Enjoying Easter and Other Family Celebrations After Separation

Australian’s love a celebration.

If you’re not convinced, scroll back to recent photos of people at Greenwich Baths dressed in sequinned flags on Australia Day or think about your walk down the aisle of your local supermarket in the first week in February seeing the shelves already stocked with chocolate rabbits and Easter eggs. Coles at Chatswood Chase was already filled with Easter decorations within days of the sounds of “Jingle Bells” no longer being heard in the aisles.

Making decisions about how your family celebrates these special occasions can be difficult. With all the wonderful events and facilities available to us on the North Shore we are really spoilt for choice.

It doesn’t change when you separate. In fact managing celebrations for your family after separation can present even greater challenges.

Trying to cram two celebrations into one day, even when you live in close proximity to your former spouse, can lead to mounting tensions and frayed nerves.

It can be particularly tough trying to reach agreement with your ex-spouse about how your children will spend special occasions each year.

There are really sound options available to separating families to resolve these differences and avoid extraordinary delays and costs that are incurred when the Court gets involved.

First and foremost it is important to be open minded and embrace marking these celebrations in different ways. In all separations where children are involved the paramount principle is determining what is in their best interests. When deciding how to provide for special occasions in family law matters it is important to really place the children’s interests first.

As children get older their wishes become more important. If your children love spending time with their cousins on Christmas night then, even after separation, it is important that you do all things possible so as to make that happen. If there is a history of an Easter egg hunt at Nanny’s home then try not to make arrangements so that they will miss out on that fun. Make plans that will work for them.

Not only do plans for special occasions need to be very child focussed, they also need to be flexible. Not all family celebrations are fixed arrangements set in stone from year to year. It usually works best if you try to accommodate any of these arrangements to ensure that your children enjoy the best that each of you and your respective extended families can offer.

After separation some families choose to alternate occasions each year. In even numbered years for example Christmas is spent with Mum and Easter with Dad and then in odd numbered years the children will spend Christmas with Dad and Easter with Mum. Other families decide to “split” these special occasions so that the children can spend some time with both Mum and Dad each year. This can work well for families who live in very close proximity of each other. Otherwise it can be disastrous, especially for the children…sitting in a car for two or more hours on Christmas Day is simply not their idea of fun and remember it’s really about them.

Also, remember that special occasions are special because you make them special…when couples separate it may be time to think about creating new traditions. If your children will be with the other parent on Christmas Day consider creating a Christmas Eve celebration. If your children are with the other parent at Easter time invent a new Anzac Day party at Balmoral Beach, Clifton Gardens or Naremburn Park. There are also plenty of options for outdoor activities. Indeed a Google search will quickly point you to the areas of the North Shore where you can seriously have a lot of fun in the sun, such as Muston Park at Chatswood or Euroka Street Park at Waverton, or along the Sydney Harbour foreshore including visiting Luna Park Reserve, Balls Point Reserve, Burns Bay Reserve, Cremorne Reserve and Bradfield Park for picnics. You can even see fireworks on Darling Harbour on a Saturday night if you want to organise your own child-friendly mid-year New Year’s Eve celebration!

There is a good chance that you will find everything you need in your local shopping centre to quickly make that party happen. Indeed today, because Australians love a celebration, you can almost guarantee that you will be able to find party gear for almost any public holiday (except Labour Day) which certainly makes it easier to “get into the spirit” and really celebrate with your children. And just like you would at Easter or Christmas, make sure to get photos or keepsakes of your celebration so you can remember and have real records of the happy times spent with your children in years to come.

Reaching agreement with your ex-spouse about any matter can be difficult. Special occasions can bring with them even greater angst.

I am sure that if most of you were asked what Easter means to you then typical answers would be “chocolate Easter eggs” or “a long weekend” or “the Royal Easter Show”.

Don’t forget that Easter also symbolises new beginnings.

In family law matters, especially when considering special occasions, reminding yourself about the message of “new beginnings” can help you adjust to the necessary changes that separation brings and ensure that you and your family continue to celebrate and enjoy special occasions for many years to come.

Finally, none of these tips on their own are likely to achieve success. It is critical that you learn to communicate with your ex-spouse (even if that is just by way of email or text) so that everybody understands what arrangements are in place and what is expected of them, and nobody, most importantly the children, are disappointed.

So to recap, some helpful suggestions to ensure you reignite the “celebration” in your celebrations after separation:

  1. Remain child focussed.
  2. Be flexible in your thinking.
  3. Create new traditions.
  4. Be clear and certain about arrangements.
  5. Keep the channels of communication open.

These tips will all ensure that you and your family continue to enjoy and celebrate special occasions even in the event that your family have separated.

If you are experiencing a separation, haven’t made plans for an upcoming celebration or special occasion, and really don’t know what step to take next or how to handle the situation and do what is best for your kids then please get in touch with me, Lisa Wagner from Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers on (02) 9437 0010 or enquiries@familylawyersdw.com.au We offer accredited family law specialists to help you with parenting and all family law matters.

These posts are only intended as an overview or comment on current issues that may interest you and are not legal advice. If there are any matters that you would like us to advise you on, then please contact us.

Are you looking for a highly experienced family lawyer?

For over two decades we have been assisting and advising people from the Lindfield area in preparation for and through their separation and divorce. During that time our family lawyers have seen a significant change in the demographics of the area.

Today, with many people likely to marry and separate at older ages, more and more of our clients from the Lindfield area are “child free” “empty nesters” who no longer have dependent children living at home or alternatively have high-school aged children who are becoming more independent, and perhaps undertaking the final years of their schooling.

