Frequently asked questions

There are many ways to find out what your spouse owned or currently owns in a financial settlement matter.

At the outset, it is the obligation of each party, pursuant to the Family Law Act 1975 and the Family Law Rules (and Federal Circuit Court Rules), to provide “full and frank disclosure” of all of their assets, liabilities, superannuation interests and financial resources.

The disclosure of information required extends to paper documents (e.g. bank statements and tax returns), information stored on a computer device or any information which the other party may not know about. Disclosure must be made in relation to the parties current direct and indirect financial matters. This means that information relating to earnings, interest, property and income must also be disclosed. Any property that has been disposed of by way of sale, transfer or gift immediately prior to separation or after separation must also be disclosed, so as not to deplete any claim.

In the event of non-disclosure, we are also able to conduct Property Searches and Company Searches (should your spouse be involved in a company) to determine ownership or involvement. The Property Searches are governed by each State. This means we are able to locate any property currently held, or previously held, by your spouse in each state of Australia. The Company Searches are provided by the Australian Securities Investment Commission (ASIC) and can produce information relating to the company’s Directors, shareholders and assets since the inception of the Company.

Alternatively, if your spouse has not complied with the disclosure obligations, and we are unable to locate property by way of a Property or Company Search, it is possible, once court proceedings have been initiated, to issue a subpoena for the production of documents (e.g. to a bank), a subpoena to give evidence (e.g. from an accountant with knowledge of the relevant party’s financial circumstances) or both.

For more information on disclosure, subpoenas and/or conducting property and/or company searches, please contact us on 3837 5500 or at enquiries@damiengreer.com.au.

Determining the value of the matrimonial assets is an essential step to resolving family law property matters. However, this can often cause a significant dispute between parties to family court proceedings.

Some categories of property for which the value is often contentious are:

  • Real property;
  • Business interests;
  • Motor vehicles; and
  • Furniture & Jewellery.

So how then are parties able to resolve these conflicts and accurately determine the value of these items?

Real Property (Land/Houses and Buildings)

Quite often any real property owned by parties will be the ‘big ticket’ item/s of their assets. Because most of the value is generally tied up in these assets, it is important to make sure that you get the value right.

In some cases parties are able to agree to a value for real property through the use of appraisals obtained from real estate agents. While this can be a quick and inexpensive alternative, it has the danger of being imprecise.

The most common approach to determining the value of real property is through an independent valuation by an expert engaged jointly by the parties. While this comes at a cost, the real value is in the precision of the report. This is the approach the Court expects parties to take in the event that there is a dispute about the value of a real property.

Businesses Interests

If one or both of the parties own a business this can also often constitute a significant portion of the value of their assets.

Parties should be cautious about reaching agreement in respect of the value of businesses interests. It can be dangerous and incorrect to agree to a value (even where provided by the company accountant) without some guidance from an independent expert.

To obtain a valuation for a business, parties again, jointly instruct an independent expert who is a specialist accountant. The specialist accountant will assess the nature of the business and determine the appropriate methodology to apply to determine value.

In some cases, the value of the business will simply be the value of its assets minus its liabilities.

Motor Vehicles

If there is a dispute about the value of a motor vehicle there are a number of websites such as Redbook and Carsales which can provide some guidance. These websites will generally provide a value range.

If the issue remains in dispute the parties can appoint a joint expert to obtain a valuation of the motor vehicle.

Furniture & Jewellery

When placing a value upon items like jewellery and furniture, the family law courts tend to adopt a conservative approach. The value they adopt will be the second-hand sale value of the items, not the insured or replacement value.

If there is a dispute, parties are able to retain independent experts to value furniture and jewellery at a cost. In some cases, it is hard to justify the expense of obtaining a valuation for household items as they often have little second-hand value

For further information about valuing assets, please contact the team at Damien Greer Lawyers on 3837 5500.

The nature and the issues involved in your matter will determine what Court your matter will be heard in.

The Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, both have power conferred by the Family Law Act 1975, to  decide Family Law matters.

