Separating from your spouse or partner is stressful and involves consideration of a number of practical and legal issues. We can help you navigate the legal process and steer you towards a solution that is right for you and your family. We deal with a range of property and parenting matters and encourage negotiation and mediation wherever possible to ensure you achieve a fair outcome without the added stress of court proceedings. We can help with:
- Divorce and separation
- De facto matters
- Property settlements
- Financial agreements / prenuptial agreements
- Parenting matters
- Child support and spousal maintenance
Australia has a no-fault divorce system. To obtain a divorce order you must apply to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. You must have been separated for at least 12 months with no chance of you and your spouse getting back together.
In many cases, you do not need to attend court for the order to be granted, however, a court may delay the making of a divorce order if it is concerned that proper arrangements for the care of minor children are not in place at the time of the application.
Settling your Financial Affairs
A property settlement occurs when a separated couple formalises arrangements for the division of their assets and liabilities. Assets include real estate, other physical property such as motor vehicles and boats, cash, investments, superannuation, and business interests.
Family law legislation also applies to de facto partners who can finalise their financial affairs in the same manner as married couples who have separated.
If you and your ex-partner have negotiated an agreement, it can be made legally binding through consent orders. In this case, an application is made to the court and if the proposed orders are considered just and equitable, the court will make them legally binding. You will not need to attend court to have consent orders approved.
Property settlements are usually negotiated out of court, but if you are unable to come to an agreement, you might have to make an application for the court’s intervention. There are time limits relating to when you can apply to the court for a property settlement, so it is a good idea to get advice early to make sure you make any application within time. We can assist and guide you through the process.
Binding Financial Agreements
Whether you are entering a new relationship or are already in one, and are conscious about retaining your respective assets, you and your partner may consider having a financial agreement prepared (known also as a prenuptial agreement).
A financial agreement can provide certainty about what will happen to your respective property if you and your partner later separate. The agreement can protect assets existing prior to the relationship (particularly important if you have kids from a previous relationship), protect a business from closure if a relationship breaks down, or outline what is to happen with an inheritance. We can discuss your circumstances so you can make an informed decision about whether a financial agreement is right for your needs.
If you and your ex-partner have children together under the age of 18, you may need to make decisions about their care, where they will live, and their education. It might also be necessary that arrangements are made for child support to be paid. In addition, you might need to make decisions about where the children spend holidays and visit with other relatives. To minimise disputes, some parents decide to document these things in a parenting agreement which is a written non-binding agreement between the parties. Alternatively, parents can apply to the court for legally binding consent orders.
Whether you need a formalised parenting agreement, some advice, or somebody to assist in discussions or negotiations, our experienced lawyers are available to help.
Using Mediation to Resolve your Family Law Matter
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and can help you and your ex-partner resolve issues without going to court. Generally, mediation is in everybody’s interests and can result in reaching more flexible solutions than what a court might order. Mediation is also less formal, typically less expensive than court, and can help preserve relationships which are often destroyed through the adversarial nature of litigation.
Of course, there are circumstances where negotiations simply fail and going to court may be the only option. However, if your matter proceeds to trial (unless it is urgent) it may take several months or years before a final hearing.
How does Mediation work?
Mediation involves the parties to a family law dispute meeting face to face with an impartial third party, referred to as a mediator. Typically, mediation is confidential, and the mediator does not provide legal advice or decide on the outcome of a matter. Rather, a mediator facilitates the process and encourages the parties to explore and reach workable solutions to their problems.
Even if mediation does not completely resolve a dispute, it can be beneficial in narrowing down the legal issues between the parties so a more focused approach can be used to resolve their matter.
We believe that in most cases court should be a last resort and will guide you through the process of ADR to help you avoid litigation.
If you need assistance, contact [email protected] or call 02 6736 1888 for expert legal advice.