FAMILY LAW

Many of our clients have turned to our family legal services because of our firm’s approachability and expertise. Our staff understand that it is often a difficult and emotional time for you and your family when it comes to matters involving separation, divorce and shared parental responsibility.

We appreciate that there are often tough decisions to make regarding parenting arrangements as well as your financial and property affairs.

At Hunter Legal & Conveyancing, we are with you at every step of the process. We will inform you of your legal rights and the options available to you in your individual circumstances. No matter what you decide, you can be sure that the best interests of you and your family are our highest priority. If required, we will enlist the services of experienced Barristers.

On many occasions, we recognise that you and your former spouse or partner may have reached an informal agreement in relation to your children and each party’s property and financial affairs. We will ensure that the agreement you have reached is fair and equitable and, most importantly, in your and your children’s best interests.

Our Lawyers can also provide certainty to your agreement by drafting legally enforceable Family Court Orders and Binding Financial Agreements.

WE PROVIDE GUIDANCE AND ADVICE...

  • Parenting arrangements.
  • Divorce.
  • De facto relationships.
  • Property settlements.
  • Spousal maintenance.
  • Binding financial agreements.

PARENTING MATTERS

In the realm of separation or divorce, we place the upmost importance on the children involved.

Under the Family Law Act, the primary consideration associated with parenting arrangements is the children’s best interests. This may include where and with whom the children live and how they spend time with their other parent.

At Hunter Legal & Conveyancing we ensure that the children’s best interests are at the forefront of any negotiations we enter into regarding “living arrangements” or “spend time with” arrangements. Since Court Proceedings cannot be commenced for children’s issues without mediation, our lawyers can assist you with arranging time-effective and cost-effective mediation, and if required, can even attend at mediation with you for legal and moral support.

Should attempts at mediation fail then our solicitors have the experience required to guide you through the daunting Family Law Court process. We also have great working relationships with experienced Barristers if need be.

At Hunter Legal and Conveyancing we provide a compassionate and understanding legal team that will provide support and care for our clients.

DIVORCE

What defines a Divorce?

The definition of Divorce is a legal end to a legal marriage.

When applying for a divorce, the team at Hunter Legal can assist with determining if the conditions are met which apply to a legal marriage, it should be noted that in Australia the causes of the relationship breakdown are not taken into account.

The conditions that need to be met for a marriage to be deemed as legal include:

  • You can evidence a legal marriage.
  • You or your spouse are Australian residents or citizens, or regard Australia as your permanent home.
  • The relationship has broken down irretrievably.
  • The irretrievable breakdown is proven by a minimum 12 month separation.
  • If your marriage is less than 2 years old, you may require a counselling certificate before applying for a divorce.
  • If you have children, you must satisfy the Court that you have made proper arrangements for their welfare, for example preparation of a Parenting Plan. (This does not mean those arrangements are formal, nor that there is no dispute, but rather that at the time of the divorce hearing, the children are being appropriately cared and provided for).

How do I apply for a Divorce?

The Hunter Legal team can assist you with preparing an Application for Divorce and file it with the Court and pay the application fee.

You can apply for a divorce together with your spouse, this will make it a ‘joint application’ and you and your spouse are joint applicants, or you can apply for a divorce by yourself, you are a ‘sole applicant’ and your spouse is the ‘respondent’.

The Divorce process is fairly straightforward and requires completion of a form which outlines the information you need to provide, it is easier to navigate compared to parenting or financial matters.

There is an Application for Divorce Kit which helps and has instructions for completing the application and filing it if required, this will also include the Application for Divorce form to complete and then simply provide to the team of specialists at Hunter Legal to apply to the Court.

It should be noted that whilst the granting of a Divorce Order will mark the legal end of your marriage, it will NOT influence, determine or arrange; child support, spousal maintenance, parenting and the division of property. These issues are dealt with separately and the team at Hunter Legal can provide advice in these areas also.

Divorce proceedings are usually commenced after all parenting and financial matters have been resolved due to the time taken to meet the separation criteria.

You can apply for a property settlement at any time after separation and prior to Divorce. However once a Divorce certificate has been issued, you will only have 12 months to make an application to the Court by right for property settlement. After that, any application for a property settlement can only be made with the consent of both parties or with permission from the Court under strict circumstances. That is why it is advisable to finalise all financial matters before applying for a Divorce.

SEPARATION

What classifies as Separation?

The term ‘Separation’ is the process of bringing a relationship to an end, either de facto or a marriage. While the Family Law Act does not provide for, or require, the registration (or recording) of a separation – it is important to keep track of dates surrounding the separation as it is a factor that must be proven if it is disputed by either party at a later time, or if the separation proceeds to a Divorce.

It should be noted that you do not have to leave your home to separate from your partner, you can be separated and continue to live under the same roof, the Hunter Legal team can assist with guidance in this area to ensure you still meet the required criteria for this and document the separation dates and arrangements. As there may be numerous decisions or outcomes into the future that will be based on when the separation occurred.

Once you do decide to separate, you will most likely need to make some immediate practical decisions such as:

  • Whether or not you will continue to live under the same roof.
  • Whether one of you needs to provide ongoing financial support for the other.
  • How your property will be divided.
  • Where any children will live.
  • What arrangements will be made for the financial support of the children.
  • How much time the children will spend with each parent – a Parenting Plan can assist with outlining these arrangements.

If the Court does become involved at a later date, either through formal divorce proceedings (which require the date of separation to be recorded on the application) or in the case of de facto relationships, disputes about children, property or financial matters, it will be necessary to prove when and if the separation took place. The factors considered by the Court can include:

  • Whether either party lodged or signed any documents informing government agencies of the separation, such as Applications for Centrelink or ATO documents as a single person.
  • Whether the parties separated their financial affairs to any extent after the date of separation.
  • Whether the parties performed domestic duties such as cooking and washing for each other after the alleged date of separation.
  • Whether the parties slept in separate rooms or together after the alleged date of separation.
  • Whether the parties continued to be intimate after the date of alleged separation.
  • Whether it was publicly known (such as by telling friends and family), that the parties had separated.
  • If you cannot prove you had separated from your spouse at least 12 months before you file your Application for Divorce, the Court will not grant your divorce. In the case of a de facto or same-sex relationship, whether or not a property settlement is available can depend on which side of the two year mark the separation took place.
  • Regardless of whether your separation is amicable, or not, and whether your separation will be relatively simple or complex – the best thing you can do is be informed and the team at Hunter Legal can guide you every step of the way so you can understand the overall process and legal requirements.

For Married Couples Seeking a Divorce

Married couples who have determined their relationship is no longer working, are met with a variety of options including: counselling, legal separation, and divorce. From a legal perspective there is a method and an order in which this delicate process must be handled. We provide an expert team of educated and proficient lawyers to assist parties through this difficult time.

For De-Facto Couples Seeking a Separation

De-facto relationships are defined as a couple who are living together for at least two years on a genuine domestic basis.

De-facto couples seeking separation often have many of the same challenges as married couples, but the legal ramifications may be different, including time limitation periods for a matters resolution.

The experienced Family Law team at Hunter Legal & Conveyancing are able to help any member of a failed relationship, regardless of the situation reach a peaceful resolution of separation or divorce.

HELPFUL LINKS

Family Court of Australia

Federal Circuit Court of Australia

Child Support

The Australian Family Law System

The Family Law Act

Legal Aid