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Can your Affair End in a Property Settlement? Family Law Lawyers Delve Into This

If you’re having an affair, something that you may want to consider is whether the person you are having an affair with can claim your property after the relationship breaks down.

Firstly, your family law lawyers will need to consider whether your affair amounts to a de facto relationship. Considerations include the duration of the relationship, whether you have lived together, whether you attend events together socially, and whether you depend on each other financially.

The case of Jonah v White (2011) considered whether someone you are having an affair with can amount to a de facto relationship. In this case, the Husband (H) had a 17 year long affair with a woman (Ms J). During the affair, H continued to live with his wife and three children. Family law lawyers for Ms J argued that the relationship she had with H amounted to a de facto relationship under the Family Law Act.

The Court said that “The key to the definition is the manifestation of a relationship where the parties have so merged their lives that they are, for all practical purposes, living together as a couple on a genuine domestic basis. It is the manifestation of “coupledom”, which involves the merger of two lives as just described, that is the core of a de facto relationship as defined [by the law]”.
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Divorce Lawyer Explains section 114 Orders – Restraining Travel to Enforce Property Settlements

A divorce lawyer explains how the Family Court can impose restrictions on travel to ensure compliance with Family Court Orders.

In accordance with section 114 of the Family Law Act, the Family Court has the power to restrain a person from leaving Australia pending compliance with Family Court Orders, including final orders.

The Court will consider the following:

  1. A person’s freedom of movement, and
  2. The likelihood that the Order will not be complied with if the paying party’s freedom to leave the country is not restrained.

Ultimately, the Judge is faced with a balancing exercise and will consider whether the person’s compliance with the Orders outweighs their personal freedom of movement.

Example: Rahman v Rahman

In the 2012 decision of Rahman v Rahman, the husband was Ordered to pay to the wife a sum of $377,000 and was restrained by injunction from leaving Australia until he complied with that Order. To ensure he did not leave Australia, he was Ordered to hand in his passports to the Court and was placed on the Australian Federal Police watchlist. The husband appealed the final Orders which was dismissed. In 2020, the husband’s divorce lawyer was heard on a further application regarding the 2012 Orders again claiming that the Orders significantly impede on his freedom of movement. Judge Rees rejected the husband’s argument that given he has not made any payments to the wife over the 8 years that the “the Court should simply “give up” and allow him to travel.” If he was permitted to travel he would have no incentive to comply with the original Orders. The husband’s application was ultimately dismissed.
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How Binding Financial Agreements can let you Decide the Terms of your Property Settlement Agreement

A Binding Financial Agreement (BFA) allows couples to negotiate a property settlement agreement that suits their needs. Unless successfully challenged, it will  prevent the Family Court from dealing with your future property or spousal maintenance claims.

Binding Financial Agreements can be made:

  1. Before a marriage under a s 90B Agreement, also known as a “pre-nuptial agreement” or “prenup”;
  2. During a marriage under a s 90C Agreement – this is typically exercised during the period between separation and divorce; or
  3. After divorce under a s 90D Agreement.

A BFA can be drafted with your family law lawyer to formalise a property settlement agreement between you and your former spouse. It is an alternative means to going to Court which can be timely and expensive. The Court does, however, have the power to set aside a BFA  in certain limited circumstances.

In order to be binding and enforceable on the parties, BFAs must adhere to certain requirements including:
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FAQs – How Our Divorce Lawyers are Responding to Covid

Chloe Elkerton, one of our divorce lawyers answers some frequently asked questions on how our family law team and the Family Court is responding to Covid.

Are you still seeing clients?

Yes, we are still seeing clients! Although our team is working from home at the moment, we have quickly adapted to the changes and have implemented the technologies to be able to provide you with advice via telephone or video conferencing. Face-to-face consultations with your divorce lawyer can also be arranged where necessary in our conferencing rooms which are spacious enough to allow for social distancing.

Can I still get my Court documents witnessed?

Recent changes in the law regarding the witnessing of documents mean that you may not be required to sign a hardcopy of your family law documents. An electronic signature may be used in place of a physical signature and witnessing may now take place over video conferencing. Our team is currently using the Zoom and Whatsapp platforms to witness Court documents.
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Recent Family Court Case Sheds Light on What Initial Contributions are Really Worth?

On 1 May 2020, the Family Court handed down the decision of Barnell & Barnell. This matter involved a wife’s separation lawyer seeking to appeal a final judgment based on the Court’s treatment of the husband’s initial contributions.

The husband purchased Property B in 1988 prior to the commencement of the relationship in 1995. While no valuation was conducted on the property as at the commencement of cohabitation, the current value was agreed to be $340,000.

Given the length of the relationship and consistent gifts of money from the wife’s parents, the wife’s separation lawyer argued that the overall contributions of the parties should be considered equal. The Judge disagreed and said that to do so, would be to give insufficient weight to the fact that Property B was unencumbered at the commencement of the relationship and has not since been improved by either party. As the value of Property B represented some 36% of the net property pool, the Judge held that the husband’s contribution must be accorded significant weight. The Judge made an assessment of contributions as 62.5% to the husband and 37.5% to the wife being a 25% difference in contributions to reflect the various contributions of both parties.
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Family Law Lawyers Explain Equal Shared Parental Responsibility

If either you or your partner’s family law lawyers have made a parenting application to the Family Court, there is a presumption that it is in the best interests of the child for the parents to have equal shared parental responsibility. That is, both parents should have a role in making long-term decisions about a child such as where they go to school, decisions about the child’s health, the child’s religious and cultural upbringing or changing the child’s name.

If you believe that equal shared parental responsibility is not in the best interests of your child, your family law lawyers may be able to challenge the presumption. Depending on your individual circumstances, the Court may consider whether sole parental responsibility should be granted. This would result in one parent alone having the authority to make long-term decisions about the child. Below are some of the factors that the Court may consider when determining parental responsibility.
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Plain English Guide to Divorce

 Click here to download our Plain English Guide to Divorce

When Can You Get a Divorce

You can get a divorce if your marriage has broken down beyond repair. Generally, you must have been separated for at least 12 months. You do not have to be living in different houses to be considered separated. If you have children under the age of 18 years, you will need to have proper arrangements in place for the children.

Documents Needed

There is a number of supporting documentation that you will require in order for your lawyer to process your application which include:

  1. Marriage Certificate (with translation if not in English)
  2. If neither party is born in Australia, proof of citizenship, residency or visa with passport proof evidencing you have been in Australia for the last 12 months

Time Limit: Property

Your divorce takes effect one month and one day after the divorce Order is made. After that, you will generally have 12 months to bring an application to Court to divide your property.
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Will Expected Inheritance Be Included in My Family Property Settlement Agreement?

An expected or future inheritance is an inheritance that one party is expecting to receive once the testator passes away. Will the Family Court take into consideration a future or expected inheritance in your divorce settlement? If you or your ex-spouse are anticipating an inheritance, say from an elderly parent, you may want to get some advice regarding how this may impact your property settlement agreement.

In the 1995 case of White & Tulloch the Court noted that the expectancy of inheritance will generally not amount to a financial resource to be considered in your property settlement agreement. The term financial resource involves some degree of “entitlement to, control over, or relative certainty of receipt of property”. On the other hand, a will has been described as a mere expression of intention at the time it was made. They may be revoked or altered and only have legal effect upon the death or the testator. In this case, the expected inheritance of an elderly parent was not included in the divorce settlement.
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