If you are faced with a family law problem requiring court intervention, before filing your application you must consider which Court is most appropriate to commence your proceedings in.

The Chief Justice and the Chief Judge of the Family Court of Australia and Federal Court of Australia respectively, have published a Protocol to assist practitioners and litigants in determining which Court is most appropriate for their matter. This Protocol is available on the Family Court’s website.[1]

If your matter involves any of the following issues, ordinarily, your application ought to be filed in the Family Court of Australia:

  1. Parenting matters involving an international element, such as international child abduction or international relocation;
  2. Jurisdiction disputes concerning whether or not a case should be heard in Australia;
  3. Matters involving special medical procedures such as gender reassignment and sterilisation;
  4. Contravention and related applications in parenting cases relating to final orders which have been made in Family Court of Australia, which have reached a final stage of hearing or a judicial determination and which have been made within 12 months prior to filing;
  5. Serious allegations of sexual abuse, serious allegations of physical abuse of a child or serious family violence;
  6. Complex questions of jurisdiction or law; and
  7. If a final hearing is required and it is likely the hearing would take longer than 4 days.

If none of above circumstances apply, it is likely that filing in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia in the first instance, is going to be the most appropriate course of action.

It should be noted that the Family Court of Australia has exclusive jurisdiction in relation to adoption and the validity of marriages and divorces.

For more information about filing an application in the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court of Australia, please contact the team at Damien Greer Lawyers on 07 3837 5500.

[1] http://www.familycourt.gov.au

The simple answer is, yes. Superannuation is treated as property under the Family Law Act 1975 (“the Act”) and Part VIIIB of the Act gives a court the power to make orders so as to distribute superannuation interests between the parties (known as “splitting orders”). Splitting orders apply to all types of superannuation funds.

However, the way in which superannuation is treated may differ from other types of property because superannuation is held in a trust. Apart from hardship, illness or disability it is not possible to access superannuation benefits until a person reaches preservation age or they commence a transition to retirement pension while working.

Superannuation can be split between parties either by (1) a Superannuation Agreement, entered in to between the parties setting out the way in which the superannuation interests are to be divided between the parties, or (2) an Order made by the Federal Circuit Court or Family Court.

The Family Law (Superannuation) Regulations 2001 set out the steps for valuing and implementing a splitting order. The methods of valuation differ depending upon the type of interest held in the superannuation fund (For example, the method for valuing an accumulation interest will differ from the method for valuing a defined benefit).

A superannuation splitting order generally allows the court to take the superannuation interests of one party and add it to the superannuation fund of the other party. A splitting order generally takes effect upon a payment from a superannuation interest becoming payable to the member spouse. At this time a certain amount (either a set amount or percentage) will be paid to the non-member spouse and the remainder will be paid to the member spouse.

There is also an option available to the non-member spouse to roll out the payment to them from their superannuation spit) to their own or another superannuation fund.

If you require further advice about superannuation in the family law context, please contact one of our experienced team members on 07 3837 5500.

In many cases and for a variety of reasons, couples who have separated may let some time pass before they take steps to finalise their property settlement. This is not without risk.

Identifying the assets that are `matrimonial’ or `relationship’ and so available for distribution between a separating couple is an important and sometimes complex step in a property settlement. If you and your spouse or de facto partner cannot agree as to what assets are matrimonial or relationship, the court will have to decide this.

If some time has passed since separation occurred, one of the most commonly arising questions become “what value do we use for these assets? The value when we separated? Or the current day value?” This can cause some tension and be either a cause of concern or an unexpected bonus, depending on the circumstances.

From the outset, it is important to understand that the usual approach by the court in this regard is to value the matrimonial/relationship assets as at the date of trial and not as at the time of separation.

By the time of Trial, which depending on circumstances may be 18 – 24 months after proceedings have been commenced it is not uncommon for the value of assets to rise or fall, sometimes significantly.

While the Court will consider the changes carefully and, if appropriate, attribute such changes as being a contribution, positive or negative by a party (which may increase or decrease their overall entitlement), the value of the asset will be taken as at the date of the trial.

