A relationship breakdown is a sensitive time and family law matters have a big impact on your future. We understand that this process can be stressful, and it is important to have an expert guide you through it to best set you up for your future and to give you the best chance of avoiding litigation and finalising your affairs promptly.
Who does family law apply to?
The Family Law Act (the Act) governs matters relating to the care of children and the distribution of property after a relationship breakdown. The Act applies to marriages and de facto relationships.
A de facto relationship is defined by a number of characteristics outlined in the Act, including 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. In some cases, you may first need to prove that you were in a de facto relationship and our team can help you with that process.
In order to seek a divorce, your marriage must be considered to be ‘irretrievably broken down’ and you must have been separated for at least 12 months. It is possible to be separated while still living under the same roof. A divorce application must be filed with the court and if you have children under the age of 18, the court will need to be satisfied that proper arrangements have been put in place for the care of those children. A divorce does not require the consent of both parties.
A divorce is not required in order to begin a property settlement or to make parenting arrangements for children of the relationship.
A property settlement involves separating your financial affairs from your former partner so that you can move forward with financial freedom from one another. The process involves distributing property and financial resources, as well as any liabilities. In determining how the distribution will be made, the law does not only consider ownership or financial contributions but also takes into consideration non-financial contributions to a relationship, such as caring for children.
Orders or agreements can be made about a wide range of issues relating to children including where a child will live, how much time the child spends with each parent, who will make decisions for the child, or specific issues relating to education or healthcare. All decisions must be made based on what is in the best interests of the child and require consideration of the benefit of the child having a meaningful relationship with both of their parents, as well as the need to protect a child from harm. The need to protect a child from harm will be the overriding consideration.
Mediation and family dispute resolution
Mediation is a confidential and low-cost way of trying to resolve a family law matter. It involves the parties meeting face to face with an impartial third party, who assists them in reaching a solution. A mediator does not provide legal advice or determine the outcome of the dispute. In general, it is best if parties can come to an agreement between themselves and avoid litigation. Mediation is a suitable method for parties who hope to preserve their relationship, for example, if they seek to coparent or work together in the future. Family dispute resolution is a special kind of mediation for family law matters involving children. It is generally compulsory for the parties to attend before commencing court proceedings concerning children.
Arranging your affairs after a relationship breakdown is a stressful and challenging process, particularly when there are children involved. Our team of experienced lawyers can guide you through this process to ensure that you can move forward in the best position possible for your future.