As long time practicing family lawyers we know that a separation can be instigated by one or both parties, may be long and carefully planned for, or can come completely out of left field for one of the parties. Whatever the situation might be we know that a separation is never easy or pain-free for either party. We know that the parties are likely to experience some sense of loss and grief, to feel heartbroken or sad and to feel like their situation is really harsh, bewildering, and drawn-out. However we know with our professional help it will get better and you will secure an outcome that works for you…eventually your separation and divorce will become a short chapter of your backstory.

As a result of seeing more and more financially “stable” and mature clients we have discovered that, instead of worrying about how their separation will affect their young children, many are looking for advice on how to approach their new “single” life and all the challenges that this brings. Many want to achieve long-term financial security and to maintain the lifestyle they have come to enjoy and accordingly we have found that these clients are more concerned with:

  • becoming financially independent;
  • having access to superannuation to fund their retirement years;
  • having an unencumbered and suitable primary residence;
  • managing living separately and apart under the same roof for a period of time;
  • maintaining relationships formed with their local community;
  • ensuring that their decision making is based on the reality of their situation including their future needs and any health concerns;
  • having reasonably amicable relationship breakdowns;
  • protecting family assets against claims by third parties including new partners, second families and creditors;
  • being in the position of supporting adult children of the relationship through university/tertiary studies, their careers and entering into Sydney’s property market;
  • divesting themselves of assets, complicated corporate structures (such as family businesses) and family trusts;
  • untangling the often complicated financial background of their lives which may have been in place for decades; and
  • wanting or needing to undertake a career change and/or to retrain in their chosen field, or secure employment on a part-time basis as part of a transition to retirement strategy, or in the case of younger clients needing to fund their new single living arrangements.

As Accredited Family Law Specialists who are recognised by the Law Society of NSW our family lawyers are expertly placed to assist people from all walks of life in respect of all family law matters, and in particular we undertake work on financial settlements on a day-to-day basis. We have assisted past clients with all manner of financial settlements, from the straight-forward to the more entangled and complex. We know that a separation and/or divorce can be the most devastating event that a person can experience. At Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers our expert family lawyers are strongly committed to providing all of our clients with the highest level of sensitive and personal service and support as they navigate their way through the highs and lows of their separation and divorce. Our collaborative approach in nearly all of our family law matters attempts to:

  • provide clients with the highest level of input in the settlement process and to allow the parties to keep the channels of commination open so that there is as minimal an effect on their ongoing relationship as possible;
  • give parties a higher level of control of their matter than the alternative court-based methods; and
  • allow independent professionals to have input into the settlement negotiations and/or drafting/review of settlement documents to ensure that the parties will have the most tax effective, financially viable outcome possibly achievable in their circumstances.

We also understand that often our clients are wanting to maintain their dignity, want to continue to have strong relationships with their families and wish to be able to share in future family special occasions including their family weddings, christening and birthdays, as well as Easter and Christmas celebrations. Our Accredited Family Law Specialists are experts at navigating what can be the very difficult family law terrain. Their special and thoughtful assistance will put you in the best position to maintain the most positive relationships with your ex-partner/spouse and your extended family possible. By striving, wherever possible, to use a collaborative approach in each matter

We have often assisted clients who are entangled in long term financial arrangements by helping them to get an idea of the “big picture” through the obtaining of independent financial and accounting advice (including expert forensic accounting professionals) and engagement of expert valuers to value assets and liabilities of the relationship such as real estate, chattels (including furniture, antiques and artworks), corporate entities, agricultural interests, self-managed superannuation funds and the like.

We also have a significant amount of experience in assisting couples with their negotiations of property settlements, both direct between the parties with us providing legal advice from “side stage” and through our attendance at roundtable settlement conferences, mediations and arbitrations. Following on from many of those successful negotiations our family lawyers have been responsible for the drafting and/or reviewing of “iron clad” terms of settlement (contained in financial agreements or Consent Orders) which contain provisions for superannuation splitting, spousal maintenance and the divestment of jointly accumulated assets and liabilities. We have also assisted parties with their representation in court proceedings and have significant experience in dealing with the court process and other family law practitioners.

Whatever your circumstances are, we promise you that we will listen to you to ascertain your wants, needs and concerns so that we can offer you tailored advice which fits your personal circumstances and secures a resolution of your matter which reflects your specific goals.

In our experience we have found that, regardless of the complexity of the financial settlement at hand, it is very important that you have a clear legal strategy in place prior to coming to the negotiating table or engaging in the court process so that you are able to maximise your property settlement entitlements. 

Our Services:

  • Family Dispute Resolution and mediation services including collaborative practices.
  • Preparation of clients in the creating of a “master plan” (legal strategy) for undertaking negotiations with their former partner or spouse;
  • Property/Financial Settlements, including superannuation splitting, spouse maintenance and adult child support provisions; In particular ensuring that we obtain the most tax effective settlement for all of our clients;
  • Drafting and reviewing settlement documents including Consent Orders, Binding Financial Agreements, Deeds of Release in respect of commercial entities and Release Agreements in respect of future Succession Act claims;
  • Coordinating your family law matter with regard to estate and succession planning issues;
  • Providing assistance with respect to the securing of future income streams;
  • Divorces, including separation under one roof;
  • De facto Relationship matters.

Making the decision to separate or divorce is never easy and is likely to have a profound effect on you, your financial security and your family generally. Getting specialist family law advice and guidance early in your separation will set you on the right path towards a steadier and more certain future. If you are separated or are thinking about separating and would like to know where you would stand financially in a family law property settlement we know we can help you because we have highly regarded Accredited Family Law Specialists and registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners on our team. So please take the first step and call us on 9437 0010 or email enquiries@familylawyersdw.com.au

These posts are only intended as an overview or comment on current issues that may interest you and are not legal advice. If there are any matters that you would like us to advise you on, then please contact us.

