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Family and Relationship Law

Our family and relationship law team is dedicated to guiding you through what can be one of life’s most difficult and daunting experiences.

Our approach to resolving disputes amicably and holistically is what sets us apart from other firms. Relationship breakdowns do not occur in a vacuum. When you come and see us, you will have a range of concerns that aren’t just legal. We help you navigate the gamut of issues that can arise when families break down, from financial and emotional strain to fears for your safety.

We are compassionate and committed to achieving the best result for you, no matter who you are or where you come from. We put your trust and wellbeing before profit. We will stand with you.

How we explain family law in plain English

When we talk to our clients, part of our customer service policy is to explain legal terminology to our clients to ensure they understand every step of the legal process.

Our commitment to you

Putting you first

We resolve matters efficiently with your wellbeing front and centre.

Keeping costs down

We are committed to keeping costs for you down and offer the convenience of various payment options.

Reliability

Our team is always there for you.

Fees and payment conditions

Cost is a common worry clients have. You need advice, but often life is in a state of upheaval and money may not be easy to come by. Encouragingly, your first appointment with us is free. After that, we will give you an accurate estimate on what continuing to work with us will cost you.

You can talk to us about payment options including deferred payments or payments by instalments during the appointment.

What happens at my first appointment?

Your first appointment with us is free. An appointment will be made for you by our trusted and experienced legal support staff. We will need some basic information from you to start, such as the names of those involved in your matter and important dates and events to ensure a clear understanding of your circumstances. We also do a conflict check to make sure we have not acted for your former partner in any capacity before.

It is our experience that most people going through a family breakdown are under significant financial or other stresses and need urgent legal advice. We offer immediate legal advice in the first free appointment to help you get on your feet.

Your lawyer will then explain how we charge fees. There are no strings attached. We will never follow up your appointment with a sales call. It is important to us that you choose a lawyer you are comfortable with to take you through your family law matter.

What to bring to your first appointment

Bring along any paperwork, photos, letters or emails you have in relation to your legal matter, even if you are unsure whether they will be useful or not.

Here is a checklist of common types of documents that may be helpful to us:

  1. Parenting Plans
  2. Basic timeline of your relationship
  3. Evidence of your financial situation – bank statements, superannuation statements, valuations or market appraisals of major assets
  4. Concession cards (if relevant)
  5. Court Orders or other Court documents

Can I bring a partner, friend or support person?

Yes, absolutely. If that’s what will make you comfortable or help you through the process.

You may be asked to share personal information during the appointment so it is important that you bring someone along who you can trust and who supports you.

Confidentiality and privacy

Your information is personal and private and we respect that.

Our lawyers have ethical obligations to keep the information you disclose when obtaining legal advice confidential. This is called client legal privilege. This is a legal right belonging to you which ensures that you can obtain confidential advice about your circumstances. It allows for the proper administration of justice because it enables you to talk frankly and honestly with your lawyer about your legal concerns.

We also have a thorough privacy policy in place to ensure the collection and proper use of your personal information. For further information about our commitment to your privacy, please see our Privacy Policy.

LGBTIQ inclusive practice

Family law matters arise in every kind of relationship. We represent you, as a person. Your sexual orientation and gender identity should make no difference to the advice you receive or the way you receive it.

We understand that historically, people who have not fit in to simplistic and heteronormative ideas of family and identity have faced significant discrimination and oppression in our society. Discrimination that unfortunately still continues today.

We further recognise that the legal system plays a large part in this discrimination. The refusal to recognise and implement same-sex marriage laws in this country until 2017 and the historical criminalisation of homosexuality are just two examples of this.

We think that lawyers play a key role in redressing this kind of discrimination at the ground level every day through legal practice and advocacy work.

Our lawyers are committed to providing an inclusive practice to ensure that all our clients receive the same high standard of legal service no matter who they are - a service that is sensitive to inequalities and the unique response such inequalities demand.

In family and relationship law matters, this means recognising all kinds of families and relationships. It means being sensitive to the different views and experiences of everyone who walks through our doors. It means treating people with respect.

Our lawyers are down to earth, approachable and come from all walks of life.

We run an inclusive family law practice, whatever your sexual orientation. Here’s how.

The changing shape of families is reflected in the modern court process, whereby sexual orientation should not impact the way in which you are treated in family law matters by the court, or by your legal representative.

Our commitment to resolving disputes and Therapeutic Jurisprudence

A family breakdown is traumatic enough. The legal process doesn’t have to be. We are committed to your wellbeing as much as a great end result. It is our mission to resolve your dispute amicably and efficiently with what’s best for you front and centre. We stand with you.

Interpreter/translation service

The language you speak shouldn’t prevent you from getting legal advice. Let us know and we can arrange an interpreter for you.

Family And Relationship Law FAQs

When is the best time to seek legal advice?+

The decision to seek legal advice can be difficult to make but the earlier you seek advice about your rights and obligations the sooner you can make decisions and move forward. Following the breakdown of your relationship, you will have a lot of decisions to make, some you may find challenging or overwhelming.

In our experience, we find that getting advice early on about where you stand legally can help to ensure that you make the right decisions for both you and your family.

Are there alternatives to going to court?+

Yes. You can resolve disputes in a number of ways. Mediation is the most common alternative and you can discuss and negotiate most matters relating to separation. Mediation can be very successful but it does require full and frank disclosure and an element of good faith.

