Family Law

About Family Law

Family law is a broad term, describing the laws which govern what may be described as issues arising out of family relationships. Family law most commonly deals with divorce, parental responsibility and property settlement. It is largely regulated by the Family Law Act 1975 (FLA), although many other Commonwealth, State and Territory laws have application to family law. Since the introduction of the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988 and the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989, jurisdiction of the FLA in relation to child support is limited to certain limited cases.[1]

It seems many people do not know that legal dissolution of a marriage involves several steps, which can be undertaken concurrently or consecutively. That is, divorce is a process separate to property distribution and parenting arrangements.

Family law is a very complex area of law and there is no one set of instructions that covers every situation. However, in general, the process involves Family Dispute Resolution (FDR), which, if unsuccessful, leads to a Court process.

The Court process is lengthy and expensive and at any time, the parties may be referred back to family dispute resolution. In addition, the Court process, despite the best intentions of legislation, is often adversarial and emotionally taxing on not just the parties involved, but on the children, family, friends, and partners of the parties. For these reasons, it is often best to settle the matter outside of Court solely through FDR.

Our practice encourages a cooperative, non-combative approach to family law, and consideration of the best interests of all involved, especially any children of the relationship. We aim to minimise the emotional distress and financial strain felt by parties during the distressing process that is the breakdown of a relationship.

Of course, if a party suffered abuse during the relationship, the matter is treated differently, and we can provide expert and discreet help and guidance in these circumstances.

As family law can prove to be expensive for clients, we try to keep our costs minimal – for example, by asking you to undertake some of the steps when possible.

If you believe your child support assessment is incorrect or does not take into account your circumstances, we can offer you legal help.

Our process for Family Law claims

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Step One

Parties undergo Family Dispute Resolution such as mediation.

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Step Two

An agreement is reached between the parties in relation to distribution of property and parenting of children OR no agreement is reached between the parties in relation to property distribution and/or parenting of children.

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Step Three

In the event of agreement, the agreement is adopted formally through consent orders or informally (not recommended!) OR in the event of no agreement between parties, parties are issued a section 60i certificate by the FDR service.

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Step Four

Once the s 60i certificate has been issued, either party can apply to the Court to have their matter decided. The Court process is lengthy and may include multiple directions hearings and interim hearings prior to the final hearing. Family consultants and similar may be appointed. Most matters are heard through the Federal Circuit Court; only more complex matters are heard in the Family Court of Australia.

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Step Five

The Court will provide parties with a first Court date whereby documents will be filed. On this day, the Court may give directions, finalise the application (for example, an urgent recovery order), and list a date for an interim or final hearing. This first Court date allows parties to define the issues in dispute and, if possible, reach an agreement.

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Step Six

The length of the final hearing is case-dependent. Parties must be familiar with the facts they are relying on and the outcome they wish to achieve.