Need an Accredited Specialist Family Lawyer for assistance with your separation or divorce?

At Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers our team of divorce lawyers have helped countless numbers of people from the Forestville area (and the areas immediately surrounding it) through their separation and divorce for over twenty years. Because of their level of exposure each family lawyer in our team understands the unique factors affecting Forestville families and how those factors impact upon our client’s ability to make decisions regarding their family law issues.

So what are some of those concerns?

  1. Worrying about finances in the lead-up to and/or following a separation…
    – That their individual income alone will not be enough to support themselves and/or their dependents;
    – That they will not cope with supporting two households on the family’s current level of income;
    – That they will be forced to move away from the local area to lower cost accommodation; and
    – That they will have significant legal fees following their separation.
  2. Worrying about the effect a separation will have on children of the relationship. We often hear our client’s say “I don’t want my separation to adversely affect my children” or “I still want my child to have a relationship with me and my ex”.
  3. Thinking that lawyers “live in legal land” and:
    – won’t understand the specific family dynamic;
    – won’t appreciate the motivators of each of the parties;
    – will judge the family; and
    – their involvement in the matter will only make things worse.

Many of our clients have reported to us over the course of their matters that they had initially thought that they should avoid seeing a family lawyer because it is costly and were afraid that our involvement would exacerbate the problem but were surprised to find that they wished they had obtained proper legal advice about their divorce and separation sooner. This is because family lawyers, especially specialist family lawyers, can advise you on your rights and responsibilities, the real options available to you to settle your matter, the range of outcomes you can expect and can also explain how “family law” works in Australia to dispel many of your anxieties which may be based on misunderstandings or misinformation.

Any good family lawyer will tell you that the majority of matters are resolved by way of agreement without the need to go to Court but that being able to reach an agreement will depend on many things including the parties’ ability to negotiate (and compromise) with one another, the parties’ personalities, and the timing of the negotiations following the breakdown of the relationship.

A family law expert can give you useful advice in relation to the best negotiation strategy to reach agreement with your former spouse as well as the cheapest and most effective way to document the terms of any settlement you reach.

We have found that after receiving family law advice from us many of our clients have been able to negotiate a settlement with their former partner directly and our role has been restricted to drafting settlement documents (such as Consent Orders, a Binding Financial Agreement or a Binding Child Support Agreement).

Getting timely specialist family law advice, even prior to separating, is the best way to limit the burden, worry and cost of dealing with lengthy family law disputes and best position you to resolve your matter in the most optimal way for you and your family. There are wise and effective ways (and not-so-wise or effective ways) to deal with a separation and our legal advice comes from years of experience in dealing with couples who are in the midst of a relationship breakdown.

Why you should let the experts at Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers help you with your family law matter…

  1. We are a very affordable expert family law firm. As a specialist boutique family law firm we have much lower overheads than many of our competitors. This allows us to pass on those savings to our clients by offering a very reasonable fixed rate initial consultation fee and maintaining significantly more affordable hourly charge-out rates over the length of your matter.
  2. We are Accredited Family Law Specialists and are best placed to negotiate the better outcome for you and your family in the most cost-effective and appropriately focused way.
  3. Whilst you may have dealt with a general practice lawyer for a variety of legal matters in the past, we believe that family law matters are best dealt with by family law experts. This is because expert family lawyers will work more efficiently on your file, will understand your real concerns faster, can provide swift and precise advice (in accordance with the current law and precedent)… specialist family law advice is therefore more likely to represent very good value for money.
  4. We will always listen to you because we know that by taking the time to get to know you, your family and your personal circumstances we can provide you with the most appropriate advice and guidance as you negotiate the difficult new terrain of your separation and/or divorce.
  5. We have largely “seen it all before” and approach all of our client’s matters (and their traditions and customs) in a non-judgmental way. We know that all families, and indeed separations, are unique. We will offer you useful suggestions to compliment your family’s situation and we will try to reduce the issues in dispute and make your separation more amicable. We recognise that the less “legal” involvement we need to have in your domestic relationships, the more money you can save and the easier your separation will be for you and your family.
  6. We understand that going to court can be a daunting, drawn-out and very expensive exercise. Accordingly we are committed to resolving your matter using alternative dispute resolution methods wherever possible. We will often recommend our client’s attend private mediation or participate in informal negotiations prior to engaging in the court process.
  7. Even so, we recognise that sometimes parties cannot resolve outstanding issues without engaging in the Court process and obtaining intervention or assistance from the Court. We have a strong reputation for providing blue-ribbon Court representation in both the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court and are very well placed to assist you in either Court with all your family law needs.
  8. We will do everything we can to get the best outcome for you and your family, both in relation to parenting matters and financial settlements. To us, you and your family matter and accordingly we will always act with you and your family’s best interests foremost in mind – that is our promise to you.

Our Services:

  • Divorces, including separation under one roof
  • Parenting, including parenting plans and Consent Orders
  • Property/Financial Settlements, including superannuation splitting, spouse maintenance and child support
  • De facto Relationship matters

Separation is one of the toughest experiences a person can go through regardless as to how long you have been contemplating going down that path or the extent the relationship has deteriorated. Making the decision to separate is a major commitment in a person’s life which will really affect the whole family. Getting professional help and practical legal advice will certainly benefit you as you make your way through the separation process. So please call us on 9437 0010 to take the first step in your separation towards a secure and positive future.