You may attend a mediation by yourself, or with one of our lawyers – whichever suits you best.

Aside from mediation, you can explore other options such as arbitration or negotiations directly between you or through your lawyers.

Can I have a property settlement without going to court?+

Definitely. Our aim is to ensure that your property division is resolved quickly and amicably and without either party having to apply to Court. In most cases, we can help our clients to obtain a property settlement by negotiation with their former partner or lawyer.

Once an agreement has been reached, it is important that it is formalised in writing. In financial matters, this can be achieved by way of a Consent Order or a Financial Agreement and is completed without having to step foot in a court. 

For matters relating to children, similar agreements can be made as to those relating to financial issues or you may consider agreeing to a parenting plan.

How is a court proceeding commenced?+

Unfortunately, if negotiations are unsuccessful it can be necessary to issue proceedings in Court to protect you and your property.

A court application can be made in the Family Court, Federal Circuit Court or the Magistrates Court as they all have jurisdiction to hear cases under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth). Depending on your situation, we will advise you on the most appropriate court for your case.

Court proceedings are commenced when one of you lodge an Initiating Application with the Court, essentially asking the Court to make orders about the issues you cannot agree upon. 

The person applying to the court is called the Applicant and the person you are in dispute with is called the Respondent. Both of you are required to file a documents explaining to the court what you want (your Application), an Affidavit, setting out the reasons why you are asking the court to make the orders you seek and in financial cases, you will also file a Financial Statement, disclosing all of your income, expenditure, assets and liabilities. Depending on your case, sometimes other documents may also need to be filed with the court.

Once the Initiating Application has been filed, the court will allocate a hearing date. We call this date the "First Return Date or Interim Hearing". Your documents will be served on the Respondent and they will, in turn, be required to prepare and their documents outlining their position, similar to those required by the Applicant.

You will then both attend the first return date.

What happens at court in a Family Law case?+

On the First Return Date (or interim hearing), both parties along with their solicitor or a barrister will attend court.

You will be allocated to a court with a number of other cases. There is an expectation that the parties will try to negotiate a settlement on some or all of the issues. If agreement can be reached on all matters, a judge can make Final Orders will be made on the day and no further court hearings are required.
The first return date is also for urgent or pressing matters such as where the children will live or how often they will spend time with one parent. If the issue is financial it may relate to the sale of property or payment of financial support  If an agreement cannot be reached at the first return date, the judge will make interim orders and you will be allocated another hearing date.

In children's matters, your case will then be adjourned for a further hearing (which could be another interim hearing or a trial). Orders can be made for child inclusive counselling and a Family Report may be ordered. Before the next hearing, usually, further documents such as affidavits will need to be filed with the court.
In financial matters, if no agreement can be reached, the matter will be adjourned for a Conciliation Conference which is conducted by a Registrar of the Court and both parties attend with their lawyers. 

Prior to that conference, you are required to provide evidence of your financial circumstances and the values of any assets. The Registrar assists the parties to try and reach agreement about the division of property. If agreement is reached, a Final Order can be made on that day.

If you still cannot resolve your issues at the interim stage, your case is then adjourned to a Final Hearing or trial. Both of you will be required to file further documents.

What are the consequences for breaching Court Orders?+

Once Court Orders are in place you must take all reasonable steps to comply with the contents of the Order. When Orders specify contact arrangements for the children you must comply. Failure to comply with Orders may result in an application to the Court. When an application is made to the Court about a breach of Orders the Court will consider the circumstances of the breach and decide if the breaching party has a reasonable excuse.

The Court may find it reasonable to breach an Order where the actions were necessary to protect the health and safety of the child. If the Court decides a breach occurred penalties imposed may include anything from variations to the Order, financial sanctions or imprisonment.

Is my partner automatically entitled to 50% of the assets if we separate?+

No. The division of assets following the breakdown of a relationship is determined by numerous issues and not an automatic 50-50 split. When considering the division of assets, you need to consider the sections of the Family Law Act which look at:

  • Assessing whether it is fair to vary your existing property interests;
  • Consider the contributions you have both made to those assets taking into account both financial and non-financial contributions;
  • Identify your and your former partner’s needs moving forward. Relevant considerations include whether you have a child or children living with you, your health, income and earning capacity.

This is not a formula and will be different for each family and you cannot assume that there will be an equal division. It is important to obtain advice from an experienced family lawyer to assess your entitlements.

What happens to our children when we separate?+

Just because you separate, does not mean you stop being a parent and facing the joys and challenges that role brings. The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) supports a child maintaining strong relationships with all members of their family and is focused on the best interests, safety and well-being of children. 

You can both make arrangements as to the ongoing care of your children as long as you continue to both works towards your children’s best interests. Generally speaking, your children should spend as much time with each parent as is appropriate and practicable. This will vary from family to family.

You and your former partner may not be able to agree on what is in your children’s best interests or how it can be achieved. Or, there are protective concerns for the physical, emotional or psychological well-being of your children. In which case you may wish to speak to a family lawyer about how to best determine and balance those interests.

Call 1300 366 441 or find us at an office near you to arrange a free and confidential appointment with one of our Family Law solicitors.

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What Our Clients Say About Us

Thank you for all your help. This will take a load of stress off my family. I can't thank you enough.

Paul

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