We understand how stressful it can be to go through a breakdown of relationship. You need strong and flexible guidance and support to help you navigate the road ahead. Our experienced team, headed up by an Accredited Specialist in Family Law, regularly appear in the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court and can provide you with assistance for a range of matters relating to family law and de facto relationships.
An Accredited Specialist is a solicitor that the Law Society of New South Wales has recognised as an expert in their area of practice. For our solicitor director, Michael Seton, to achieve this recognition, he has demonstrated exceptional skill in the area of family law and is now held to a higher standard of education, constantly expanding his knowledge base and keeping up-to-date with the latest developments in this complex field. The Law Society set rigorous assessments of his communication, problem solving, client relations and, of course, knowledge of the law. Michael holds himself to this higher standard and has the upmost respect for the Accredited Specialist Scheme and what that means for his clients.
The matters that we can assist you with include:
- Prenuptial Agreements.
- Legal separation issues.
- Annulment of marriages.
- Property settlements.
- Binding Financial Agreements.
- Spousal maintenance.
- Domestic and family violence and apprehended violence orders (AVOs).
- Parenting arrangements including who the child lives with (previously known as custody) and who the child spends time with (previously known as visitation).
- Parenting Plans.
- Parental rights, father’s rights and grandparent’s rights.
- Guardianship of children.
- Child support and enforcement of payments.
- Legal representation in the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court.
What do you need to know about your property settlement matter?
- You do not have to wait until you are divorced. As soon as you have separated, you can make arrangements to divide your property and debts between you and your former partner.
- You do not have to go to Court. If you have already agreed on how things should be divided between you and your former partner, your lawyer can draw up the document that will finalise the arrangements and then get underway the legal processes that will split the assets. These legal processes are important to ensure that the matter is finalised and both parties can move on with a clean financial break from the other. They may also allow you to qualify for an exemption from payment of stamp duty if you are going to transfer the matrimonial home or another property.
- If you and your former partner cannot agree, we can advise you on your rights, obligations and options to progress the matter. There is an established process in cases where there is disagreement over how property should be divided. 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 you haven’t already done so. If this doesn’t resolve the matter, then an application seeking property orders must be filed with the Federal Circuit Court or Family Court. This application must be filed within 12 months of your divorce becoming final or, in the case of a de facto relationship, within 2 years of the end of the relationship. The matter will be set down for hearing and the Court will make a legally binding decision.
- There is a 4-step process that the Court adopts to make its decision. First, the Court will calculate the total assets owned by both parties, including property, shares, cars, jewellery, savings, furniture and superannuation. This includes things you brought into the relationship, those acquired during the relationship and also those purchased after separation. Second, the Court will weigh up the contributions made by both parties, including financial, non-financial, inheritances and assets brought into the relationship. Third, the Court will look at the future needs of both parties, including factors such as your capacity to earn money and your parental responsibilities. Fourth, the Court will make a decision based on what is just and equitable to both parties.
- 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.
What do you need to know about your parenting matter?
- The law focuses on the rights of children to have an ongoing relationship with both parents. This means that separating from your spouse or partner 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 these terms are still on the top of the list of concerns for separating couples. 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 regarding important decisions such as education and health?
- There is a legal presumption in favour of equal shared parental responsibility. This 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. Instead, each parent has an equal say in decisions relating to the child in areas such as health and education.
- When it comes to deciding who the child or children live with and how much time the spend with the other parent, 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 children 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, the court may, for example, order substantial and significant time be spent with the other parent (which might translate to be 4 nights per fortnight rather than 7).
- You do not have to go to Court. We can 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 former partner agrees, we can help you formalise the document without proceeding to costly proceedings.
- You will be required to attend family dispute resolution before being allowed to apply for parenting orders (although, there are exceptions to this rule). The accredited family dispute resolution practitioner will issue a certificate that must be filed with the Court and simply states that your differences were unable to be resolved.
- If your differences are unable to be settled, then you will need to file an application seeking parenting orders issued by the Federal Circuit Court or Family Court. If your case does end up in court, a legally binding decision will be made through a hearing where the judge will decide what is in the child’s best interests.
- We can advise you in relation 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 very familiar with the Court system and can use our experience to your advantage.