These posts are only intended as an overview or comment on current issues that may interest you and are not legal advice. If there are any matters that you would like us to advise you on, then please contact us.

Accredited Specialist family lawyers guiding people from the St Ives area

At Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers we know a bit about the St Ives demographic because we have been helping people living in the St Ives area (and the areas immediately surrounding it) through their separation and divorce for over twenty years.

We know that the information obtained in the 2011 census showed that St Ives had a population of over 15,500 people and that of the people living in St Ives the median age was 43 years and close to 20% of the population was made up of children under 14 years of age, with the bulk of households classified as “family households”. I also read recently somewhere that the highest proportion of households containing both parents and dependant adult children is to be found at St Ives.

In our experience, as couples are largely choosing to marry later in life so too are they tending to separate and divorce when they are older, in the age bracket of between 40 and 55 years, when they have usually accumulated wealth (assets) and liabilities (debts) and have had children – who are more and more often teenage children and adult-aged children. Accordingly we have seen an increase in the number of clients from the St Ives area who look to us for family law advice and representation in order to resolve their parenting and property matters.

Since 2011 there have also been lots of new units and homes built in the area (not to everyone’s liking) but this change has obviously resulted in:

  1. A significant increase in the number of residents in the area.
  2. A significant increase in the number of older residents downsizing to more manageable accommodation in the recently built over 55s accommodation, units and townhouses.
  3. A relatively large increase in young families moving to the area seeking larger and more affordable housing from other areas such as the Eastern suburbs and Lower North Shore.
  4. Many “locals” trading up (upsizing) their existing accommodation due to the recent influx of properties on the sales market.

Of recent times we have been approached by clients who are facing or contemplating a separation or divorce and who need solid advice about parenting matters and obtaining the best financial settlement in their circumstances. We have also been approached by a number of parents who are looking to protect their interests having previously loaned money to their children to help them purchase housing in the St Ives area and who are concerned because their children are now having problems in their relationships and may be facing or contemplating a separation or divorce. If you are looking for a team of Accredited Specialist family lawyers to assist you in resolving issues arising from your separation and/or divorce or a separation or divorce of a family member then you should look no further than Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers, because to us you matter.

At Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers we pride ourselves on the “fresh” approach to family law. We don’t see you or your family as a number on a file because as a small boutique family law firm you can trust that we will treat you as our number one priority. We will always take the extra time to get to know you and your family and you can expect that we will take the extra care to not just learn but really understand your family’s unique dynamics and circumstances and what’s important to every member of your family so that we can offer you advice which is personalised to meet your exact needs. It is always our aim to secure a resolution of your matter which reflects you and your family’s specific needs because at the end of your matter we want you to have the “best” future possible.


  1. We have a proven track record in respect of resolving financial and parenting matters. We will always use our best endeavours to resolve your matter outside of the court arena to save you the stress and expense of preparing for and attending court. However you can be assured that if your matter cannot be resolved amicably or without the court’s intervention then we are one of the best placed family law firms to provide you with strong court representation because we have been dealing with the family law court process for more than 20 years.
  2. We have acted successfully on behalf of third parties in matters where the separated couple has been loaned monies by our clients for the purposes of purchasing properties, starting a business or obtaining financial assistance generally. We take the time to understand the dynamics of each family and will secure the best outcome for you financially by protecting your investment. We will always do our best to ensure the preservation of your ongoing familial relationship with your children and/or grandchildren.
  3. We have successfully negotiated many agreements between parties which recognise the need for ongoing adult child maintenance payments or the provision of lump sum monies to meet the ongoing accommodation, education and living expenses of non-minor children affected by a separation.
  4. We recognise that if you are older your assets may be limited or you may have greater needs and/or a lower income earning capacity than a younger client. We will secure the best outcome for you so that you can get on with life confidently.
  5. We are practical in our approach and recognise that “one size” usually does not fit all families. Because we recognise that every family is different we will always look to tailor the advice we give you to meet your specific needs whilst affording you the greatest level of satisfaction and protection.


  1. You will feel like we care…because to us you and your family are not a file on a shelf or a number in a database. We will make time to speak with you when you really need us and we will provide useful guidance and assistance throughout your matter.
  2. You will have a relationship with your family despite the family law matter being on foot because…
    – If you are involved in a messy situation with your ex-partner concerning parenting issues we will give you guidance on how to put the best interests of your children first and advise you as to the Court’s approach in your type of matter.
    – If you have moved out of the former matrimonial home and do not have the children living with you then we will do our best to ensure that you get to spend regular time with your children.
    – If you have concerns about how you will meet the costs of assisting your adult children we can give you practical advice and negotiate a settlement on your behalf which looks to secure the best outcome for you and your children.
    – If you are separated and have previously loaned money from a parent, or if your child is separated and you had previously loaned money to them, we will use all methods available to us to secure that investment and promote your relationship with your family because we realise that a relationship breakdown is stressful enough and you need a solid support system to move on with your life following a relationship breakdown.
  3. You will receive honest, clear and practical guidance and advice. We honestly believe that early guidance can really help you to get clarity during what is a very confusing and stressful time. We will tell you what you should make a priority and focus on, what things you can expect to crop up in the not-too-distant-future and what can wait for a little while until more of the dust settles and things become a little clearer.

We know that seeing a lawyer might be a very confronting experience, especially during what is already a very stressful time but we know we can really help you so please take the first step and call us on 9437 0010 or email us on enquiries@familylawyersdw.com.au so that we can help you achieve the best outcome for you and your family.

