Family Lawyers Mosman

Divorce Lawyer servicing couples and families in the Mosman area. Divorce Lawyers helping separating couples for over 20 years.

Are you looking for an experienced family lawyer to help you with your separation and divorce?

We are keenly aware that dealing with a relationship breakdown is distressing and seeing a lawyer can be a very daunting experience. Having practised almost exclusively in the area of family law for more than 20 years we believe that we are the best-placed family law firm in the local area to deal with you and your matter sensitively and with the best interests of you and your family foremost in mind.

We recognise that no two families (or indeed family breakdowns) are the same. We are not a cookie-cutter law firm and will take the time to get to know you, your family and the distinct facts and circumstances of your case – that is our promise to you. We do this so that we can offer you advice that is tailored to your personal circumstances and can secure a resolution of your matter which reflects the specific needs of you and your family.

Why use Doolan Wagner, your family lawyer Mosman, in your family law matter?

We have been helping separating couples for over 20 years and during that time have assisted hundreds of couples to resolve their family law matters in the most cost-effective way both with and without the Court’s involvement.

  1. We only practice in the area of family law. That means we are in the best position to assist you to resolve your matter because:
    – we have established relationships with many of the local family law practitioners (including local lawyers, barristers and court staff), Child Contact Centres, Meditators, Family Law Arbitrators, etc.
    – we can quickly grasp the important elements of each family law matter; and
    – we are expertly familiar with how family law processes work.
  2. We have lawyers who are Accredited Family Law Specialists registered with the Law Society of NSW – these are experts in all areas of family law and are best placed to assist you in relation to your family law matter.
  3. We have registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners for separating couples who are not yet ready to undertake the formal engagement of a solicitor or who want to try to informally resolve their matter using alternative dispute resolution.
  4. Your file will receive personal attention from experienced family lawyers including our Principal and the handling of your matter won’t be passed around the office to junior lawyers unless specifically requested by you.
  5. Every day we:
    – draft family law documents including but not limited to Court Applications, Balance Sheets, Superannuation Splitting Orders, Financial Agreements, Binding Child Support Agreements, Consent Orders, Applications for Divorce and Affidavits;
    – assist clients to formulate sensible parenting plans and negotiate appropriate financial property settlements;
    – review financial disclosure documents, court documents, parties’ evidence and applications for child support assessments;
    – prepare clients for attendances at Court and engaging with the Family Law processes such as attending with Family Consultants; and
    – guide clients through the many challenges that can arise in their lives and within the family unit as a result of separation and divorce.
  6. We are a boutique law firm with overheads to match – we pass on those savings to you so that our fees and charges are competitive. We should be considered the “go-to” company for getting real and good old fashioned divorce law advice.
  7. Our practise has been built up from word of mouth referrals from satisfied current and past clients and local professional people – that’s 20 years of business built up largely from word-of-mouth referrals…enough said.

By engaging Doolan Wagner Lawyers:

  1. You will be choosing an Accredited Family Law Specialist, an expert who practices family law daily.
  2. You will benefit from our ability to quickly (and therefore cost-effectively) understand the important issues in your matter and formulate the right action plan for you and your family.
  3. You will be provided with proper guidance through the separation and divorce processes – we know that separation and divorce are some of the most stressful and challenging experiences which our clients will have to go through during their lifetimes. Having steered many clients’s through the various stages of each of these processes we are best positioned to offer you practical feedback on how to approach many of the situations that separated families may face.
  4. You will be provided with clear advice on what forms part of the “pool of assets” and how best to protect the assets of the relationship.
  5. You will receive sensible, realistic and proactive family law advice in relation to both parenting and financial matters which will stand the test of time.  We will try and anticipate the things that may happen in your future and provide for them in the advice that we give you and work with those “futures” in mind when we negotiate your settlement. Many of our former clients have kept in touch with us over the years to update us about their families and have provided feedback that both the advice we offered and the resolutions we negotiated for them have been appropriate to meet their family’s needs for many years.
  6. You can be confident that we will secure the best financial outcome for you.
  7. You can be assured that we will always act with the best interests of your children in mind.
  8. You will receive our full commitment to resolve your matter as quickly as possible. Your positive experience with us assures our good reputation within the local community.
  9. Don’t make the mistake of choosing the wrong lawyer. The decisions you must make after separation are critical. You and your children’s well-being and your financial security are not worth the gamble.

Our founding principal, Lisa Wagner is a local North Shore mum and an Accredited Family Law Specialist having looked after separating parties on Sydney’s North Shore & Mosman for almost 30 years.

Trained as a Family Dispute Resolution practitioner and in Collaborative Family Law Practice, Lisa and her team possess honed skills to secure favourable and timely out of court settlements.

Many people following separation seek discreet advice and our ongoing specialist family law advice service can prove invaluable to help you along the way navigate issues of child support, parenting and financial settlements.

Taking the first step is never easy however with our proven track record of assisting local couples to resolve their family law matters successfully we urge you to get the ball rolling and get in touch with us.

