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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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Divorce Lawyer Advice for when you can’t locate your ex-partner to serve divorce papers

Service is the sending or giving of filed court documents to the opposing party. Proof of service of the divorce application is one of the procedural requirements asserted by the court that must be complied with in order for the court to grant the divorce.

What options exist if you cannot serve the divorce application on your former spouse?

Once you have made all reasonable attempts to serve the divorce application, you make seek the assistance of a divorce lawyer who can apply to the court for either substituted service or dispensation of service.

Substituted service allows you to serve the documents on a third party who the Court is satisfied will bring those documents the attention of your former spouse.

Dispensation of service is where the Court is satisfied that you have made all reasonable attempts to locate  your spouse in attempt to serve the divorce application, and as a result the Court says that you do not need to serve the documents.

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How a Divorce Lawyer can assist when you have been married for less than two years but seek a divorce

A divorce lawyer will be unable to lodge your application for divorce orders if you have been married for less than two years unless you satisfy the counselling requirement. Parties married for less than two years must provide a counselling certificate with their divorce application in order for it to be considered by the Court.

What is a counselling certificate?

A counselling certificate must be signed by an approved counsellor. This certificate sets out that the parties with the counsellor’s help have considered reconciliation without success.

Exceptions to the counselling requirement

The requirement for a counselling certificate can be waived if the Court is satisfied that special circumstances exist that warrant the divorce application to continue regardless.

It is not clear what scenarios will fall into the category of special circumstances affording dispensation. In the case of Nuell and Nuewll (1976), Justice Fogarty held that it was enough that both parties were not interested in attempting counselling. Contrastingly, in other cases such as Philippe and Philippe (1978) and Malyszko and Malyszko (1979), the Judges have held that special circumstances are facts that are peculiar and depart from the norm.

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Reaching a Property Settlement Agreement through Family Law Arbitration

There are numerous methods aside from traditional Court determinations which parties can utilise when seeking to reach a property settlement agreement. Section 10L of the Family Law Act 1975 defines arbitration as “a process (other than the judicial process) in which parties to a dispute present arguments and evidence to an arbitrator, who makes a determination to resolve the dispute.”

How do Arbitrations operate?

Arbitrations are available for property and financial matters and are voluntary. A matter may also be referred by a court order. They can take place before, during or after proceedings have commenced.

Arbitrations may either determine entire financial or property disputes, or alternatively they can focus on specific aspects of the dispute.

The parties have flexibility in preparing a written arbitration agreement before the arbitration commences to determine the constraints and process of the arbitration.

Are Arbitral determinations final?

Once arbitration has finalised, the arbitrator will make an arbitral award. An arbitral award is final and upon registration, it has the same impact and enforceability as an order of the Court.

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Child Birth Maintenance: Covering the Cost of Having Your Child

You might have heard of spousal maintenance, but few have heard of the term “child birth maintenance.” Child birth maintenance is different from both spousal maintenance and child support because it is specifically concerned with supporting women through the birth of their child. Family law lawyers explore this topic below.

The Family Law Act s 67B states that a father (who is not married to the child’s mother) is liable to make a proper contribution towards:

  • The maintenance of the mother for the childbirth maintenance period in relation to the birth of the child, and
  • The mother’s reasonable medical expenses in relation to the pregnancy and birth.

The Childbirth Period

The childbirth period is defined as two months before the child is born (unless a doctor advises the mother to stop working for medical reasons prior to this) to 3 months after the child is born.

What Kinds of Expenses?

When deciding what expenses can be accounted for, Judge Demack in Millar & Johnston [2015] FCCA 543 (13 March 2015) suggested family law lawyers need to distinguish between items that have been purchased for the mother or the child. Items purchased for the child would rather come within the scope of child support.

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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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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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