Family relationships are among the most sensitive, rewarding and important in our lives but, the truth is, they are not always easy. According to the Bureau of Statistics, nearly 40 percent of Australian marriages end in divorce. If you find yourself at the end of your marriage, and confused and overwhelmed at the process that lies ahead then you need a family lawyer who is understanding, approachable and to whom you can turn for comprehensive advice about your rights, obligations and options. Our foremost goal at Owen Hodge Lawyers is to help you reach a complete and workable agreement, preferably through negotiation. Our Sydney-based family lawyers can help to minimize the trauma of this difficult time and to create a legal framework on the basis of which you can reorganize your life. Our professional experience has taught us that not all clients realise the range of issues with which a family lawyer may be able to assist, so before we begin to discuss your situation, let us take some time out for a little education about what a family lawyer can do. Basically, this falls into three categories:
- The beginning and ending of a marital relationship.
- The division of financial assets.
- Matters involving children.
Beginning and Ending a Marital Relationship
Many couples, especially those with substantial individual assets, or those with children from a prior relationship enter into an agreement before marrying (or during the marriage or after it is over) that describes rights and obligations in the event of marital dissolution. No one suggests that a marriage be begun with an eye to its end, but a prenuptial agreement, also known as a binding financial agreement, may be a good idea even in the most harmonious situation. It forces a conversation about money and children, two of the more difficult issues with which most couples deal, and is negotiated at a time when neither party’s judgment is clouded by acrimony. In the event the marriage does end, the divorce maybe fairly simple because much of the negotiating has already been done. You can read more about prenuptial agreements here or call us on 1800 770 780 to discuss your matter in more detail.
Divorces are generally only granted after a separation of at least 12 months. Therefore, the date of separation becomes important in establishing that 12 month period. The law also recognizes that a couple may continue to try to reconcile even after separating. If reconciliation attempts are brief but unsuccessful, this usually does not affect the original date. Couples who separate but continue to live together face special issues, which should be explored with an attorney in advance. Couples who have been married for less than two years, including a 12-month period of separation, are generally required to attempt marriage counseling and attach proof of such counseling to their Application for Divorce. You can read more about separation here or call us on 1800 770 780 to discuss your matter in more detail.
De Facto Relationships
With same sex couples or heterosexual couples who have been living together for some time, it is not always clear whether a defacto, or marriage-like, relationship exists. The Family Law Act provides the same avenues of relief to couples in a de facto relationship, as married partners , whether or not their relationship was registered. The end of a defacto relationship should be as carefully provided for as the end of a legal marriage. There are also special limits on property settlements for briefer relationships. You can read more about de facto relationships here or call us on 1800 770 780 to discuss your matter in more detail.
Divorce is the legal process of ending a marriage. Once a divorce order is made either party is free to remarry. Parties can only apply for a divorce after a 12 month period of separation. Couples should also be aware that there are special requirements with respect to counseling for marriages of less than two years. Complicated questions about the jurisdiction of Australian courts may also arise for couples married outside of Australia. Before granting a divorce, the court must also be satisfied that adequate arrangements are in place for the care of any children of the parties. Divorce triggers a very important time limit. A party may only make an application for property orders up until 12 months after the date of divorce without obtaining the special permission of the court. You do not need to be divorced to enter into Consent orders regarding property or to make an application to the court for property orders. The process of finalizing the property of the marriage is usually commenced prior to the parties getting divorced. You can read more about divorce here or call us on 1800 770 780 to discuss your matter in more detail.
Division of Assets and Liabilities
In a divorce, the assets to be divided between ex spouses or ex partners may include money, real property, investments, family businesses, and superannuation and retirement funds. The liabilities are considered and often divided as well. The formula or the approach taken by the court in dividing the net matrimonial asset pool, takes into account not only who contributed to the parties’ assets, but what the future needs of both parties are likely to be including age, health and earning capacity. You should be aware that informal agreements are not necessarily binding in the event of future legal action which is why it is important to seek the advice of a family law solicitor to document any agreement reached by you and an ex partner in order that it is legally enforceable and binding. At Owen Hodge Lawyers our Sydney team of experienced family law solicitors can assist and equip you to deal with the division or your assets and liabilities after the breakdown of your relationship. We will give you a sound understanding of your entitlements pursuant to the Family Law Act 1975 and the best approach to take in obtaining your desired outcome. We pride ourselves in adopting a sensitive, friendly and case-specific approach to all our family law financial matters and we would gladly assist you with any issue you may be facing. You can read more about financial matters including the division of assets and liabilities here or call us on 1800 770 780 to discuss your matter in more detail.