This approach does not mean a party can “dispose” of an asset prior to settlement, in an attempt to remove it from the pool of assets without consequence. If a party wrongly disposes of an asset following separation, the court will carefully consider the factual circumstances and may decide to notionally “add back” the asset and its value, treating that asset as part of the matrimonial/relationship and will be taken by the person who dealt with t as part of their share. This is a complex area of law and cases surrounding it are developing the law regularly.

Aside from implications from a change in your matrimonial/relationship assets following separation, prior to property settlement it is important to be aware of statutorily imposed time limitations. If you were married, applications for property orders must be made within 12 months of your divorce becoming final. If you were in a de facto relationship, your applications for property orders must be made within 2 years of the breakdown of your de facto relationship.

For advice in relation to family law financial settlement matters, including valuations, disclosure, time limits and notional property, please contact one of our team members on 07 3837 5500.

Unless your child’s safety is at risk and/or you can establish that there is a ‘reasonable excuse’ for contravening a Court Order, you are required to and should always comply with parenting Orders.

If you are unable to establish that you had a ‘reasonable excuse’ as to why you have not complied with a parenting Order, you will most likely be met with an application by the other parent.

If your matter was previously in Court, you will find yourself before the same Judge who decided your matter initially and/or made the original Orders.

Unless you can establish a ‘reasonable excuse’ for contravening the Order, your previous Judge, who made Orders that were in the best interests of your child, is unlikely to be sympathetic to you for breaching the Order and you may be ordered to pay the other parent’s costs of bringing the Contravention Application.

What is a ‘reasonable excuse’

 Unfortunately, the term ‘reasonable excuse’ is not exclusively defined in the Family Law Act 1975.

However, the Family Law Act 1975 does provide that a person is taken to have had a ‘reasonable excuse’ for contravening a parenting order if:

  1. The person who contravened the Order did so because he/she did not understand the obligations imposed by the Order at the time the contravention occurred; OR
  2. There are ‘reasonable grounds’ to believe that contravening the Order was ‘necessary’ to ‘protect the health or safety of a person’ (including the respondent or the child) AND the period of contravention was not longer than was necessary to protect the health or safety of that person.

Obligations and consequences of failing to comply with a parenting order

Attached to the back of each parenting order made by the Court is a fact sheet that details your obligations and the consequences of not complying with parenting orders. The relevant parts regarding compliance are as follows:

Your legal obligations

You must do everything a parenting order says. This includes taking all reasonable steps to follow the order.

Penalties for failing to comply with a parenting order

A court can only penalise someone for failing to comply with a parenting order if another person files a contravention application alleging the person did not comply with the order.

After considering all the facts of the case and applying the law, a court may decide:

  1. The alleged contravention was not established;
  2. The contravention was established but there was a reasonable excuse;
  3. There was a less serious contravention without reasonable excuse; or
  4. There was a more serious contravention without reasonable excuse.

If a Court finds that you have failed to comply with a parenting order without reasonable excuse, it may impose a penalty. Depending on the situation and the type of contravention, a Court may:

  1. Order you to attend a post separation parenting program;
  2. Compensate for time lost with a child as a result of the contravention;
  3. Require you to enter into a bond;
  4. Order that you pay all or some of the legal costs of the other parties;
  5. Order that you pay compensation for reasonable expenses lost as a result of the contravention;
  6. Require you to participate in community service;
  7. Order you pay a fine; or
  8. Order that you be imprisoned.

A Court may also make a further order that discharges, varies or suspends the order or renews some or all of an earlier order, or adjourn the case to allow a person to apply for a further order that alters the parenting order.

If you require further advice about complying with a parenting order and/or what constitutes a ‘reasonable excuse’ please contact one of our experienced members on 07 3837 5500.

A family report is a written report prepared by a social worker or psychologist, for the purpose of making observations and recommendations about the future care and living arrangements that are in the best interests of children in parenting disputes.

A family report writer can either be appointed by the Court or jointly elected by the parties in the parenting dispute.

