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?
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.
Where do I start?
Firstly, get legal advice. Your lawyer will take you through all of the areas which need to be considered and document what you think is a fair approach to arrangements for your children. If your partner is agreeable, your lawyer can help you formalise the document without proceeding to costly court action.
If your differences are unable to be settled, then you will need to commence on the path to having parenting orders issued by the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court.
Recent changes to the Family Law Act 1975 mean that you will need to attend family dispute resolution before applying for parenting orders. If you can not resolve the matter at mediation, the accredited family dispute resolution practitioner will issue a section 60I certificate which must be filed with the court application and simply states that your differences were unable to be resolved.
If your case does end up in court, a legally binding decision can either be made at any time by Consent Orders or will be made through a hearing where a Judge will decide what is in the child’s best interests.
Why use a lawyer?
As lawyers experienced in this process we can advise you in regard to 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 result for your children. And if it comes to court, we are deeply familiar with the court system and can use our experience to your advantage.
Contact us to discuss your specific situation in regard to your children with an experienced family lawyer in Campbelltown.
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. These are called pre-action procedures.
If this doesn’t resolve the matter then an application for property orders must be filed with the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court. This application must be made within 12 months of your divorce becoming final if you have already finalised that process or can be done any time up until the divorce. There is no legal requirement to get divorced within a certain time.
The matter will be set down for hearing and a legally binding decision will be made by the court. Again Consent Orders can be agreed to at any time within the process.
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.
We can help
Dealing with the complexities of property settlement is stressful but the consequences of not doing it properly can impact on the rest of your life. We are experienced negotiators, and will make sure that you get the best possible outcome.
Contact us to discuss your particular situation with an experienced family lawyer in Campbelltown.
If your children spend most of their time with you, you are likely to be entitled to child support payments. The amount of child support payable varies according to your specific circumstances and is decided upon and monitored by the Child Support Agency.
The amount of child support is worked out based on things such as the income of both parties, the cost of the care of the children and the percentage of time the child spends with you.
How can I work out what child support I’m entitled to?
There is an online child support calculator provided by the Child Support Agency which can help you estimate both your child support and family assistance payments. This is an estimation only though, as the calculation is quite complex and tailored to your situation.
You can also apply for a change of assessment due to special circumstances.
You might also benefit from reading the Parent’s Guide to Child Support.
Can I overturn a decision made by the Child Support Agency if it’s not fair?
Yes, you may be able to. You have the right to object to the decision within 28 days and then an internal review of the decision will take place within 60 days of the objection being filed.
You can also continue to appeal if the original decision was upheld by applying for a review through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
What if my ex-partner doesn’t pay?
The Child Support Agency has the power to investigate and enforce payment which includes the power to collect the payment from employers, the tax office and social security. It also has the power to stop people from leaving the country while there are outstanding payments.
We can help
Child support issued can be sensitive and difficult to work through, but we can help you find your way through the process and the legislation. Contact us to discuss your particular circumstances with an experienced child support lawyer in Campbelltown.
In Australia, there is no need to provide any reasons for divorce other than that the relationship has broken down irretrievably. If you’ve been separated for more than 12 months the court takes this as evidence and even if you still live under the same roof you can still obtain a divorce provided you swear to the separation in your divorce application.
What do I need to apply?
You will need your marriage certificate, identification, and proof of citizenship (if you were not born in Australia).
What about the children?
The court needs to be satisfied that your children are being taken care of before a divorce will be granted, but will not expect that you have a formal agreement in place in regard to parenting.
What about property?
As stated above you may be able to reach agreement with your ex-partner without having to go to Court. However, bear in mind that if you can’t reach agreement, a formal application for property orders must be lodged within 12 months of your divorce becoming final.
How long does it take?
When you lodge your application the court will advise the date of the hearing, usually within 2 – 3 months. The hearing is not long and you are only required to attend if you have a child or children under the age of 18. The divorce order becomes final in one month and one day from the date of the hearing, provided it is granted.
Do you have your affairs in order?
If you separating it is likely you no longer wish to leave your estate in your Will to the person you are separating from, and it is also likely if you have appointed that person as your attorney to manage your financial affairs (power of attorney) or enduring guardian to make medical and personal decisions for you (appointment of enduring guardian), you no longer want that person to make those decisions for you.
You need to update your Will, power of attorney and appointment of enduring guardian, or if you do not have those documents in place, you need to put them in place as soon as possible.
Did you know if you do not update your Will and you die before your divorce is final, your Will stands which means if you named your partner as beneficiary in your Will, your estate will be distributed in accordance with your Will to your former partner. Not an ideal outcome.
Eileen Meehan is an experienced estate planning lawyer who can review your current Will and other documents, and provide you with advice regarding your estate plan for your unique circumstances and all this can be completed in a short time frame. Our family lawyers will discuss this with you when they meet with you regarding your family law matter.
How much does it cost?
Your circumstances are unique to you and you deserve the best advice for your circumstances. The only way we can provide you with advice for your circumstances is to meet with you for an initial consultation and our fee is a modest $220 (inclusive of GST). In most cases, after the initial consultation, we will be able to provide you with an estimate of costs. Contact us today on 02 4629 8100.