The experienced team at CSG Law have specialised knowledge and experience in Family Law matters. If your relationship has broken down then we will work with you to provide guidance whilst assisting you to understand your legal rights and responsibilities.
We are aware of and focus closely on your need to resolve Family Law issues without resorting to Court proceedings, however, should the need arise then we are well equipped to guide you through the Court process in a professional and cost-effective manner.
We appreciate that the breakdown of a relationship can be a confusing and stressful time for you and your family and we can assist you to take preventative measures to minimise the stress of a relationship breakdown in the future by preparing agreements for you to safeguard your position.
At CSG Law we have an experienced team available to work with you, evaluate relevant issues and provide advice regarding the legal options available to you. Our firm has over 130 years’ experience in the following areas:
A divorce is only possible if the parties have been separated for over 12 months. The separation does not necessarily have to be for a continuous period of 12 months (so long as the parties did not reconcile for more than 3 months) and the parties may be separated in the same household, dependent upon many factors. If the parties have been married for less than 2 years it is compulsory to undertake approved counseling prior to divorce.
The following stages are pertinent throughout the divorce process:
- Application for Divorce – The application must be completed and signed in the presence of an authorised person and then filed in the Court. There are associated costs payable to the Court A hearing date can then be set.
- Service – The Application for Divorce must then be served on the other party at least 28 days prior to the hearing and there are strict requirements regarding this so that the Court can be sure that the other party has received the documents.
- The Court hearing – If there are no children of the marriage under the age of 18 years or you have made a joint application there is no requirement for either party to attend the Court hearing. If you have made a sole application and there is a child of the marriage under the age of 18 years then you must attend the Court hearing as the Court will want to ensure that proper arrangements have been made for the child or children before granting a divorce. In some cases the Court will allow the parties to appear by telephone, however prior approval from the Court is required. A divorce order generally becomes final one month and one day after it is made.
- Other issues – The granting of a divorce does not automatically decide issues such as maintenance, child support, property or parenting arrangements. You can make arrangements regarding these issues before being divorced and it is preferable to make these arrangements as soon as possible after separation. You should seek legal and financial assistance, particularly before signing any agreements. Once your divorce is granted you have a limited time within which you can apply to the court for maintenance for yourself or for a property settlement. After that time you will need to seek permission of the Court to apply.
CSG Law can assist you by preparing and filing your Application for Divorce. We can also attend with you at the Court hearing.
Property Settlement is the process of dividing the assets, liabilities and financial resources of a relationship.
There are four steps utilised in determining a property settlement. These are:
- Establishing the net asset pool – All assets and liabilities need to be ascertained and the value of these agreed upon. If the value cannot be agreed upon then valuations may need to be obtained.
- Each party’s contributions – There are two basic types of contributions the Court will look at –
Financial contributions – these are classified as both direct and indirect financial contributions. A party’s income is a direct financial contribution whilst indirect financial contributions are moneys such as an inheritance or a gift.
Non-financial contributions – these can again be classified as direct or indirect contributions. Direct non-financial contributions include such things as caring for the children, and undertaking maintenance and repair work, mowing, cooking, cleaning etc. An example of indirect non-financial contributions would be assistance with the above provided by other family members. Contributions made to the welfare of the family are also taken into account.
- Future circumstances – There are a number of factors the Court will look at such as the income earning capacity of each person in the future.
- Fairness and equity – After an examination of all of the above factors, the Court will determine what it considers to be a ‘fair and equitable’ division of the property interests of the parties.
Taking into account these four steps the Court will determine a percentage outcome (ie 50/50%; 60/40%).
If the parties can consent to the division of property then Consent Orders may be drawn up and this can be a rather simple and easy process.
CSG Law can provide advice and assist you in reaching a property settlement through negotiation including the preparation of Consent Orders. In cases where agreement cannot be reached then we can represent you in Court.
Parenting and Child Support
Children are always the primary concern in any relationship breakdown. Parents who are separating need to make arrangements for the children to spend time with both of their parents in a way that meets the needs of the children and is workable for the parents.