After a family report writer has been appointed or elected, they will conduct interviews with each parent and will observe each parent interact with the child/children. If age appropriate, the family report writer may also interview the child/children separately, but only if they are comfortable in doing so.  Other significant family members, such as step-parents, grandparents or other people who do or will live with the child, may also be asked to the interview.

It is the family report writer’s job to gather information about your background, your involvement in the children’s arrangements pre and post-separation, the issues in dispute, your relationship with the children and the arrangements you believe are in the best interests of the children moving forward.

If your matter is in Court, the family report writer will also read the Affidavit (and other) material you and your ex-partner have filed.

Importantly, what you say to the family report writer is NOT confidential and may appear in the family report, if the writer considers it relevant to include.

It is not uncommon for one or both of the parties to disagree with the observations or recommendations made by the family report writer.

While the family report is usually the only independent and professional piece of evidence the Court is able to rely upon, the Court is not bound by the recommendations of the family report.

Although the family report writer has had the benefit of meeting with and observing the parties and the children, his/her report is an opinion only and it is ultimately up to the Court to decide how much weight is to be given to the report.

In the event that you disagree with the recommendations or observations of the family report writer and your matter proceeds to a trial, the family report writer is able to be cross-examined on the report he/she has given.

The importance of a family report and your preparation for same should not be taken lightly. For more information about the family report process, obtaining a family report or challenging a family report, please contact the team at Damien Greer Lawyers on 07 3837 5500.

Separating with children does not mean the end of holidays. As Mum or Dad may not be coming along, it often means that holidays may require a little more planning and consideration.

Not all holidays are international – so we have separated the discussion of holidays into interstate and international travel.

Interstate Travel

If you are currently in or have been involved in family law parenting proceedings, the likelihood is that you will have parenting orders (or a parenting plan) which deal with the issue of travel specifically.

If you do not have parenting orders, have a parenting plan or there is no restriction on interstate travel in your parenting orders or plan, there will be nothing legally preventing you from travelling within Australia – provided, of course, that you are otherwise complying with the parenting orders or the agreement between yourself and the other parent.

The absence of a parenting order or parenting plan may complicate the issue of travel if the other parent does not consent to the holiday and/or it results in the child/ren missing out on spending time with the other parent.

If an agreement cannot be reached in those circumstances, an application to the Court may be necessary so that an order can be obtained to appropriately allow for travel.

You will need to allow sufficient time for your application to be prepared and heard prior to the intended holiday, so we recommend that you attempt to resolve this issue well ahead of time.

International Travel

International travel is a common issue in family law proceedings. If one parent is not willing to consent to the travel and the parents are unable to reach an agreement – an application to the Court may be necessary.

As a general rule, it is never a good idea to take child/ren overseas without the consent of the other parent. This will be viewed very poorly by the Court (particularly if proceedings are ongoing), and can result in punitive measures including incarceration.

If a parenting order has been made or parenting orders under the Family Law Act are pending, it is an offence to take or send a child to a place outside of Australia without the consent in writing of the other parent or an order of the Court. This offence is punishable by imprisonment for up to three (3) years.

The appropriate course of action for parents who intend to take their children for overseas holidays is to make an application to the court to determine the matter if an agreement cannot be reached.

The Court will then consider the various applicable factors such as the background parenting circumstances and relationship between the parents, the length of the proposed trip, the age of the child/ren, the proposed destination and the risk that the child/ren may not be returned.

If a parent is successful in obtaining an order and they are permitted to take the child/ren overseas, the other parent will often ask for and/or the Court will often issue orders providing that the travelling parent provide the non-travelling parent with a travel itinerary (including proof of return airfare ticketing) and a means of communication with the child/ren while travelling.

Orders are often framed so that parental consent will not be unreasonably withheld for future holidays and that the parties obtain and keep up to date the child/ren’s passports, so as to avoid any future litigation in relation to the matter and to ensure there is an agreed process in place for future travel.

More specific Orders can also be obtained with respect to where a parent is allowed to take a child. For example, restrictions may be placed on parents travelling with children to non-Hague Convention countries or where there is a ‘DFAT warning’ (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) in place.

