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How Perth Domestic Violence Survivors Can Protect Their Assets

Survivors of domestic violence in Perth face numerous challenges when seeking to protect and secure their rightful assets, such as houses and vehicles. The recent story by the ABC of two women fighting to get their share of a will highlights the difficulties many face in these situations.

Key Challenges Faced

Domestic violence survivors often encounter the following obstacles in securing their property:

  • Legal Complexities: Understanding legal rights and navigating the legal system can be daunting.
  • Financial Control: Many abusers exert financial control, restricting access to shared assets or finances.
  • Fear of Reprisal: Fear of retaliation can prevent survivors from seeking legal assistance.
  • Lack of Support: Many survivors lack emotional and financial support to pursue legal action.

The fight to keep your assets

From Kellies Case: Fourteen months after she fled, Ms Hyland’s husband died from cancer.

The 55-year-old described this moment as “sad”, but said she was also looking forward to reclaiming her old life.

But, unfortunately, her battles weren’t over.

Prior to his death, Ms Hyland’s late husband created a will, leaving all of his belongings to friends and distant relatives.

According to the legal document, Ms Hyland wouldn’t receive a thing.

“I’m not mentioned, it’s like I don’t exist,” Ms Hyland said.

Steps to Protect Assets

  1. Seek Legal Advice:
    • Consult a family law solicitor to understand your legal rights.
    • Legal Aid Western Australia offers free and low-cost legal services to eligible survivors.
    • The Women’s Legal Service WA provides specialist advice and representation.
  2. Apply for a Family Violence Restraining Order (FVRO):
    • An FVRO can prevent an abusive partner from accessing shared property.
    • Apply through the Magistrates Court or with police assistance.
    • Include specific orders to protect assets such as the family home and car.
  3. Document Financial Contributions:
    • Keep a detailed record of financial contributions to shared assets.
    • Collect receipts, bank statements, and other relevant financial documents.
    • This documentation can strengthen your case if property division is disputed.
  4. Secure Important Documents:
    • Store copies of personal identification, property titles, and financial documents in a safe place.
    • Consider keeping digital copies securely on a cloud platform.
  5. Open a Separate Bank Account:
    • If possible, open a separate account to safeguard personal finances.
    • Transfer wages or benefits into this new account.
  6. Update Beneficiaries and Ownership Details:
    • Review and update beneficiaries on insurance policies, superannuation, and other financial accounts.
    • Ensure that your name is correctly listed on property deeds and vehicle titles.
  7. Pursue Property Settlement Through Court:
    • If mediation fails or is unsafe, apply for a property settlement through the Family Court of Western Australia.
    • The court will consider factors like financial and non-financial contributions, future needs, and care of children.

Support Services for Perth Domestic Violence Survivors

Domestic violence survivors in Perth face significant challenges in protecting and securing their assets. However, by seeking legal advice, documenting financial contributions, and accessing the right support services, survivors can navigate the legal system and assert their rights. Remember, you are not alone, and help is available.

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