotiations by way of correspondence with your former partner or their legal representative, or to invite them to attend mediation or a conference with both lawyers present.  If you are able to agree on a property division, you can have your lawyer finalise the agreement by way of a formal document. 

However, if you and your former partner have completely different ideas about what a reasonable division of property is, and negotiations have not been successful, it may be the case that you need to proceed to Court and have a Federal Magistrate or a Judge make a decision for you. A lawyer can assist you with this process and guide you along the way.

Either way, it is important that you seek legal advice and that you make sure the agreement is legally binding. Failure to do so can lead to your former partner having “another bite at the cherry” later on when you have moved on with your life and likely re-partnered. 

TGB is a leading Australian family law firm.

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