If you are considering an overseas holiday with your child/ren and cannot reach an agreement with your ex-partner, we recommend that you act early and decisively and contact the team at Damien Greer Lawyers to discuss your options.

There is no specific answer to this question. Each case is different and will turn on its own facts.

If you are able to reach an agreement

If you and your ex-partner are able to agree as to parenting arrangements or how you want your property divided, you can make a joint Application for Consent Orders to be filed in Court.

Once the agreement is filed in the proper format, and the Court has determined that it is just and equitable to make the Orders, sealed copies of the Consent Orders will ordinary issue from the Court within 3 to 6 weeks.

If you are not able to reach an agreement

If you and your ex-partner are unable to reach agreement, you will ultimately be required to file a Court application (or you may be required to respond to one).

Parties can, in some cases, be waiting up to 3 years for a final decision from a judge. Although this would be the exception rather than the rule, wait times of 2 years for a final decision are quite common.

Once an application has been filed, the Court will usually hear the matter within 3 months. There are exceptions to this, such as urgent matters regarding the care of children, for example when one parent has threatened to take the children from Australia.

‘Interim’ or temporary orders regarding children and property applications will usually be made on the first Court date. However, your matter will not be at an end until a final order has been made by a judge or agreed to by consent.

Interim orders would usually include (but are not limited to) where the children are to live until a final order is made and necessary orders to progress financial matters such as interim spousal maintenance, orders for injunctions to stop the sale of matrimonial property and/or orders for disclosure.

Parties are able to come to a final agreement by consent at any time during the Court process. Due to extensive wait times, the majority of cases will generally settle at some point along the Court process and will not be required to go to a final Trial.

However, once in Court, the Judge assigned to the case will be required to exercise their discretion to ensure any agreement, even if reached with the consent of all parties, is just and equitable, before he or she is able to make the final order proposed by the parties.

Other matters that may affect how long the Court process will take are as follows:

  1. Whether your matter is heard in the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court.
  2. The willingness of you and your partner to reach an agreement.
  3. How complicated the issues before the Court are.
  4. Whether your matter is a children’s matter, property matter or both.

For more information on the court process, or any aspect of your family law matter, please contact the team at Damien Greer Lawyers.

A de facto relationship is a relationship between two people (whether same sex or opposite sex) who are unmarried and unrelated but have been living together on a ‘genuine domestic basis’.

In order to determine whether a couple has been living together on a ‘genuine domestic basis’, the court will look at the particular circumstances of the parties, and consider the following in making their determination:

  • The length or duration of the relationship;
  • The nature and extent of a common residence;
  • Whether or not a sexual relationship exists or existed;
  • The degree of financial dependence or interdependence and/or any arrangements for the financial support of one another;
  • The ownership, use of and acquisition of property;
  • Whether and to what degree the parties are mutually committed to sharing a life with one another;
  • Whether the relationship has been registered (in a State or Territory where a de facto relationship can be registered);
  • The care and support of children; and/or
  • The reputation and public aspects of the relationship.

It is not necessary for all of the circumstances listed above to exist and no one factor is more important than another.

Even if parties are found to be living in a de facto relationship it does not automatically entitle them to a share of each other’s assets

In order to be entitled to a share of the other’s assets it is necessary for a party to establish that they:

  • have been living together for a period of at least two years (either consecutively or accumulatively); OR
  • have a child together; OR
  • have made substantial ‘contributions’ (financial, non-financial or as homemaker/parent) to the acquisition, conservation or improvement of any property of the parties to the de facto relationship; OR
  • that a failure to make an Order would result in serious injustice to the applicant.

Importantly, a party can be considered to be living in a de facto relationship despite the fact that they are legally married to someone else.

Once it is established that two people have been living in a de facto relationship and they have met one of the four conditions above, any assets, liabilities or superannuation interests will be treated in the same way upon separation, as if the parties were married.  That is, the court can make orders dividing up any assets, liabilities or superannuation either of a de facto couple owns, in the same way it does for married couples.

Parties found to be in a de facto relationship also have an obligation to support the other party financially (via spousal maintenance) similar to the obligation of a married couple.

