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Unhappy with your current Parenting Arrangement? How to Change your Family Court Orders

In 2016, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia made Orders with the consent of both parents. In summary, they were that the child live with the mother and spend time with the father and the time with the father was to increase as the child increased in age. The parents lived, and continue to live in different towns. In 2018, the father’s divorce lawyer brought fresh proceedings based on two possible scenarios:

  1. If the mother relocates near the father, the child to spend equal time with the parents, or
  2. If the mother does not relocate, he sought Orders in the reverse so that the child lives with him.

In order to revise family law court Orders, the case of Rice & Asplund [1978] FamCA 84 requires the existence of a material change of circumstances. The father’s divorce lawyer argued that since the time of making the consent Orders, his circumstances had changed in three ways:

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The Basics of a Divorce

By Andrew Banna, a Principal of Matthews Folbigg, in our Family Law Group

Our Family Law Group consists of 7 family law lawyers. We have 4 Accredited Specialists in the area.

We have been recognised as one of the leaders in the Family Law market through Doyles rankings.

We specialise in all aspects of family law such as divorce.

A lot of clients come to our family law lawyers for assistance with a divorce.  Despite the common misconception, a divorce actually does not involve sorting out your parenting or property matters. A divorce simply means dissolving your marriage because you want to remarry or you just would like to formalise what is happening in your life.

You can’t apply to the Court for a divorce until you have been separated for at least 12 months.  There are special rules where you can be separated under the one roof which requires extra documentation. However, unless you have been separated for 12 months you can’t commence the process.
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Divorce Lawyer in Focus: Andrew Banna

banna-website-bw2-340x374By Andrew Banna, a Principal of Matthews Folbigg, in our Family Law Group

Since his admission as a Solicitor in 2006, Andrew has practised exclusively in Family Law having represented married and de facto clients in property matters, parenting matters, spousal maintenance matters and child support matters.

Andrew enjoys appearing at the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, where he appears on a regular basis. He also appears at the Local Court to assist his clients with Police matters that arise following breakdown of their relationship.

Andrew approaches his matters in a client focused way with the view of reaching a resolution in the most efficient manner without the need of incurring substantial costs.

Andrew has attained Specialist Accreditation in Family Law through the Law Society of New South Wales.

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Not a Parent of the Child? What you need to do to Challenge Your Child Support Assessment

When making an application for child support with the Department of Human Services (DHS), your Child Support Lawyers need to satisfy the Registrar that the person being assessed to pay the costs of the child is a parent of the child. This is often called “proof of parentage”. While parents may be biological parents, the term parent also includes adoptive parents, where the child has been born as a result of artificial conception procedures, or if the child was born as a result of a surrogacy.

The Registrar can presume paternity in the following situations:

  • The child was born during the course of a marriage
  • The person is recorded on the child’s birth certificate
  • The person has signed a statutory declaration
  • The person has adopted the child
  • The person cohabitated with the child’s mother at any time during the period 44 weeks and 20 weeks before the child’s birth
  • Where a Court order has determined parentage
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Can You DIY Your Prenup?

In an effort to save money on their property settlement, some couples have sought to DIY their prenup. But is it a good idea?

The Family Law Act states that for a prenup to be valid and enforceable, one requirement is that both parties need to obtain independent legal advice. This legal advice has three components:

  1. Firstly, the legal advice must be given before signing the agreement and must cover the effect of the agreement on the rights of that spouse and about the advantages and disadvantages of the agreement.
  2. Secondly, either before or after signing the agreement, each spouse must be provided with a signed statement by the legal practitioner stating that the advice was provided to that party.
  3. Thirdly, a copy of the statement must be provided to the other spouse or legal practitioner for the other party.

