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Family Court Finds A Way to Get out of Binding Child Support Agreement during Covid-19

In the recent case of Martyn & Martyn [2020] FamCA 526 the Family Court considered a matter where the parents had entered into a binding child support agreement in 2012 which the father’s child support lawyers sought to set aside due to Covid-19.

The 2012 Agreement involved the father paying the mother a sum of $1,350 per month with a 2% increase each year.

The father currently owns and operates a business which supplies products to international businesses. Due to cross-border restrictions and social distancing measures, the father’s company was significantly impacted and he claimed that the business activity dropped by 90%. The father’s child support lawyers argued that as a result, his financial circumstances had been significantly worsened due to the limitations on international commerce during the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Family Law, a Child Support Agreement may be set aside if exceptional circumstances have arisen that would cause hardship to the payer.

Ultimately, in this case, the Family Court was satisfied that the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic was an exceptional circumstance and that the father would suffer hardship. The Binding Child Support Agreement of 2012 was set aside and the father was not required to pay the child support amount in the Agreement.
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Danger – COVID-19 Safe Harbour STILL Requires Early External Administrator Appointment

The Government has recently extended COVID-19 business protection measures introduced in March, including the temporary safe harbour protection from director liability for insolvent trading. These protections will now expire on 31 December 2020. However the Government has not corrected a critical timing issue which exists in the COVD-19 safe harbour legislation. This means directors must appoint an external administrator to their company on or before 31 December 2020, if they wish to take advantage of the COVID-19 safe harbour protection from insolvent trading.

In March Parliament passed a raft of legislative reforms in an attempt to provide protections for businesses an ameliorate the economic effects of the coronavirus in Australia. One of these amendments was temporary legislation to protect directors from liability for insolvent trading during the global COVID-19 pandemic. This temporary protection is found in section 588GAAA of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth). This safe harbour protection from insolvent trading will mean that directors will not be personally liable for debts incurred in the ‘ordinary course of business’, provided those debts were incurred during the operation of the temporary legislation, presently which will now expire at the end of 31 December 2020.
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The handcuffs are on debt recovery, but for how long? What you can do in the meantime…

By Jeffrey Brown, Principal at Matthews Folbigg in the Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group


As part of the Federal Government’s response to the COVD-19 crisis, a handbrake has effectively been applied to court proceedings aimed at bankrupting individuals and placing companies into liquidation. This has been achieved by lengthening the time for debtors to respond to formal demands, from 21 days to 6 months, for both bankruptcy notices (in the case of individuals) and statutory demands (for payment of debts incurred by companies). As part of the same reforms, the minimum debt amount that can be the subject of bankruptcy or winding up proceedings has been increased to $20,000.00.

The Federal Government intends to keep these extended compliance periods and amounts in place until at least the end of 2020. While they remain in place, debtors will be well aware that creditors have limited options open to them to enforce their debts.

Anecdotal evidence would suggest that many of those debtors are choosing to trade on their businesses well beyond the point at which they have become insolvent (that is, unable to pay their debts as they fall due).
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Model Behaviour: the Australian version of America’s Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Scheme – Trustees & Creditors

By Jodie Rodrigues, solicitor at Matthews Folbigg in the Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group

On 24 September 2020, the latest instalment in Australia’s insolvency reforms was announced. These reforms have been branded “the most significant reforms to Australia’s insolvency framework in 30 years”.

For information about the proposed insolvency regulations, read Part 1 of this blog here.

 The proposed scheme has been developed to provide relief to small business in light of the economic impact of the coronavirus by way of the additional debt taken on to survive. However, the impact of the proposed mechanisms is wide reaching, and particularly in circumstances where no draft legislation has been released, no consultation has been undertaken, and the plan is to have these amendments in place by 1 January 2021, the reforms may be hazardous for creditors and insolvency practitioners. Read on to find how the insolvency reform will affect you.

