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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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Quick Questions Answered: Property Settlement Agreement

  1. What is a Property Settlement Agreement?

A Property Settlement Agreement contains the agreed terms to divide property between you and your former partner following separation. This includes assets, liabilities and superannuation.

  1. When Can I Get A Property Settlement Agreement?

You can finalise a property settlement agreement as soon as you and your former partner have decided to separate i.e. end your relationship.

  1. What if we are still living under the same roof?

You can be living under the same roof but still be considered ‘legally separated’. You do not need to be living in separate households; however, your relationship does need to have ended.

  1. What are the deadlines for obtaining a Property Settlement Agreement?

The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) provides some “deadline dates” depending on whether you were married or in a de facto relationship. There are some exceptions however, the general rule is:

For married couples: You have 12 months from the date your divorce* comes into effect to make an application for a Property Settlement.

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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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Property Settlement Agreement

The law encourages parties to negotiate and reach an amicable agreement as to the division of property following separation. If you have come to a Property Settlement Agreement with your former partner then you may wish to formalise this by entering into a binding property settlement agreement.

Sometimes parties come to an agreement without having properly considered the nature and effect of their agreement.

When negotiating a Property Settlement Agreement some things to keep in mind include the following:

  1. Property Settlement Agreements differ depending on your particular set of circumstances.
  2. A fair Property Settlement Agreement may depend on the length of your relationship or marriage and this is just one of the factors to be considered.
  3. There may need to be an adjustment for financial contributions made prior to the relationship by either party.
  4. There may need to be an adjustment for one of the parties’ future needs such as their age, health, ability to work and their earning capacity.
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The Changing Stigma Associated with Signing a Prenuptial Agreement

The idea of a binding financial agreement, commonly known as a prenuptial agreement has traditionally been associated with a negative and unromantic stigma; often automatically suggesting that the individual seeking the prenup is already having doubts about the relationship.

This stigma however is dwindling away with more millennial couples now seeing the positive side to prenuptial agreements. Statistics have illustrated a rise over the past two decades of the median age of couples marrying for the first time.  More individuals are now entering into relationships with existing assets including real estate and established businesses. Prenuptial agreements are more often being viewed by such individuals as analogous to buying insurance. No one buys insurance with the intention of crashing their car or having their home robbed, they purchase it for peace of mind just in case it happens. Likewise, parties don’t get married and enter a prenuptial agreement with a plan to get divorced; it is just insurance in the event that things don’t go to plan.

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Divorce Lawyer Parramatta Explains the Requirements for a Binding Prenuptial Agreement

Why it is important to speak to a divorce lawyer Parramatta

When formulating a Binding Financial Agreement, commonly known as a prenuptial agreement,  there is no requirement for Court approval and only independent legal advice is necessary in the execution of the prenuptial agreement. It is advised that you speak to a specialist divorce lawyer Parramatta who is well informed of the particular compliance criteria for a binding agreement to be formed.

Prenuptial agreements are very complicated and require strict compliance with legislation for the agreement to be valid. Appropriate legal advice from a divorce lawyer Parramatta is vital, as in the event that parties do separate and wish to enforce the agreement, the Court has the power to set it aside as invalid and unenforceable if it was not properly executed in accordance with certain criteria.

Requirements

A prenuptial agreement is binding on the parties to the Agreement if, and only if:

  1. The prenuptial agreement is signed by both parties.
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Family Law Lawyers and Mediation

For most of those dealing with their family law matter through the Court system, it becomes apparent very quickly that you might be in this for the long haul and it won’t be cheap. With a currently under resourced Family Court, the excessive delays no doubt add to the stress of separating couples who want nothing more than to be able to move on with their lives. So, what else can you do to try and take back control of your future? Well there are many alternatives but a cheaper and often underestimated option is Mediation. Family law lawyers are able to assess your particular situation and advise whether mediation is suitable in your circumstances.

What is Mediation?

It is a voluntary process facilitated by a neutral third party (the Mediator) where you and the other party can have confidential discussions in trying to resolve your matter. The Family Law Mediator will navigate the process and assist you in sorting through your issues in dispute, generating options for resolution and how you might go about finalising any agreement that is reached. Family law lawyers may also attend with you if you so wish, allowing you to get tailored advice as different options surface through the discussions. If you are not comfortable with being in the same room as the other party, participating in shuttle mediation where the mediator goes between rooms can also provide you with the same benefits. So why should you try it?

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Separation Lawyer Advice for Parenting after Divorce

Separating from your partner is often a difficult thing to go through and how both parties choose to handle that separation can determine how well your children adjust to the new situation. It is not uncommon for children to find a way to blame themselves for the separation despite every intention a parent might have to prevent this. Making a conscious effort to minimise the difficulties faced by children in the aftermath of separation can make all the difference.  Speaking to a separation lawyer at the onset of the split may be beneficial in providing you guidance for parenting after divorce, and allow you to set up a positive routine for your children from the start, which will hopefully extend throughout the remainder of the proceedings.

Some suggestions from the perspective of a Separation Lawyer to consider when coming up with parenting arrangements for your family:

1. Introducing Change Gradually

At separation, children find themselves in circumstances where they need to try to cope with many changes and quickly. This might be in the form of changes to where they live, go to school and spending separate time with each of their parents and extended family. In these circumstances, adhering to a similar routine as before might really help with the transition. For example, working together with the other parent so that children can attend the same school, extra-curricular activities and spend time with their friends as they did before can offer some stability and better equip them to deal with the other changes. Things like introducing new partners or relocating to another area may be responded to more positively if exposed in a more gradual fashion.

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