A relationship breakdown is an emotional and difficult time, compounded by many legal, practical, and financial concerns. If children are involved, it can be even more complex. Moving forward requires various decisions to be made and it is important to have expert legal advice from the beginning, whether you are separating from your spouse or de facto partner.
We can provide expert assistance and guidance for a range of matters relating to family law and de facto relationships. In most cases, we can settle your matter without going to court either informally or through consent orders or other legal documents. We can help with:
Marriage, de facto and divorce law
- Prenuptial agreements (prenups)
- Divorce in Australia including preparing and serving divorce papers
- Property settlements
- Binding financial agreements
- Spousal maintenance
- Family mediation
- Legal representation at the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia
- Domestic and family violence and apprehended violence orders (AVOs)
- Parenting plans and parenting orders
- Parental rights, father’s rights, and grandparent’s rights
- Child support and enforcement of payments
- Guardianship of children / adoption
- Children’s Court
An application for divorce can be made if a marriage has irretrievably broken down. It does not require the consent of both partners. A couple must be separated for 12 months before a divorce application can be made, but separation does not necessarily require you to live in separate residences.
If you have children under 18 years, the court will also need to be satisfied that appropriate arrangements are in place for their care.
A divorce order is not required to settle financial affairs or put in place parenting arrangements. However, if a divorce has been granted, there is a 12-month limitation period within which to bring court proceedings for property settlement or spousal maintenance.
De facto relationships
De facto couples can also access remedies under family law legislation. In some cases, you may first need to prove that you were in a de facto relationship to pursue a family law matter, and our team can help you with that process.
When a couple have not been legally married, various factors will be considered to determine whether they were in a de facto relationship, for example, the length and nature of the relationship, financial dependence or interdependence, the care and support of children, or whether the relationship was registered under state law.
For de facto partners, any court proceedings for a property settlement must be commenced within two years of separating.
A property settlement involves the division of assets, liabilities, and financial resources between a couple whose relationship has broken down. A property settlement legally finalises a couple’s financial affairs, enabling them to move on with their respective financial lives. It can also facilitate various stamp duty concessions for the transfer of certain assets such as real estate.
A property settlement can be finalised through a financial agreement, consent orders or court proceedings. It is essential that you are aware of all financial implications before you finalise a property settlement.
In some circumstances it may also be appropriate to seek other forms of financial support, for example, spousal maintenance, where one partner from the former relationship provides financially for the other.
Parenting arrangements can address issues such as where children live, how much time they spend with each parent and other specific issues in relation to education or healthcare. Under family law legislation parenting arrangements must be made in the best interests of the child. There is a presumption that shared parental responsibility is best for the child, but this will not be the case in all situations. Shared parental responsibility means that parents are required to consult each other regarding long term decisions for the child and does not necessarily mean that the child will spend equal time with each parent.
In general, it is best if parents can come to an agreement between themselves about the ongoing care of their children, whether that be through an informal agreement, a parenting plan, or parenting orders.
An informal agreement is simply an agreement between the parties that is not documented. The risk with an informal agreement is that issues may arise if the parties no longer agree on the arrangement.
A parenting plan is a written agreement documenting the arrangements agreed between the parties. A parenting plan can be registered with the court but is not legally enforceable.
Parenting orders are legally enforceable. They can be made between the parties by consent and filed with the court. Alternatively, when parties cannot agree on parenting arrangements and need the matter decided by a court, the court will determine the parenting orders.
Domestic violence in family law matters
The Family Law Act contains provisions aimed specifically at protecting children and family members from violence and abuse. The definitions of ‘abuse’ and ‘family violence’ are broad and generally align with most state-based family violence legislation. The provisions include both physical and psychological forms of violence and abuse that create fear and anxiety for those exposed.
A domestic violence order is a generic term used for an order made under a specific law to protect a person from family violence. Protection from domestic violence can be sought through the Local Court or the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. A domestic violence order places limitations or prohibitions on the alleged perpetrator of violence that are considered necessary to protect an applicant and his or her children.
We can assist you to apply for a domestic violence order to help protect you, your children, and/or other family members from domestic violence. If you are in immediate danger, we recommend you contact the police for urgent assistance.
We can also assist if you are responding to a family violence order application being made against you.
If you have recently separated or need confidential advice concerning a family law matter, we are here to help. Even if you are separating on good terms, it is important to seek legal advice so you can make informed decisions to ensure your rights are protected and to achieve the best possible outcome for you and your family.