Ramifications for Creditors

Aside from the implicit ramifications listed in Part 1, for at least thirty-five business days, creditors can do nothing to recover their debt. During the thirty-five day period, creditors are restricted from:
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Model Behaviour: the Australian version of America’s Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Scheme – Key Points

By Jodie Rodrigues, solicitor at Matthews Folbigg in the Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group

Part 1: The Key Points

On 24 September 2020, the latest instalment in Australia’s insolvency reforms was announced. These reforms have been branded “the most significant reforms to Australia’s insolvency framework in 30 years”.

And yet the plan, apparently, is to have these reforms in place in 3 months.

Under the Morrison government’s proposal, Australia would adopt a framework modeled on parts of Chapter 11 of America’s Bankruptcy Code. The proposed system would provide two alternative forms of insolvency administration for small businesses with liabilities of up to $1,000,000:

  1. A ‘debtor in possession’ restructuring plan, allowing thirty-five business days to obtain creditor approval for a debt restructure; and
  2. A simplified form of corporate liquidation, is restructure is not possible.

Restructuring Process

From 21 January 2021, small businesses with liabilities of less than $1,000,000 will have access to a debtor-controlled restructuring process in which there will be:
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Tougher Labour Market Testing and Nomination requirements due to COVID

New! Tougher Labour Market Testing and Nomination requirements due to COVID

The Australian Government has recently taken steps to protect job opportunities for Australians in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and fill gaps in critical sectors.

New Rules

As a result, current labour market testing requirements(LMT) have been enhanced to ensure that Australian workers are prioritised for job opportunities in Australia.

Specifically, a new legislative instrument has been introduced and requires any future nominated positions to be advertised on the Government’s Jobactive website.

This measure is in addition to the requirement for at least two advertisements in one or more mediums outlined in the existing policy.

Businesses that are considering employing overseas skilled workers on a Subclass 457 (Temporary Work (Skilled)) visa, Subclass 482 (Temporary Skill Shortage) visa, or Subclass 494 (Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional)) visa will have to abide by these requirements.

Key Date and Exceptions

The enhanced LMT requirements apply to nominations lodged on or after 1 October 2020. 

The amendment will not affect nominations lodged prior to 1 October 2020 or nominations for a select occupation or a select position to which alternative evidence arrangements apply.

More Attention

There will be more attention given to employer nominations in relation to Australian workers in similar occupations when considering whether there is a genuine need for an overseas worker including:
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How has Covid-19 affected Family Law Mediation?

Family Law Mediation is used by parties as a way of trying to resolve or reduce the number of issues in a family law dispute with the assistance of a mediator. The benefits of family law mediation are far reaching particularly when parties are able to avoid the considerable costs, time and stress associated with Court proceedings.

The onset of the pandemic saw parties, legal practitioners and even the Court having to quickly adapt to online and electronic means in addressing disputes. Family law mediations have been no different and in fact have proven to be a useful pathway to resolving matters over the online platform.

It is now not uncommon for family law mediations to take place through applications like Zoom or Microsoft Teams or even electronically over the phone. These avenues still enable the parties to have their confidential discussions with their solicitor and/or with the mediator while also being able to have a joint session with the other party.
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Insolvency Relief Extended until New Years!

By Hayley Hitch, an Associate of Matthews Folbigg Lawyers in our Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group


The Morrison Government earlier this year introduced the Coronavirus Economic Response Package Omnibus Act 2020 (Cth) which came into effect on 25 March 2020 to provide relief to individuals and entities under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth), Bankruptcy Act 1966 (Cth) and supporting legislation. These changes were due to expire on 25 September 2020, where the legislation was expected to revert back to its former position where, for example, statutory demands and bankruptcy notices required a 21 day response period.

You may recall our earlier blog which goes into some detail about these changes, this may be viewed here.

The Morrison Government has however today extended the operation of the relief provided (and described above) until 31 December 2020. This means that:

  1. Any statutory demands issued under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) on or before 31 December 2020 will need to provide the debtor with a period of 6 months to respond and be for at least $20,000;
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