However, the limitation date (time limit in which to bring a financial application to the court) is different for de facto couples.  That is, parties who have been in a de facto relationship have a period of two years from the date of separation in which to initiate property proceedings, whereas married couples have a period of 12 months (commencing from the date the divorce order becomes final).

The law dealing with de facto relationships is complex. If you are uncertain whether you are in a de facto relationship, or you are concerned about the effect  being in de facto relationship may have on your current or future financial circumstances, please contact the team at Damien Greer Lawyers.

The quickest and most inexpensive way for any family law dispute to be resolved is by agreement. In matters involving children, an ongoing relationship with your ex-partner in some form or another is likely until your child is at least 18 years old. Preservation of your relationship with your ex-partner is more likely when an amicable agreement can be reached and this will benefit your child. Please click here for information on the processes you can use to resolve disputes.

We can assist you in reaching an early agreement by:

  • Providing you with accurate advice as to what your likely range of entitlement is, or the likely outcome of an Application will be;
  • Engaging in “co-operative” rather than “positional” negotiation techniques with your ex-partner. This means looking for the interests underlying a dispute and attempting to find mutually beneficial solutions rather than the classic “Dutch auction” where one party must lose something for the other to gain something;
  • Ensuring that any power imbalances between you and your partner are addressed, and ensuring you make fully informed decisions. This involves ensuring all relevant information has been obtained from your ex-partner as well as provided to your ex-partner;
  • Ensuring your matter is well prepared

You cannot force your former partner to come to an agreement, but you can create circumstances whereby an agreement is more likely. As family lawyers, we play an important role in this. Creating conditions to assist you in reaching an agreement involves both you and your lawyer being respectful and courteous in dealings with your former partner and their legal representative. This does not mean you should not stand up for your rights or the rights of your children, give in to unreasonable demands, put up with abuse or accept less than you are entitled to. What it means is creating the best opportunities for an agreement to be reached. Rather, it means ensuring negotiations are respectful, even when you do not agree with the position they have taken and even when you may not feel like being courteous.

Relationship breakdown is an emotional experience and legal processes can create stress and greater animosity if not managed properly. When animosity exists in Family Law and Divorce matters, often it is the children who suffer the most. Our aim is to try and ensure that your matter is resolved as amicably and quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, some disputes do not resolve in an amicable and timely fashion, for various reasons. In those circumstances, proceeding to Court may be the only option available.

If you happen to fall into the very small percentage of the population that has to go to Court to obtain Orders, and you have behaved in a courteous and respectful manner towards your former partner, you will have arrived at the decision to initiate proceedings knowing it is a “commercial” and not an emotional decision.

Even if your matter is forced to go to Court, our aim is still to proceed in a cooperative manner to try to obtain an early settlement, if possible.


Contrary to popular belief, the process that the Court uses to determine a family law property settlement, is not a mathematical one. Given that each relationship and each family is different and that the Court has a wide discretion in making property settlement orders, outcomes can vary considerably.

In practice, the Court generally follows a process involving a number of steps in determining the entitlement of each party to a relationship. These steps are as follows:

  1. The Court must decide if it would be just and equitable to adjust or change the parties’ current legal ownership of assets.
  2. To make a list of all of the current assets, liabilities and superannuation of each of the parties and arriving at a net figure, or what becomes known as the “net property pool”.
  3. To assess the contributions of each of the parties throughout the relationship, to the net property pool and to the welfare of the family. Contributions can be direct (eg. made by one of the parties’ to the relationship) or indirect (eg. made by one of the parties’ family members), financial (eg. earning an income) or non-financial (eg. renovations or improvements to a property done by one of the parties) or made as homemaker or parent. Each party’s contribution is assessed as a percentage or a range of percentages.
  4. To assess the current and future circumstances of each of the parties and make adjustments to the percentage arrived at in step 3. The list of factors in Section 75(2) of the Family Law Act 1975 must be considered. An example of some of the more common factors are:
    • the age and state of health of each of the parties;
    • the income earning capacity or discrepancy between the parties;
    • the length of the relationship and its effect on each of the parties earning capacities; and
    • who will have the primary care of the children into the future.
  5. For the Court to “step back” and assess whether the percentage or division achieved by application of the above 4 steps is appropriate or “just and equitable” in the circumstances.