Call me, Lisa Wagner of Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers on 9437 0010 or email me on We offer Accredited Family Law Specialists and are experts in 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.

Family Lawyers Mosman FAQ’s

March 2019 Family Law Case Watch

Our March 2019 Family Law case, Stradford & Stradford [2019] FamCAFC 25 focuses on the approach taken by the Family Court in respect of the husband’s failure to provide full and frank disclosure which resulted in his imprisonment.


The parties had property settlement proceedings listed for Hearing before the primary judge on 10 August 2018. Both parties were unrepresented. The primary judge was not satisfied with the husband’s financial disclosure material and adjourned the matter to 26 November 2018 for Mention and directed the husband to provide particular documents to the wife by 5 November 2018 and file an Affidavit setting out what documents were provided.

In making Directions on 10 August 2018, the primary Judge made Notations that if the husband failed to provide full and frank disclosure in accordance with the Orders, he should be dealt with for contempt.


Section 17 of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia Act 1999 (Cth) (“the FCC Act”) provides the Federal Circuit Court of Australia the power to punish a contempt of its authority. However, that authority may only be utilised to punish contempt committed in the face or hearing of the Court. The Family Law Act 1975 (CTH) (“the FLA”) makes a distinction between contempt (Part XIIIB) and sanctions for parties’ failure to comply with orders (Part XIIIA).Contempt is defined in the legislation as a contravention of an order which involves a “flagrant challenge to the authority of the Court”. A person will have contravened an order where the person is bound by the order and they have “intentionally failed to comply with the order or made no reasonable attempt to comply”.

The legislation provides that contempt must be established on the criminal standard of proof, i.e. beyond reasonable doubt. As contempt is considered a crime, a breach of orders should be considered as being contempt only in exceptional circumstances.

Rule 19.02 of the Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001 (Cth) (“the Rules”) contains provisions for who may make an application to the Court for a person to be dealt with for contempt and the mandatory requirements to be followed in such an application. All of those provisions reflect the basic principles of natural justice where liberty is potentially at risk. For example, rule 19.02(7) provides that after hearing evidence in support of an allegation of contempt, the Court may, if it decides there is a prima facie case, invite the person to state their defence and, after hearing the defence, determine the charge. Only if the charge is proved, may the Court make an order for the punishment of the person (rule 19.02(8)).

The sanctions that are available to be imposed by the Court include fines, bonds, particular orders and imprisonment (112AD of the FLA).


The primary judge in this case determined that the matter should proceed as a contempt rather than a contravention in the event that the husband breached the orders. This decision was made in advance of any breach made by the husband and prior to any application being filed for contempt or a breach of the orders. The primary Judge stated:

“…believe me, if there isn’t full disclosure there will be consequences, because that’s what I do. If people don’t comply with my orders there’s only one place they go. Okay. And I don’t have any hesitation in jailing people for not complying with my orders.”

The statements made by the primary Judge in this case clearly indicated prejudgement by declaring that any breach would be dealt with as a contempt and that the husband would be sentenced to imprisonment.

When the proceedings came before another Judge for Mention on 26 November 2018, evidence had been filed by the husband that some disclosure had been provided however argued that other documents were not in his possession, power or control. The wife contended that the husband omitted documents that he would have been able to obtain.

The Judge on that occasion, did not adjudicate on that dispute nor did she resolve any question as to whether or not the husband had failed to comply with the Orders made on 10 August 2018. The matter was adjourned to 6 December 2018 for hearing of the contempt application before the primary Judge.

The matter was returned to the primary Judge on 6 December 2018. The Judge did not accept the husband’s evidence that he tried in good faith to provide every aspect of the requested financial documents.

During this Hearing, the wife stated that all she wanted was to achieve a fair property settlement. She emphasised to the Court that she and the husband had children together so she did not want the husband to be charged with contempt. She said, “…we have kids together that I have to think about as well… this affects the kids for the rest of their lives”.

The Judge replied to these statements:

I can see that that’s not what you particularly want… you don’t want him to be going to jail unnecessarily, because that’s exactly where he is going to be going… I’m the one who sends him to jail, not you… I don’t want you to have that guilt”.

The Judge sentenced the husband to prison and had a warrant issued for his immediate transfer to gaol.

In conclusion, on Appeal

On Appeal, it was found that there was no feature in this case which warranted, in the broader interests of justice, any departure from the requirements of rule 19.02. According to the Appeals Court, the husband’s evidence was not given proper weight nor was he provided a fair opportunity to explain his evidence or defend himself against any charge of contempt laid. In addition, the wife’s wishes for the husband not to be sentenced to imprisonment were not taken into account. It was said that:

“It is difficult to envisage a more profound or disturbing example of pre-judgment and denial of procedural fairness to a party on any prospective orders, much less contempt, and much less contempt where a sentence of imprisonment was, apparently, pre-determined as the appropriate remedy.”