These posts are only intended as an overview or comment on current issues that may interest you and are not legal advice. If there are any matters that you would like us to advise you on, then please contact us.

Stay-At-Home Mums …skills to face your separation with confidence

Are you a “Stay At Home” Mum who is thinking about separating or a single mum who has recently separated? Perhaps you’re worried that your husband or long term partner is unhappy and may leave the relationship and family home without much warning? If you are or if you know someone who is in this situation then I urge you to keep reading as the following information might be critical.

Everyone going through a separation or divorce feels stressed and a lot of the time very unhappy and worried. Stay At Home Mums who are transitioning to being single mums have unique stresses that they face throughout the separation or divorce processes that hugely impact on their ability to remain strong and get through the ordeal with everything in tact including their children’s wellbeing and their financial security.

If you’re a Stay At Home Mum then chances are:

  1. You have been married or in a de facto relationship for at least 4 or 5 years, probably longer, and, all your  finances have become mingled with your spouse’s affairs.You are likely to have at least some joint bank accounts, credit card facilities, home loans etc. You may have even been appointed as the secretary or director of your husband’s company (if he has one) or named as a shareholder in a family business. You may also have been named as a beneficiary in a trust that has been established by your joint accountant to legitimately minimise the tax your family has to pay overall each financial year. You might not even completely know what you are or are not named on or what joint assets you part own and/or what joint liabilities you are responsible for.When you start to look around it may surprise you that you don’t have a bank account in your own name anymore, you don’t have any independent money that you control exclusively, you don’t know where income comes from or how the bills are paid, and you don’t even have your own credit card facility and are merely a supplementary cardholder to a credit facility belonging to your husband which can be cancelled at any time by him without any notice to you.

    In the space of what seems like a blink of an eye you have become totally and significantly financially dependent on your spouse or your de facto partner.

  2. You have dependent and often very young children to look after, usually almost singlehandedly for 24 hours each day, 7 days a week. This is a relentless, exhausting, inescapable (and not to mention often thankless) commitment that simply cannot be forgotten or overlooked. This factor alone impacts enormously on your ability to do a lot of things.In separation and divorce the two things that children impact on the most are your ability to secure a decent family friendly job and your ability to earn an income sufficient to meet all the basic expenses it costs to run a household in Sydney. To make matters worse, if your husband has left the family home then he may not be contributing (or may be under-contributing) to the running of the family home, especially if he is now housing himself and has a second lot of “household” expenses to pay, including rent.Social media is saturated with complaints from single mums about the difficulties of trying to find work that they can do when they have family commitments. Moreover if you have been a Stay At Home Mum for a while it is likely that the skill set that you had developed pre-kids is now rusty, or maybe even obsolete. This can leave you feeling like you have no option other than taking on a more menial job (which can have greater family friendly hours) like cleaning or supermarket shelf stacking, or taking on a full time role and somehow securing affordable (if there is such a thing!) and available (at the risk of sounding repetitive – if there is such a thing!) child care, the costs of which “eat into” your salary. Alternatively you might contemplate letting your children become “latchkey” kids.
  3. Your housing requirements are significant especially with two or three children in your care, and the costs of housing in Sydney are highly prohibitive for many Stay-At-Home single parents. For example on Sydney’s North Shore, where my office is located, the March 2015 statistics depict that the medium house price for homes was considerable, namely:
    – Lindfield – $1,850,000
    – Ryde – $1,230,000
    – Turramurra – $1,400,000
    – Mosman – $2,605,000
    – Lane Cove – almost $1,600,000
    – Frenchs Forrest – $1,130,000

To make matters worse, it is well known that it can be very difficult to rent modest child-friendly family homes in the above areas for less than $900 a week.

For example, Stay At Home Mums facing a separation on Sydney’s North Shore who are looking to set up an independent household have fewer housing options available to them than some other separating couples. The need for and costs of larger dwellings for Stay At Home Mums and single mums are disproportionately expensive on Sydney’s North Shore and overwhelming stressful to secure.

If you are a Stay At Home Mum who has not yet separated but feels that you and your partner have exhausted marriage counselling services then the best thing you can do is plan ahead.

Planning ahead really involves two stages namely:

  1. Creating a short term plan; and
  2. Creating a “forever” (or “almost forever”) plan.

Stay At Home Mums who are contemplating a separation must seriously consider what they need to do to become stronger and regain some of their independence. Opening up a bank account in your own name is a good start. So too is applying for your own credit card. It is not necessary that you start using this credit facility but it is really handy to have a credit card in your own name that you can control. It can provide you with an enormous amount of peace of mind. Next you need to do a budget (right down to the nitty gritty) so you understand the basic monthly costs that you will have and what sacrifices you may need to make to “trim the fat”. Whilst this can be a downright frightening process to undertake it is vital.

Often when you are working on this plan you may start to confuse short term and long term considerations. Two of the most common mistakes that Stay At Home Mums make at this point are looking straight away at their work options and also at housing – it is the right time to look at these things but it’s not necessarily the right time to act on those options just yet. These issues are vital but they are long term considerations. Making decisions right now about things that can have long term consequences can result in long term problems. If you haven’t already done so by now you should get specialist family law advice. It may even be wise to even consider getting some advice from a financial planner or financial counsellor, especially if you have become rusty in managing your own financial affairs independently. Each of these specialists can give you clear advice and show you reliable strategies to help you achieve short-term and long-term independent success.

