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One of the first steps in any property settlement is to identify the assets to be divided between the parties and the value of those assets. Parties are often able to agree on the value of an asset via research and/or consultation with industry professionals. For example, it is common practice for parties to refer to redbook.com valuations when determining the value of motor vehicles.

If parties cannot agree on the value of a particular asset, it will be necessary to obtain a valuation report from an independent expert. Ideally, the expert should be appointed jointly by the parties to save disputes as to which expert should be relied upon. The two main assets that require valuation evidence are real estate and business interests.

Real estate

Parties will generally obtain an appraisal from a real estate agent/s initially, to determine whether they can reach agreement on the value of their home or investment property. An appraisal is an estimate based on the recent sales knowledge of the agent. Typically, they are provided free of charge. Alternatively, parties can obtain a valuation from a qualified property valuer who will prepare a detailed report based on their specialised knowledge, experience and training. If the dispute is being litigated, the court will generally require expert evidence to determine the value. The cost of a real estate valuation ranges from $600 to $1500 per property.


Businesses are generally valued by accountants. As an initial step, parties often rely on information from their own accountant to determine the value of the business. If an agreement cannot be reached, an independent expert (usually a forensic accountant) will be appointed to value the interests of the parties in the business/entity. Experts can apply different valuation methodologies to produce a fair market value of the business which may include a valuation of the net assets of the business and/or a calculation of the future maintainable earnings of the business. Before embarking on a business valuation, it is important to consider the nature of the business. Business valuations can be expensive, generally $10,000 to $30,000.

Motor vehicles

Often, the value of a motor vehicle can be agreed, or estimated by using services such as redbook, which is a vehicle value guide. Exceptions are when a car is rare, unique or classic, and being restored. In those circumstances, and expert is usually required to provide an opinion on the value of the vehicle, and should be jointly instructed to provide a written report.

Household items

Most household items should be valued at garage sale value, and as one overall figure for the entirety of the possessions, not item by item. Occasionally, there are particular items of value such as antiques, heirlooms or collectibles. These should be valued by an expert, similarly to motor vehicle valuations.


Many superannuation funds are accumulation funds, and their value is the amount on the statement provided to the member. However, some superannuation funds are more complex, such as defined benefit interest funds or self-managed superannuation funds. Defined benefit interest funds will usually need to be valued by a specialist superannuation valuer. The valuer will often require that the superannuation fund respond to a Superannuation Information Form, to provide all of the relevant details that are required to perform the calculation. Self managed superannuation funds may own assets such as real properties, or involve trusts and may require valuations of individual assets and entities before an overall valuation of the fund can be obtained.

Other assets

There is a huge variety of assets that a couple might own. This can include interests in unit trusts, cryptocurrencies, racehorses or gold or silver bullion. Without agreement, all assets need to be valued to finalise a family law claim, and there are specialist valuers for almost every circumstance.

A properly valued pool of assets is the first step in ensuring that a fair and equitable division of property, so it is vital to have accurate and appropriate valuations where agreement cannot be reached. For help, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Michelle Makela

This article was written by Michelle Makela

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (State and Federal Industrial Tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

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