Family Law

The ability to think clearly and make important decisions can be difficult after a relationship breaks down. Getting professional advice early can help clarify your legal position, protect your interests, and explore options for a reasonable outcome for the division of your property and arrangements for your children.

Some of the immediate considerations after separating might include:

  • Prioritising personal safety. If you fear for the wellbeing of yourself or your children, contact your local police and, if necessary, obtain advice about applying for a restraining order.
  • If you and your ex-partner are on reasonable terms, you can make interim arrangements that are in your children’s best interests – ideally providing for minimal disruption in their routine and fostering an ongoing meaningful relationship with both parents.
  • Preparing a list of assets and liabilities – real estate, investments, shares, mortgages, loans, bank accounts, credit cards.
  • Gathering originals or copies of important documents like passports, marriage certificates, birth certificates and insurance policies.
  • Updating passwords and login details for email accounts and online banking.
  • Talking to your bank about closing joint accounts and discussing any concerns regarding the use of credit cards or other aspects of your daily banking.
  • Contacting Centrelink to find out if you are eligible for government financial assistance.
  • Reviewing or making a new Will to take into account your new personal circumstances and obtaining advice, particularly about jointly held property.

Getting A Divorce

A divorce order is the legal end of your marriage and must be granted by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. To apply for a divorce:

  • your marriage must have broken down with no likelihood of reconciliation; and
  • you must have lived separately and apart for a continuous period of 12 months.

In determining whether you have lived apart for 12 months, it is recognised that there are reasons why a couple may continue living under the same roof, despite being technically separated. This may be for practical, financial, cultural, or other reasons. In such cases, you will need to provide additional information to the court with your application for divorce.

If there are children under the age of 18 years, the court will not grant a divorce order unless it is satisfied that appropriate arrangements are in place for their care and wellbeing. These arrangements need not yet be formalised.

“Getting professional advice early can help explore options for a reasonable outcome for the division of your property and arrangements for your children”

“Getting professional advice early can help explore options for a reasonable outcome for the division of your property and arrangements for your children”

What is a Property Settlement?

A property settlement concerns the division of assets, liabilities and financial resources between a separated couple to legally finalise their financial affairs. The conclusion of a legal property settlement enables the parties to move on with their respective financial activities and may facilitate certain stamp duty concessions when transferring certain assets such as real estate.

A legal property settlement formalises the division of your assets and liabilities and may be obtained as soon as a married or de facto couple separate. It is important to remember however that any court proceedings for a property settlement must be commenced within 2 years of the breakdown of a de facto relationship, and within 12 months after a divorce is granted.

How is a Property Settlement finalised?

Most family law property settlements are finalised by negotiation between the parties and their legal advisors, without going to court.

During negotiations, the steps for dividing property under the Family Law Act 1975 generally apply. Essentially, the parties’ joint and individual assets, liabilities and financial resources are identified, and their respective financial and non-financial contributions assessed. The parties’ future needs are then taken into account and the proposed division of property should reflect a just and equitable outcome in all circumstances.

Financial Agreements

Financial agreements are also referred to as binding financial agreements, pre-nups and cohabitation agreements. They may be made at different stages of a relationship, for example, before or during a relationship, or after a relationship ends.

Financial agreements must meet strict formal requirements to be valid, and may contain provisions relating to the division of property and resources. When negotiating the agreement, the parties must give proper disclosure of their assets, financial resources and estimated values. Once a verbal agreement has been reached, the parties must meet separately with a lawyer to receive independent legal advice and sign an acknowledgement that they are each aware of their rights and obligations under the agreement.

Consent Orders

Consent Orders are generally considered a more formal way of documenting a property settlement. Unlike financial agreements, consent orders may also include arrangements for parenting matters. The court will need to approve the orders proposed and the application for consent orders must include full financial disclosure by both parties. The parties do not usually need to attend court, and the orders will be approved if, on the information provided, the court considers it is just and equitable to do so.

Children’s Matters

The best interests of the children will always be paramount in parenting matters and the law provides a presumption of shared parental responsibility, unless extenuating circumstances exist.

Parents are encouraged to make genuine efforts to resolve disputes about their children and may do so through negotiation and the assistance of their legal advisors. Family dispute resolution is a form of neutral mediation that is also used to help separated parents reach agreements regarding arrangements for their children. Agreements may be formalised in parenting plans or consent orders.

  • Parenting Plans are written documents setting out the agreement reached between parents for the ongoing care, welfare, and living arrangements for their children. They are not approved by a court and, accordingly, are a less formal and more flexible approach to parenting matters.
  • Consent Parenting Orders are formal orders documenting agreed parenting arrangements and must be approved by the court. They are legally enforceable and must be complied with. If a parent fails to comply with the provisions of a consent order, the other party may request the court to enforce it.

We understand the stress and anxiety that comes with the breakdown of a relationship. We provide our clients a level of calm and understanding, complemented with expert legal advice, to find workable solutions and a pathway forward. If you are unable to resolve your family law matter out of court, or you require urgent representation, we can provide strong advocacy on your behalf.

Contact us if you need any assistance for a no-obligation discussion and for expert legal advice.