It is my view that a lawyer who is accredited with the Law Society of New South Wales in the area of family law is your best resource at this time. One (or sometimes two) appointments are often enough at this stage to help you understand your real position and help to dispel many of the myths and half-truths that you have been hearing “on the grapevine”. It is important to remember that every family, its circumstances, and the nature of the family breakdown are different. Accordingly, well-meaning friends and family members, and even some counsellors, mediators and facilitators, who may be great with a whole range of things cannot really give you clear, accurate legal advice about what your rights, your proper entitlements and your likely responsibilities will be for your personal situation. And, even if they do, you should not rely on it even if it sounds good or makes you feel better at the time. Feeling good just for the sake of it or thinking that you’ve sorted something out when you really haven’t are not what you should be striving to achieve in your separation just yet. Having a clear picture of where you stand legally is imperative for your short-term and long-term success.

Most ideas and suggestions work for some people, some of the time and in combination (often but not always) with other steps. But, any suggestion that you act on in isolation and without advice, at the wrong time or in the wrong sequence can spell disaster for you and your family. Examples of this are severing joint tenancies, closing down bank accounts, trying to get partners’ names off tenancy agreements, transferring car registrations, making child support applications and even getting a job packing shelves at your local supermarket. When you are experiencing a separation or divorce it is sometimes difficult to see beyond your own experience and you may find that a perfectly logical idea acted on right now doesn’t always end up working out in the way that you thought it would at the time.

Long term or “almost forever” planning is different for every person and depends on a range of factors which are unique to each person and their family’s circumstances. For example, how tolerant you are of placing your children in long day care five days per week and/or how much do you value being a Stay At Home Mum who personally cares for her children, or what is your level of willingness to re-train and re-enter the workforce on a full time or part time basis. All sorts of questions will need to be asked and eventually answered. Is it vital for you to continue to put your career on hold for a long while? Can you even afford to do this?

Stay At Home Mums, including those working part time, face unique challenges in the separation and divorce process.   Getting it right from the start is crucial. Whether you have already separated or are just thinking about separation as a Stay At Home Mum take a look at our free Separation and Divorce Checklist for great tips and suggestions that might help you manoeuvre this difficult course. However, once again all useful tips, in the wrong sequence, at the wrong time and not in the right combination are not necessarily a good idea.

Two further points:

  1. “Shared parenting” does not mean equal time – this is especially true when considering what are appropriate post-separation parenting arrangements for children under 4 years of age or in situations where the there is significant distance between mum and dad’s residences; and
  2. Mediation and Family Dispute Resolution are processes. They are great alternatives to going to Court for most families but they do not provide the answers nor do they give advice about what your rights and entitlements are. Alternative dispute resolution processes require both parties to be willing to compromise, a step that you shouldn’t take without knowing what your rights and entitlements are. You wouldn’t buy medicine without getting a script, you wouldn’t choose fashion sunglasses for your children if they needed to see an optometrist for testing and you probably wouldn’t even go on a family bushwalk without understanding something about the weather, terrain and grading. Most of you no doubt get your accountant to prepare your tax returns each year. Only a lawyer experienced in the family law arena, preferably an Accredited Family Law Specialist, can provide adequate family law advice on your rights and entitlements. Your children and your financial security are two of the most important things to you. Don’t confuse Google search information, rhetoric and suggestions from friends, family members or even counsellors and family dispute resolution practitioners as the best advice – they are not trained in the field.

I know that anyone reading this article who is faced with these dilemmas will benefit from a proper initial consultation with an Accredited Family Law Specialist. Don’t waste time with a “meet and greet” preliminary interview or a free chat on the phone. You need to actually obtain quality family law advice which is tailored to you and your family’s needs and circumstances. It will cost you some money but in my view it is a smart investment in your and family’s future – now is not the time to gamble with your decision making for you and your family.

If you would like to arrange an initial no obligation consultation to get the best answers about the questions that you and your family are facing then call me, Lisa Wagner at Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers on 9437 0010 to book in an initial appointment. We are Accredited Family Law Specialists and registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners. We can give you all the advice and answers you need at this stage so that you can confidently know where you stand.

These posts are only intended as an overview or comment on current issues that may interest you and are not legal advice. If there are any matters that you would like us to advise you on, then please contact us.

Family Lawyers Servicing the Willoughby area (and surrounds)

Divorce Lawyers providing quality family law advice and representation to people experiencing divorce and separation in the area of Willoughby and its surrounds and helping separating couples and families for more than 20 years.

Are you looking for a local team of expert family lawyers to assist you in resolving issues arising from your separation and/or divorce? Look no further than Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers, a dedicated Specialist Accredited team you can trust.

At Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers we know that dealing with any type of relationship breakdown, especially that involving those closest to you – your family, is distressing. And we also recognise how daunting an experience it can be to see a family law for advice about that relationship breakdown. We consider ourselves to be the best placed family law firm assisting people from the Willoughby area and will deal with you and your matter sensitively and with the best interests of you and your family foremost in mind because our team of dedicated family law experts have been practicing almost exclusively in the area of family law for more than 20 years.

No two families (or indeed family breakdowns) are the same, so you shouldn’t feel like a number or like your matter is being handled like all the other matters within a firm. Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers prides itself on being different in its approach. It is our promise to you that we will always take the extra time and special care to get to know you, your family, your family’s unique dynamics and circumstances as well as your personal motivators so that we can offer you advice which is tailored to your personal needs and can secure a resolution of your matter which reflects the specific needs of you and your family.

With so many lawyers out there it can be hard to navigate to a great lawyer however it is our view that if you choose the wrong lawyer you could be making a mistake which may be very costly and may wreak unnecessary havoc in your life during what is already a very stressful time. We know that the decisions you must make after separation are critical for both you and your family’s short-term and long-term happiness, security and success. That is why you need to a pick an expert who can help you navigate the “yellow brick road”.

