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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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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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Who Can Access My Family Court Records?

Like other family law lawyers, I am often asked whether non-parties (persons that are not directly involved in the family law litigation) are able to access the Court records relating to the case.

Documents filed in a family law case (and other documents relating to the case) are held in a Family Court case file.  This information is protected under the Family Law Act 1975 and the Family Law Rules 2004.  For example:

  • Rule 24.13 of the Family Law Rules 2004 limits those who are allowed to access the Court’s records in family law cases;
  • Section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975 limits the publication of reports of family law proceedings and of lists of cases. There are exceptions to this;
  • Family Law Judgments are reported by the Court in a de-identified form (for example, with pseudonyms replacing the parties’ real names).

There are also exceptions to the restrictions to a Court file, including research (Regulation 24.13(1)(d) Family Law Rules 2004) or by the Australian Taxation Office (Commissioner of Taxation & Darling (2014) FLC 93-583).

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How the Court deals with a significant financial contribution where the property value soared after rezoning

With the fluctuating property market and endless residential rezoning, how the Family Court deals with property introduced by one party to the relationship that has dramatically increased is sure to be a recurrent theme for separating couples.

Background Facts

In one recent case of Jabour, where the parties had been married for a long period and had raised three adult children this circumstance arose.

When the parties first got together the husband owned a 50% share in three blocks of land which he had purchased from his father in 1975 for $26,000.

11 years into the marriage the husband sold his share in two of the blocks to purchase the other 50% share in the third larger block.

The property acquired by the husband was later re-zoned for residential use causing the property value to increase significantly. The property subsequently sold in October 2017 for $10,350,000.

When the case went to Court to be heard by the Judge, the Husband proposed that the proceeds of sale from the property, after costs and expenses be distributed 70% to him and 30% to the Wife. The Wife sought a 50/50 split.
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Family Violence and Your Property Settlement Agreement

At the end of a relationship, couples are often faced with the issue of dividing their property. Due to the emotional nature of relationship breakdown, this task often proves tricky for even the best of couples. Where the couple is unable to come to an agreement, the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) empowers the Court to make a property settlement agreement that it considers appropriate. In coming to a property settlement agreement, the Court considers financial and non-financial contributions to the relationship and the future needs of the parties. The conduct of the parties is generally not a relevant consideration.

Kennon and Kennon– A Case where the Court has taken into account poor behaviour by a party to the relationship in determining a property settlement agreement.   In the case of Kennon, the   Full Court of the Family Court suggested that domestic violence may be a factor that a Court can take into account when deciding what each spouse is entitled to in a  property split up.

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I Didn’t Know – How You Can Get Out of A Property Settlement Agreement

The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) s 79A(1)(a)  allows the court to vary or set aside a property settlement agreement where there has been a miscarriage of justice by reason of fraud, duress, suppression of evidence (including failure to disclose relevant information), the giving of false evidence or any other circumstance. This includes where one party has failed to disclose his or her true financial circumstances. However, not every failure to provide full and frank disclosure during a property settlement agreement will amount to a miscarriage of justice. What is needed is to show that the failure to disclose has led the court to make an order that is substantially different from the order it would have made if full disclosure was made: Barker & Barker [2007] FamCA 13 [123].

 

Pendleton & Pendleton

In the case of Pendleton & Pendleton [2016] FCCA 285, the husband failed to disclose, among other things,

* A reimbursement of expenses amounting to $44,586.84,

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Domestic Violence Lawyer

Sadly, domestic violence is frequent in many relationships. It can have incredibly traumatic long-term effects on a person and once it has occurred, it quickly falls into a common pattern. However, domestic violence is a serious criminal offence and is neither justifiable nor acceptable. If you are a victim of domestic violence, a domestic violence lawyer at Matthews Folbigg Lawyers can provide you with the legal advice necessary to ensure your protection.

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence can take many forms. Some of the most common types of domestic violence that a person can experience include:

  • Physical violence – unwanted physical contact such as punching, beating and slapping;
  • Emotional violence – behaviour such as name-calling that is directed towards humiliating a person, and affecting his or her confidence;
  • Economical violence –actions or behaviour intended to control a person’s use of their money especially when he or she is financially dependent on their partner;
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