All You Wanted to Know about Family Law

Family law cases in NSW regarding divorce, children and property are decided under the Commonwealth Family Law Act 1975. The Family Law Act provides guidelines and legal requirements to any disagreements that may arise about children or property in a marriage or de facto relationship. In this article, we give you relevant and useful information on ways in which family law cases must be dealt with. The aim is to familiarise you with basic information on the subject so that when you consult a lawyer to work out any family law disputes regarding children, property and divorce.

How to Get a Divorce

The first step is to separate from your partner and for this you do not need do anything or sign any document. After at least 12 months of separation, you can initiate divorce proceedings, we will, on your behalf, apply for divorce at the Family Law Courts Registry. The requirement of 12 months of separation is mandatory and you cannot file for divorce without meeting this condition. You can utilise the separation period to resolve issues regarding your children and property with your partner. If property matters are not settled even after you get divorced, then you must initiate legal proceedings to settle the property issues within 12 months of getting the divorce

Mediation is Essential

The splitting parents must consider what is best for their children and try to amicably resolve all disputes regarding their care. The parents should maintain communication with each other and if mutual negotiations fail, they should try third-party mediation or counselling to arrive at an amicable solution. In fact, it is mandatory to take recourse to Family Dispute resolution (mediation) before you can go to court about your children, unless there are exceptional issues like family violence or if there is an emergency in the case. The Court will require for a certificate from a Family Dispute mediator before you can file an Application with the Court. Many services in NSW offer Family Dispute counselling and resolution for separating parents. See our useful links page here to find help.

Child Support and Maintenance

Both partners should consult and agree on how to continue to fund their children’s living and schooling expenses after the separation. This funding by one parent to the ex-partner is called Child Support or maintenance. An official agency known as the Child Support Agency (CSA) calculates how much child support is required and needs to be paid by considering factors like the number of children, their age, parents’ income, and the care provided by each parent for their children. The CSA also steps in and helps with the collection of child support payments if required

Child Support for children over 18 years is called maintenance.

Child Support Agreement

This agreement stipulates in writing the essentials of the child support financing such as the amount of payment, frequency and method of disbursement. The parents should exercise great caution and not treat this agreement lightly. It is advisable to get independent legal help before signing any child support agreement.

How to Settle Property Matters

Property issues are settled by the same laws for both marriages and de facto relationships. Property is defined as the assets owned solely or jointly by the partners. These assets include cash, investments, personal property like furniture, cars and the like, inheritances, gifts received, redundancy payouts and assets owned before the marriage or relationship.

How the Court Divides Property

The Court does not follow any general rule or formula to divide the property. It is not required to evenly split the assets between the partners. The Court will consider aspects like property owned before the relationship or marriage, the length of the partnership, and the contributions of each partner during the relationship. These contributions include wage earnings, maintenance of assets, gifts and assistance received from others, non-financial contributions, and general efforts for the family as homemaker or caregiver. The Court will also consider support for the child, the health and age of the partners and each party’s capacity to earn income in the future. The Court does not distinguish between the wage earner and home maker and considers both contributions as equally important. It is advisable to hire a lawyer to settle property matters to prevent your ex-partner dragging you to court to get more even after you have settled the disputes informally

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