Why you should consider using Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers in your family law matter

  1. We have strong ties to the local community with our principal having lived in the local area for more than 15 years. This means we can provide you with practical parenting advice that suits the local area and have contacts in the local area that we can refer you to who can help you navigate your new life post-separation.
  2. We have been helping people who have separated or are contemplating separating for over 50 years combined. Over that period we have helped countless satisfied couples resolve their family law matters without the need to resort to the Court by using alternative dispute resolution processes including mediation which we have found to be far less stressful and expensive for our clients. That said we have the experience to know that some matters can only be resolved with the assistance of the Court and we are very well placed to provide strong court representation.
  3. We have Accredited Family Law Specialists on our team (lawyers who are recognised as experts in their field by the Law Society of NSW). These experts are extremely knowledgeable in all areas of family law which makes them the best placed legal professionals to assist you in relation to all of the issues in your family law matter. We also have Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners on hand who can help if you and your partner are not keen to engage solicitors, or want to attempt an informal alternative dispute resolution process such as family dispute resolution or mediation.
  4. We only practice family law and, based on client feedback, we do it very well. As a result of our enduring presence in the family law arena our experienced family lawyers:
    – can steer you through the many twists and turns that follow a separation.
    – are able to swiftly comprehend and appreciate the difficult issues of each family law matter and practically advise you as to how your family law matter should proceed to achieve the best outcome in your personal circumstances.
    – have established solid working relationships with countless family law practitioners (comprising local solicitors, barristers and court staff). We have also had frequent dealings with local Child Contact Centres, Meditators, Family Law Arbitrators, Counsellors etc. and can recommend a “best fit” for you and your family members should the need arise.
    – regularly aid clients to negotiate realistic financial property settlements, devise practical parenting arrangements which are in the best interests of each child, and engage with the various family law processes to best promote family relationships.
    – have extensive experience in drafting and reviewing all court documents, financial disclosure material and settlement documents.
  5. We pride ourselves on being price competitive not just in terms of our hourly charge-out rates but also because we are highly experienced and can “get the job done” more quickly than many of our less experienced counterparts.
  6. We have stayed in contact with many of our past clients and often receive referrals from them – in fact this makes up the bulk of our busy practice. Those are happy clients who have come through the other side of family breakdowns and believe our service was a strong factor in their now successful post-separation lives.

By engaging us:

  1. You can be assured that we will only act with you and your family’s best interests in mind whether we are working towards a financial settlement or assisting you with a parenting dispute.
  2. You will be appropriately guided through the separation and divorce processes by an experienced family lawyer who has “seen it all” and can provide you with real-world hands-on advice on how to deal with many of the “scary” circumstances that you and your family may face.
  3. You will receive reliable, future-minded advice which is tailored to your specific needs and will be dealing with an experienced family lawyer who will be on your side and can help you plan your best future.

Get in contact with us for first class family law assistance. Call me, Lisa Wagner of Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers on 9437 0010 or email me on  enquiries@familylawyersdw.com.au.We are experts in all areas of family law and are looking forward to taking your call.

These posts are only intended as an overview or comment on current issues that may interest you and are not legal advice. If there are any matters that you would like us to advise you on, then please contact us.

Separating Again? Know how

If you have recently separated for the second time or are thinking about leaving a long term relationship or second marriage (having already been separated and divorced before) there is important additional information that you should know about.

Firstly, you are not alone. Statistics indicate that second time marriages and long term relationships unfortunately have a greater chance of failing than first time marriages. It is hardly surprising given the additional pressure of a blended family that many second marriages face. There is no need to hide away and feel embarrassed in these circumstances because chances are that the person standing next to you is experiencing a similar thing.

Secondly, things have changed and one of the most significant things that have changed is you. If you are separating for a second time you are likely to be a fair bit older than what you were years ago when you went through your first marriage breakdown. You are probably less likely to have dependent children and probably more likely to have a shorter working life ahead of you. You may also be facing health challenges that did not play a part in the equation when your relationship or marriage fell apart the first time. All of these factors impact on your entitlements to a property settlement and also on any entitlement you might have to spouse maintenance so it is important to get it right.

Thirdly, there are often more options available to you the second time around. One of the more obvious ones (because you are likely to be older) is the ability you have to drawn on accumulated superannuation funds. This may take the form of a transition to retirement pension or alternatively seeking a superannuation splitting Order from your former spouse or a combination of both. Knowing how to maximise your superannuation entitlements and end up with the most money in your pocket is a specialised area and expert advice is essential.

Fourthly, a second divorce or separation can be an even greater balancing act than your first separation. This especially so if children are involved. Often couples separating for a second time have a more complicated family tree. They are probably going to be dealing with children from a previous marriage or relationship along with possibly one or more younger children from the marriage or long term relationship that they are in the process of leaving. Trying to be fair to everyone can leave you in the end being fair to no one… especially yourself. It is therefore critical to put yourself first and have a clear legal strategy in place to maximise your property settlement entitlements. This will help you provide for any other people you feel obliged to support or look after.

Fifthly, if you are leaving a second marriage or thinking about separating for a second time there is a good chance that you have played a significant part in raising your soon-to-be ex’s children from his or her first marriage. This may take the form of playing a “homemaker” or step-parent roll or perhaps you have contributed financially to the household bills and other costs that are incurred by your former ex’s children including access to a motor vehicle and tertiary education fees. If these scenarios come close to describing what your second marriage has been about then it is critical to set all of this out in your divorce. It counts. Contributions to children in a marriage, when you are not the natural or birth parent, count on your side of the equation. You will get extra credit for it and it shouldn’t be overlooked.

