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Mediation and Your Family Law Dispute

Mediation and Your Family Law Dispute – Agreements that Suit Your Needs

WHAT IS MEDIATION?

Mediation is an alternative way to determine a family law dispute outside of the courts. The Mediator Standards Board defines mediation as: “a process in which the participants, with the support of the mediator, identify issues, develop options, consider alternatives and make decisions about future actions and outcomes.”

It is a process of problem-solving that is guided by an impartial third party called a mediator.

WHAT DOES A MEDIATOR DO?

In family law, the role of the mediator is to facilitate the process of dispute and conflict resolution while the content of the discussions rests with the parties. The mediator can assist the parties to clarify the most pertinent issues and consider ways to resolve these issues. A mediator will not, and cannot, give advice about your dispute or determine the dispute for you.

HOW IS MEDIATION DIFFERENT FROM COUNSELLING, CONCILIATION OR ARBITRATION

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Literary Executor

Appointment of a Literary Executor

The appointment of an executor within a Will can be assigned to a specific property or a certain type of property. However, the specified executor must fall within the meaning of ‘executor’ under the Probate and Administration Act 1898(the Act), section 41 to be granted probate which states:

“41 The Court may, if it thinks fit, grant probate to one or more of the executors named in any will, reserving leave to the other or others who have not renounced to come in and apply for probate at some future date.

This is evident in the NSW Supreme Court case The Estate of Nicholas Paul Enright [2017]. Nicholas Enright within his Will appointed two executor’s of his estate and a third ‘Literary Executor’. It was brought to the Court to determine whether the appointment of the third executor fell within the meaning of executor under section 41 of the Act as they weren’t granted probate alongside the other executors, and if so, whether the property was inclusive of “the copyright and other intellectual property in the deceased’s works”. It was noted that the term ‘Literary Executor’ had appeared in other cases.
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Three reasons why your debt collection efforts should not end when your debtor goes bankrupt

By Jeff Brown a Principal of Matthews Folbigg, in our Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group.

Most of us assume that the bankruptcy of a debtor that we are chasing for payment is the death knell for any return. It is true that in most cases the end result of bankruptcy is a minimal or zero return for unsecured creditors. However, there is a lot to say for putting in a relatively small effort to ensure that you are in the mix in case funds become available for distribution.

For example:

  1. The Trustee in Bankruptcy may recover funds from an unexpected source – Trustees don’t simply fill out reports and convene meetings while they administer the bankruptcy. They also search around for possible sources of funds for distribution to unsecured creditors. Once in a while a Trustee will find an asset, or another avenue of recovery, that you did not know existed. For example, a bankrupt may become entitled to a significant asset as part of the deceased estate. The bankrupt could also have made a significant payment to another unsecured creditor within six months of going bankrupt. In both cases, the proceeds of these events can be recovered by the Trustee.
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Intestacy rules of the Succession

Order of death can be important where it is relevant to the determination of the destination of the estates of the deceased. This was demonstrated in NSW Trustee and Guardian v State of New South Wales [2015] and demonstrates the need to have a Will Lawyer prepare a Will for you.

In this case a mother and son were found dead in their shared home. Both the mother and son died without a Will, so the destination of the estates and the persons entitled on intestacy would be determined by the sequence of death. The mother was a widow, with one child and there was no evidence that the mother had remarried, entered into a de facto relationship or had an issue after her husband’s death.  The son was unmarried and there was no record that he had ever had any children.

Depending on the sequence of death, there are two potential outcomes. If the son had died first the entirety of his estate would pass to his mother. From there the assets would be distributed according to the intestacy rules of the Succession Act 2006. Alternatively, if the mother died first her estate would pass to her son and then be distributed in accordance with the intestacy formula.
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Adverse Action – Employee Wins Their Job Back and Back Pay!

Following an initial decision in 2018, the Federal Circuit Court has ordered that a company:

  • reinstate a senior executive
  • pay him almost $1,000,000 in back pay

after it had dismissed the executive for making complaints about a lower level employee.

The Court rejected the company’s arguments that:

  • it was inappropriate to reinstate the employee because his role had been filled
  • no other vacancies existed within the company’s organisation

The Facts

In essence:

  • the employee was a South Pacific and South-East Asia Regional Leader
  • the employee began experiencing difficulties with the region’s HR Manager who regularly disregarded his reasonable instructions and was uncooperative and hostile towards him
  • the employee complained to the company’s senior management who blamed him for his devolving relationship with the subordinate HR Manager
  • the HR Manager placed the employee on a performance improvement plan
  • the company subjected the employee to an ethics investigation and ultimately dismissed him on performance grounds
  • the employee alleged that the performance improvement plan, ethics investigation and dismissal were motivated by his complaints about the HR Manager
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Judicial Mediation: A New Option To Resolve Your Dispute

As of 1 January 2019, parties to a family law dispute and their marriage lawyer, in appropriate cases, may now have the option of Judicial Mediation in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. Judicial Mediation is not intended to replace or substitute private mediation. Rather, the court expects that parties to a family law dispute exhaust all mediation alternatives, such as private mediation with a private mediator, prior to Judicial Mediation.

The Judicial Mediator

The Judicial Mediator may not be the Judge that would ordinarily determine the family law dispute. This Judge is referred to as the Docket Judge. Where both Judges consent, the Docket Judge may refer the proceeding for Judicial Mediation to another Judge.

How to Initiate Judicial Mediation

Judicial Mediation can be initiated in two ways. Firstly, you or your marriage lawyer can make an oral application in court. Alternatively, you or your marriage lawyer may apply for judicial mediation in writing to the Docket Judge. The written application must include a brief summary in bullet point format addressing why the matter is suitable for Judicial Mediation.

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Domestic Violence and Family Law

Domestic Violence can affect people of all ages, socioeconomic and demographic groups and unfortunately can often go unreported particularly when it occurs during a relationship with a spouse or partner. However it is not uncommon for historical and current domestic violence to come to light particularly in circumstances of a family law separation. In June 2012, the definition of family violence was amended to include other behaviours that constitute family violence.

The Family Law Act defines Family Violence as “violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person’s family, or causes the family member to be fearful”. The legislation includes behaviours such as stalking, repeated derogatory taunts, intentionally damaging property, causing death or injury to an animal and unreasonably denying a family member of their financial autonomy. With respect to children, the legislation also states that “a child is exposed to family violence if the child sees or hears family violence or otherwise experiences the effects of family violence”.

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Removal of Shrubs to Prevent Consents from Lapsing

The Court of Appeal (Court) in recent judgment of Cardo Management and Maintenance Pty Ltd v Cumberland Council [2019] has established an easier criteria to prevent a lapse of consent, assisting developers and landowners in protecting their development rights. Section 4.53 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (Act) stipulates that a development consent for the erection of a building, subdivision of land or the carrying out of work will lapse if no physical commencement of the development occurs after 5 years.

Land and Environmental Court Judgment

Within the recent judgment, the Land and Environment Court (LEC) had found that the developer had failed to establish that lawful works had physically commenced before the lapsing date of the consent. The developer had removed shrubs and trees as well as erecting fences and disconnecting the water.

The LEC found that the demolition of the trees and shrubs were not completed by a certified arborist as required by the consent, and further, the work on the fence and disconnection of water hadn’t been approved by the Principal Certifying Authority as per the consent. As such, the work done did not lawfully constitute physical commencement of the development.
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