Take for instance the scenario of Mark and Sally. Mark and Sally would both like a prenup before they marry next year to protect their respective financial interests. According to Australian law, both Mark and Sally must seek separate legal advice. That is, two separate lawyers that are independent of each other need to be engaged in the process. Prior to signing the agreement, Lawyer A gives their advice to Mark, while Lawyer B gives their advice to Sally. Before or after signing the prenup, Mark’s lawyer needs to provide a signed statement that declares the said legal advice was given to Mark. Then, a copy of that statement needs to be given to Sally or her lawyer. Sally also needs to do the same.

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Superannuation in family law matters

What are the different funds?

The type of funds vary.

The main types of superannuation funds include:

  1. Accumulation funds;
  2. Self-managed funds;
  3. Defined benefit funds.

Accumulation funds are the most common funds we deal with in property settlements. Essentially, it involves your employer making contributions to your superannuation in addition to you salary. The superannuation benefit ‘accumulates’ over the years and as your salary increases.

Self-managed funds are usually more complex than an accumulation fund. Self-managed funds in family law matters usually involve a structure whereby the parties, either individually or through a corporate entity, are the Trustees of the fund. In other words, the fund is controlled by the spouse parties. Self-managed funds usually encompass bank accounts, shares and investment properties of the parties. It is important that we are able to work closely with your accountant when looking at the intricacies of your self-managed fund.

Defined benefit schemes are common for some professions. Cases which involve a defined benefit fund include matters where the client was or is working in the Police Force, the Military or a government organisation like the ATO. In a defined benefit scheme, the recipient of the fund is usually entitled to a pension. That pension may affect the assessment of entitlements in a property matter. Other matters which are important to consider in the assessment of the property matter include the age of the parties, whether the defined benefit fund is commutable and whether the fund is in payment phase or non-payment phase.
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Child Custody Laws and Independent Children’s Lawyers

An independent children’s lawyer, also known as an ICL, is a Court-appointed lawyer who acts independently to represent the child’s interests in family law proceedings regarding child custody laws. The child, an organization concerned with the welfare of the child or any other person may apply for an ICL to be appointed. The Court may then make an order to appoint an ICL who will attempt to find out what the views of the child are.

The Full Court in Re K [1994] FamCA 21 provided some guidance on what the court might consider when appointing an ICL in matters involving child custody laws, including:

  • Alleged child abuse
  • Unsuitability of either parent
  • Parental conflict
  • Proposal to relocate the child far away
  • Alienation from a parent
  • A parent’s sexual preferences
  • Special medical procedure for the child

Role of the ICL

The role of the ICL is not to take instructions from the child, but rather, to represent the child’s best interests. The ICL should form an independent view of what is in the child’s best interests according to the evidence, act in the child’s best interests and make submissions to the Court regarding the child’s best interests. The child’s best interests must be distinguished, however, from the child’s wishes. An ICL is not obliged to follow the child’s wishes and may disclose information about the child against their wishes if necessary.

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What Do Child Custody Laws Say If Your Child Doesn’t Want To See the Other Parent?

Relationship breakdown can often be a difficult and turbulent time for your children. To navigate this time, some families seek parenting orders from the Court to determine where the children should live and when they can see the other parent. But what do child custody laws say if your child does not want to see the other parent? According to child custody laws, certain obligations exist for the resident parent to comply with the Court orders, some of which are considered below.

Positive Obligation to Encourage Access

In the matter of Stevenson and Hughes (1993) 112 FLR 415, the mother pinned the father’s telephone number near the telephone and informed the child they could call the father whenever they liked. On a separate occasion, the mother took the child to the husband’s residence in accordance with the orders but the child refused to go inside. The father made an application for contravention, claiming that the mother contravened the Court orders by failing to give the father access to the child. The Court found that “an access order imposes an obligation which goes beyond mere passive non-interference and it imposes upon the party who is obliged to give access a positive obligation to encourage that access.” The Court found that the wife had not done all that was reasonable in the circumstances to encourage the child to come to the telephone and speak to the father but had, in effect, issued an invitation in a manner in which the child was given the option to refuse.

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