So, if you are separating for a second time or going through a second divorce it might seem as though the road ahead is strangely familiar and you feel a deep sense of déjà vu. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that it is going to be exactly the same as before because it probably won’t be. If you take note of these points you will probably find that your second separation and divorce will most probably result in a much stronger outcome for you.

If you would like to talk more about your particular situation or if you are thinking about separating for the second time or have recently separated and are contemplating your second divorce call me, Lisa Wagner of Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers on 9437 0010 or email me on enquiries@familylawyersdw.com.au to discuss your matter. We offer Accredited Family Law Specialists and are experts in this area.

These posts are only intended as an overview or comment on current issues that may interest you and are not legal advice. If there are any matters that you would like us to advise you on, then please contact us.

Separation and lottery wins, Do I have to share?

If you are going through a separation and want to reach a property settlement with your ex after you have received an inheritance or been lucky enough to win lotto you may be wondering how that money will be shared.

Separations involving dividing assets, and occasionally liabilities, between two parties are often referred to as property settlements. Sometimes the assets that are considered in a family law property settlement include lottery wins or even inheritances.

In a separation it is not unusual that particular assets are regarded by at least one of the parties as holding some special significance. Assets that are the result of an inheritance often fall into this category. Sometimes lottery wins are also similarly regarded. So how does the Court divide lottery wins when couples separate and they want to settle their property matter?

In the case of Elford & Elford [2014] FCCA 2531 the Federal Circuit Court was asked to consider what was a just and equitable division of property of the parties which included a significant lottery prize that had been won by the husband shortly after the first year of their 10 year relationship.

By way of background the parties started living together in 2003 when the wife (then aged 35 years) moved with her three young children from New South Wales to Tasmania. At the commencement of the relationship the wife had modest assets, including superannuation entitlements of approximately $130,000 net. At the commencement of the relationship the husband was 57 years of age and in fulltime employment. He was financially secure with significantly more net assets including superannuation entitlements of approximately $110,000 and the home in which the parties then lived. The wife quickly found work and applied her income towards the food for the family and the costs of her children. The husband continued to meet the costs relating to the home and further costs including holidays and the like for the parties.

About eight years prior to the relationship the husband was sorting through some of his late mother’s possessions when he discovered an old Tatts Lotto ticket which had belonged to his late father. Since that time the husband had used the series of eight numbers from that ticket for his own Tatts Lotto tickets which he purchased every week. In 2004 the husband, using those numbers, won the first division Tatts Lotto prize of $622,842. The husband deposited his lottery winnings into a term deposit account in his own name which he “topped up” to $650,000 from his savings. At the time of hearing those funds remained invested in a term deposit account in the husband’s sole name.

At the commencement of the relationship the husband’s assets were more than four times that of the wife’s assets. Throughout the relationship the parties kept both their assets and finances quite separate. They maintained separate bank accounts and did not open any joint account. They had a clear understanding about who would pay for what during their relationship.

The husband claimed that his Tatts Lotto win was his contribution alone. In cross-examination the wife agreed that she did not contribute financially towards the purchase of the ticket, she also agreed that she did not pick the winning numbers, that her husband had been buying weekly tickets with those numbers since long before their relationship commenced, that she had been in a relationship with the husband for less than a year when his ticket won, and that the winnings had been invested by the husband in his name alone.

The facts of this case could be distinguished from a number of other cases involving lottery wins where the Court had found that there had been a common economic objective of the parties. The purchase of the Tatts Lotto ticket in this case was not driven by a common economic purpose nor were the winning funds then managed by the parties together in furtherance of their joint and common objectives. As a consequence the Court in this case regarded that the lottery winnings were a contribution made by the husband alone. This contribution when added to the other contributions of the parties, most significantly their initial financial contributions, meant that the husband’s contributions were worth about 94% of the combined total value of the net matrimonial pool of assets at the time of the trial.

The parties were in general agreement that they should each retain the assets and superannuation entitlements (and liabilities) that were in their sole name. The parties also agreed that there should be an adjustment by the husband to the wife. The point of difference in this case was the amount of money that the parties said should be paid by the husband to the wife as a settlement. In particular the husband sought an Order that he pay to the wife the sum of $50,000 and the wife sought an Order that she receive from the husband the sum of $360,000.

In all of the circumstances the Court ultimately determined that it would be appropriate for the husband to make a payment to the wife to bring her proportion of entitlements in the overall asset pool up to 10%. In view of the net asset pool and the net value of the assets the wife was to retain an additional sum of $50,400 (or rounded up to $51,000) was determined to be a just and equitable in all of the circumstances. Given the parties respective ages, states of health, incomes and earning capacity and different financial assets and resources the Court formed the view that there should be no further adjustment because of the “future needs” considerations required to be considered under s.75(2) of the Family Law Act.

In summary, the particular circumstances of this case ensured that the husband did not have to share his lottery win with the wife notwithstanding that the parties had enjoyed a 10 year relationship.

If you are separated or are thinking about separating and would like to know where you would stand financially in a family law property settlement, especially if an inheritance or other “windfall” sum of money is involved then call me, Lisa Wagner of Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers on 9437 0010 to talk about your case or email me on  enquiries@familylawyersdw.com.au. We have Accredited Family Law Specialists and registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners here to help you with any family law matter.

These posts are only intended as an overview or comment on current issues that may interest you and are not legal advice. If there are any matters that you would like us to advise you on, then please contact us.