Parents can often agree on arrangements without the intervention of the Court. Sometimes this can be achieved on their own and sometimes it is necessary to receive the assistance of professionals with experience in helping parents work through what is in the best interests of the children bearing in mind their individual circumstances.
If you are able to reach an agreement on your own CSG Law can assist you to formalise that agreement by way of either Consent Orders or a Parenting Plan. We can discuss with you and advise regarding which method of formalising your agreement will be of benefit to you. If necessary we can also provide information regarding other professionals who can assist in assessing what is the best solution for you and your family.
Before going to Court, most parents will be required to undertake Family Dispute Resolution Counselling with a certified Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner. The Federal Government has set up Family Relationship Centres in many areas across the country to provide this service to parents. Private Dispute Resolution Practitioners are also available to be engaged by parents. There are exceptions to this requirement for Family Dispute Resolution Counselling and we can advise you whether these exceptions might apply to you and what alternatives might be available to try to resolve your dispute.
Of course, if all avenues are exhausted and an agreement cannot be achieved then CSG Law can guide you through and represent you in the Court process.
The Court will give careful consideration to what is best for the children, not what one parent wants. The Court will consider who the child will benefit more from living with, and what time they should have with the other parent. It is also possible for grandparents or other concerned parties to make applications to the Court regarding the children’s living arrangements or to seek to have time with the children. Once the Court has made its determination it will process documents known as Orders, which are legally binding and are required to be followed by both parties. It is also possible for parents who have reached an Agreement outside of Court, to have their agreement documented as Orders, therefore making it legally binding so that both parties adhere to the agreement.
CSG Law can assist you with these processes. We can also provide advice should you need to relocate with the children, or if your agreement is not being followed by the other parent.
Binding financial Agreements
A binding financial agreement, also known as a pre-nuptial agreement, sets out the way some or all of a couple’s assets will be divided in the event that their relationship breaks down. It can also deal with spousal maintenance.
Legislation allows married couples and de facto couples to enter into financial agreements which are legally binding. Although a binding financial agreement can be signed at any point during a relationship, it is preferable that the agreement is put in place before getting married or entering into a de facto relationship (i.e. living together).
You should consider a binding financial agreement when you:
- Commence your relationship with more money, property or assets than your spouse/partner
- Operate a family business or control an investment that you need to preserve
- Seek to financially protect your children from a previous relationship
- Have an expectation of receiving a significant inheritance or gift
- Wish to have certainty surrounding your assets to avoid going to court should the relationship end
CSG Law can advise regarding the advantages and disadvantages of entering into a binding financial agreement including the potential risks and loopholes, and what the process is likely to involve.
Victims of domestic violence may apply for a Protection Order.
The definition of “domestic violence” is very broad and is not simply limited to acts of physical violence.
Applications for Protection Orders may be brought by the Police, or by any individual who has been a victim of domestic violence and who fears that there will be a further incidence of domestic violence. CSG Law can assist in obtaining a Protection Order including representation in Court.
Similarly, we can advise and assist when a Protection Order Application is brought against an individual. It is very important to recognise that the making of a Protection Order may adversely affect some individuals including in relation to their employment and it is for this reason that we encourage anyone who has been served with a Protection Order Application to seek legal advice as soon as possible.
Spousal maintenance is money paid to one spouse/partner (who has a need to be maintained) by the other spouse/partner (who has the capacity to contribute to the financial support of the other).
Central to a spousal maintenance claim is the earning capacity and reasonable weekly expenses of each spouse/partner.
CSG Law can advise you about your rights and responsibilities regarding spousal maintenance.
Child Support Agreements
Parents may decide to enter into a private agreement in relation to child support. In some cases, these agreements can be made into agreements that are binding on both parties. Agreements might be in relation to the amount of child support paid, things that can be purchased as opposed to cash payments, or lump sums that can be paid instead of regular payments. Parties who wish to enter into a binding child support agreement are required to seek independent legal advice before doing so as it is important that these documents are drafted in a manner which is acceptable to the Child Support Agency. Once completed, these documents may be lodged with the Child Support Agency and the payments or arrangements outlined in the agreement are enforceable against the parties.
CSG Law can assist you and provide legal advice as well as preparing both binding and limited child support agreements.