Help with your separation
We understand that the breakdown of a relationship can be stressful and upsetting, so we are wholly focused on making that journey as smooth and hassle free as possible. Our family lawyers are sympathetic to the emotional toll that you may be experiencing and we aim to minimise conflict wherever possible. However, if we are unable to negotiate an outcome that you are happy with, we will not hesitate in recommending legal action if necessary. We settle at least 90% or our family law matters without resorting to Court proceedings.
One of our strengths is our ability to deal with difficult situations and those concerning children are often the most difficult of all. Whether it is in relation to parenting after a separation or for the protection of children, the law is focused on doing what is in the best interest of your child. Therefore, if there is a dispute between you and your partner regarding a parenting plan, we will be there to assist you. Whether it is in reaching an agreement on when the child should spend time with or communicate with the other party or otherwise, we can advise. Alternatively, if all else fails we our family lawyers will assist you in attending mediation or obtaining a decision from the court.
Australian law focuses on the rights of children to have an ongoing relationship with both parents so that separating from your partner or spouse doesn’t mean that you are separating from your child or children.
Although the terms ‘custody’, ‘residence’, ‘contact’ and ‘access’ are no longer used much by lawyers today, the issues behind the jargon are still on the top of the list of concerns for separating couples, namely:
- Who will the child or children live with?
- How will they spend time with the other parent?
- How will both parents be kept in the loop in regard to important decisions such as education and health?
If you are experiencing family violence or suspect abuse, you need to seek help urgently. Contact us so we can advise you as to how to take immediate action.
Joint Custody and Shared Responsibility
Joint custody or shared responsibility means that both parents have legal rights and responsibilities towards the child. It doesn’t mean that the child will spend half of their time with one parent and half with the other, but that each parent has an equal say in decisions relating to the child in areas such as health and education. Even if the child lives with the other parent you may still have joint custody.
But doesn’t the law now say that children have to spend equal time with each parent?
No, it doesn’t. The law ensures that the best interests of the children are served first. When considering what is in the children’s best interests, the court has to consider facilitating a meaningful relationship between the children and both of their parents and also to protect the child from harm.
If the court is to provide equal shared responsibility then it will also consider whether equal time is in the best interests of the children and whether it’s practical. Rather than equal time, for example, the court may order substantial and significant time be spent with the other parent, which might translate to be 4 nights per fortnight rather than 7.
Regardless of whether you are separated or divorced, every parent has the responsibility to provide continuous financial support to their child. We are able to help you negotiate with your partner to reach a mutually agreeable child support arrangement, or if an agreement is unable to be reached, to seek an assessment with the Child Support Agency.
One of the most difficult issues in any divorce is understanding the way joint property of the relationship is divided and when such a settlement can take place. Even if you have contributed more than your partner to certain assets such as the house or the car, or even if the property is registered under your name, most of these assets would still be recognised as ‘joint property’ and hence subject to division with your partner. We will work through the property settlement process with you to make sure that you understand how property is divided between separated parties.
Do I have to be divorced to split the property?
As soon as you have separated you can make arrangements to split your property and debts between you and your ex partner, you do not have to wait until you are divorced.
Do we have to go to Court?
No, not at all. If you have already agreed on how things should be divided between you, your lawyer can draw up the document which will finalise the arrangements, and then get underway the legal processes which will split the assets.
What if we can’t agree?
There is an established process in cases where there is disagreement over how property should be split. Firstly the court needs to be satisfied that you have attempted to reach agreement, and to this end you will be ordered to participate in dispute resolution.
If this doesn’t resolve the matter then an application for property orders must be filed with the Family Court or Federal Magistrates Court. This application must be made within 12 months of your divorce becoming final.
The matter will be set down for hearing and a legally binding decision will be made by the court.
Property Settlement – How does the court decide?
Firstly the court will calculate the total assets owned by both parties, including property, shares, cars, jewellery, savings, furniture etc. This includes things you brought into the relationship, those acquired during the relationship and also those purchased after separation.
Next the court will weigh up the contributions from both parties, including financial, non-financial, inheritances and assets brought into the relationship.
Then the court will look at the future needs of both parties, including factors such as your capacity to earn money and your parental responsibilities.
Lastly the court will make a decision based on what is just and equitable to both parties.
Why use a lawyer?
As lawyers experienced in this process we can advise you about the complexities of your specific situation as well as guide you through what can be a stressful and confusing process. We can help take the heat out of a difficult emotional situation and negotiate on your behalf to obtain the best possible results. And if it comes to court, we are very familiar with the court system and can use our experience to your advantage.
Contact us to discuss your specific situation with an experienced family lawyer in Sydney or the Hills district.