Spousal maintenance is either a periodic or lump sum payment from one spouse to the other after separation to assist with the financial needs of the party receiving the maintenance. If by way periodic payments, it is usually for a specified period of time. It is not an automatic right, but if one party is in need of financial support and it can be established that the other has a means or is able to provide that support, then the party needing the financial support may make an application to the court for orders relating to spousal maintenance. If applicable, they are usually included in an application for property orders. It may be a short term or permanent arrangement. This is an issue you should discuss carefully with your attorney before you make an application to the court or enter into any agreement with your spouse or partner. Spousal maintenance may also be dealt with in consent orders or a binding financial agreement before, during or after the breakdown of your relationship. You can read more about spouse maintenance here or call us on 1800 770 780 to discuss your matter in more detail.
The Child Support Agency often administers child support payments for parents who are entitled to receive payments pursuant to a child support assessment undertaken by the Child Support Agency. Amounts are assessed according to a standard formula. A useful calculator is available on the Child Support Agency’s website
which may give you an idea of amount of child support you may be entitled to receive. Under certain circumstances, parents may agree to negotiate a private agreement, but you should discuss any proposed or potential agreement by consent with your family lawyer to determine whether it would be the best choice for you and to determine the amount you are likely to either owe or be entitled to collect pursuant to an assessment from the Child Support Agency. You can read more about Child Support here or call us on 1800 770 780 to discuss your matter in more detail.
Updating Your Will
It is most important to update your will after you have separated from your partner. Your will should be updated to reflect your new situation following a divorce or separation. If you and your former spouse were also business partners, this may affect the provisions of your will. If you have provided financial support to the children of a former spouse or will be providing financial support to the children of a subsequent spouse, these children may also have the right to inherit under your will. Even in situations that do not involve divorce, many attorneys advise reviewing the provisions of a will every three years to ensure that it still accurately reflects intentions. Owen Hodge Lawyers are specialists in Wills and Estates. You can read more about wills and estates here or call us on 1800 770 780 to discuss your matter in more detail.
Custody and Visitation
Many parents are able to agree on parenting or custody arrangements between themselves, which is obviously the best possible scenario. The overarching principle is that matters relating to who the children will live with and how they are to spend time with the other parent, are to be decided in the best interests of the children. Older children, in particular, may often have a say in their living arrangements. In contested situations, however, it is important to consult a family lawyer regarding the process of negotiating custody or parenting arrangements so that you understand the court’s perspective on your situation. Prior to making an application to the court for parenting orders, it is a requirement that the parties attempt mediation. At Owen Hodge Lawyers we understand that your children are the most important people in your life and we strive to achieve an outcome that is in the best interests of your children. We approach every parenting matter with sensitivity and understanding. You can read more about child custody issues here or call us on 1800 770 780 to discuss your matter in more detail.
Abduction, Relocation and Passport Consent
Parental abduction to a foreign country is, of course, every parent’s worst nightmare. Australia has entered into international agreements with many countries concerning the return of abducted children, but if you fear that this is a possibility, you should discuss the matter with an attorney as soon as possible. If, on the other hand, you simply want to take a foreign vacation with your child or relocate to a foreign jurisdiction, you should be prepared to negotiate with the other parent and seek legal advice from an experienced family lawyer as soon as possible. If you would like more information or assistance with relocating with a child and any passport issues please call us on 1800 770 780.
This hardly exhausts the range of issues which Owen Hodge Lawyers can and have helped clients. Owen Hodge Lawyers is a full service firm, with great depth of expertise in conveyancing, wills, adoption and other areas that come into play in with divorce, separation or remarriage. We are here to see you through to the next phase of your life. If you need any assistance with family law matters, please contact our Sydney team 1800 770 780.
Family Law Consultations In Wollongong and the Illawarra
(By Appointment Only)
We offer professional and discreet family law face-to-face consultations in Wollongong and the Illawarra at a location convenient to you. To arrange a personal consultation with one of our experienced family lawyers in Wollongong, please contact Owen Hodge Lawyers on 1800 770 780 or contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org