‘Spousal Maintenance’ is money paid by one spouse (the paying spouse) to the other (the receiving spouse) in circumstances where the receiving spouse is unable to support themselves ‘adequately’ following separation.

In determining whether or not spousal maintenance is appropriate, the Court will consider the following:

  1. Whether the “threshold” is met (i.e. that there is a ‘need’ for one of the parties to be financially supported by the other);
  2. The capacity by the other party to support the first party for a period of time.
  3. The matters in Section 75(2) of the Family Law Act 1975.
  4. The extent of support required (what is ‘adequate’ in the circumstances) and the amount of time maintenance is required to be paid for.

What must be remembered, however, is that the Court is not required to ensure that either party has the same standard of living that they had before separation.  It only has to be reasonable in all the cirucmstances.

There are no hard and fast rules as to who a child shall live (formerly known as ‘custody’) and who a child spends time with (formerly known as ‘access’).

The Court’s paramount consideration in determining which parent the child should live with, and how much time the child shall spend with the other parent, is what is in the ‘best interests of the child’. The Family Law Act 1975 sets out the factors that are to be taken into account in determining best interests.

Since 2006 there has been a “presumption” included in the Family Law Act 1975 that it is in the children’s best interests for both parents to have equal shared parental responsibility. The presumption can be rebutted by evidence that it is not in the best interest of children for there to be equal shared parental responsibility.  The presumption does not apply where there is abuse or family violence.

“Parental Responsibility” was previously referred to as “Guardianship” and involves all the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority parents have with respect to children. It involves matters such as:

  1. Education
  2. Religious and cultural upbringing
  3. Health
  4. A child’s name
  5. Relocation of a child’s residence.

If a Court has made an order for equal shared responsibility, the Court must then consider ordering “equal time” or “substantial and significant time”. This pathway is:

  1. To consider if  the child should live with each parent for equal time, provided this is reasonably practicable and in the child’s best interests. If this is not appropriate then
  2. To consider whether the child should spend substantial and significant time (days falling on weekends and holidays and days not falling on weekends and holidays) with the parent with whom the child is not living, provided this is reasonably practicable and in the child’s best interests. If this is not appropriate then
  3. To consider what time the child should spend with the parent with whom the child is not living would be in the child’s best interests.  Disputed parenting matters are difficult and quite often, the Court will order that evidence from experts from the Psychology or Social Science field be obtained (eg. a Family Report, a Psychiatric Assessment Report etc.)

Parties wishing to document how their finances will be divided in the event that they separate at some point down the track, can enter into what is known as a Financial Agreement. In fact, a Financial Agreement can be entered into at any point before or during marriage or cohabitation.

One of the more appealing features of this type of Financial Agreement is that it can cover property of the parties that has not yet been acquired or come into existence.

However, there are a number of very strict requirements that must be met by the agreement in order for it to be considered binding. For example, both parties must have independent legal advice on the effect of the agreement, the advantages and disadvantages of entering the agreement and their likely entitlements under the Family Law Act 1975.  This must be done before the agreement can be signed and in order for the agreement to become binding.

A Financial Agreement that is not binding does not remove the jurisdiction of the Court to make property adjustment Orders and only can be relied upon as evidence of the parties’ intention to do so.  Further, a Financial Agreement that is not binding will not likely result in a division of property in accordance with its terms.

It is therefore extremely important that both parties comply with the requirements strictly before they intend to rely on any part of the agreement.

Financial Agreements should only be prepared by Accredited Specialists in Family Law.

Disclaimer: Our website does not give legal advice. The information on this website is produced by Damien Greer Lawyers. It provides general information only on relevant topics of interest in relation to Family Law current at the time it is produced. No reliance should be placed on such general information as contained on this site and legal advice should be sought about the particular circumstances of your particular case.