The Court of Appeal concluded that the primary judge appeared to be unaware that breaches and contraventions of orders made in family law proceedings must be ordinarily dealt with under the Act as a “contravention of proceedings”. The Act makes clear that contempt involves proof of different matters to those of this case. The Court of Appeal stated that it would be difficult to think of circumstances where a failure to comply with orders for disclosure could warrant a party being dealt with for contempt.

In any event, the strict rules of procedural fairness reflected in the Rules of the Court apply to either sanction and were not applied by the Judge in this case.

On Appeal it was also noted that a Court should not sentence a person to imprisonment unless the Court is satisfied that, in all of the circumstances of the case, no other sanction of the wide range available would be appropriate.

The imprisonment of the husband in the current case was described as a “gross miscarriage of justice”.

The appeal by the husband was allowed and the husband was granted a costs certificate authorising a payment to the husband from the Attorney-General in respect of the costs incurred by him in relation to the Appeal.

We hope that the issue explored in our March 2019 Family Law Case Watch was of interest to you as it reveals a rare and profound denial of procedural fairness to a party rightfully reversed on Appeal. It also highlights the importance of financial disclosure in Family Law matters and the need to comply with the obligation to provide full and frank disclosure.

If you have recently separated or have a Family Law enquiry, please contact us on (02) 9437 0010 or to discuss your matter in complete confidence. We are conveniently situated in St Leonards on Sydney’s Lower North Shore and have a team of experienced and caring professional family lawyers available to help you.

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.

Tips for you to help keep your Family Law costs down

We understand that divorce and separation is wrought with costs.  The emotional cost of separation and the costs of maintaining two homes can be really significant.  We understand that you need to do what you can to keep in control of the additional costs of legal representation and so we have set out some tips below to help you save money on the legal costs associated with your divorce. 

  1. Use your time with us wisely. Like most service professionals (e.g. doctors, accountants) we bill in incremental units of time.  As soon as we start working on your matter you are charged in blocks of 6 minutes of time.  To help you maximise the efficiency of our billing system it is always best to plan ahead before meeting with us or talking to us on the telephone.  Save your questions for one conversation rather than ringing every time you have something on your mind.  This can result in significant savings for you.
  1. Divorce or separation is particularly stressful and in our experience you need somebody you can talk with about the emotional issues you face. We are not trained in this area and so engaging the services of a counsellor to help you or relying on a friend may be a more appropriate alternative at times.
  1. The more work you can do for us the less work we will have to do for you. Generally we will require a lot of information.  You are usually our best source of this information.  Our checklists and questionnaires assist us to gather this information in an efficient way. This is a really good opportunity for you to save money.  Completing this “homework” means we don’t need to gather the information from elsewhere.  This can save you a lot of money.
  1. Not only do we require lots of information but it is usually the case that this information needs to be shared with the other side. Being your own “legal assistant” and providing us with copies of documents means that we do not have to take time to copy documents and this can be a huge saving in overheads for you.
  1. Do your best to look at your divorce or separation as a business transaction as hard as that may be. It does not make any sense to pay us $500 to get you something worth only $25.  Your frame of mind in divorce or separation can often be one of the most significant components of the entire case and can have a huge bearing on how the case is run and ultimately how expensive the matter is for you.  This is equally true of your ex-partner and spouse.  If you are facing a former spouse who is resentful or hostile towards you it is likely the action is going to take longer and your fees are going to be greater than what they would otherwise have to be.
  1. Keep open to compromise. Not many spouses “win” in a divorce.  It is more a question of how well the mutual loss is controlled.  Keeping a “middle of the road” approach often makes sense.  Being flexible and creative in your thinking and working towards a settlement rather than remaining entrenched in a position is a good headspace to be in.  The more amicable the conduct between you and your “ex” the more likely the matter can be resolved quickly and the less time we will have to spend on your case which ultimately keeps your legal costs down.
  1. You should not forsake good legal support. Hiring a professional Family Lawyer is expensive.  However hiring an amateur lawyer can cost you more in the long run.  Getting proper legal advice is highly beneficial and can reduce your stress by providing you with clarity about your rights in the legal process.  On a practical note:-
  • Get legal advice early on from an experienced Family Lawyer;
  • Make notes along the way of the questions you want answered;
  • Do not try to prepare complicated documents on your own. You may save money at the start but this can become more expensive later when we need to fix any mistakes that have been made in the absence of proper legal advice;
  • Do not try to use litigation or protracted settlement discussions as a way to punish your “ex”. Your ex’s past behaviour or even their present attitude may be unpleasant or even abusive.  However it is best to concentrate on the bigger picture and secure a sensible agreement as soon as possible.
  • Provide full disclosure of all your financial interests. A failure to disclose any financial interests can have a devastating effect on any agreement you reach with your ex and can also significantly add to costs.
  • Finally, it is critically important to keep us fully informed of all significant events. However it is not necessary to copy us in on the minutiae of day to day interactions with your ex unless this is part of a “bigger” picture that is causing difficulties and needs a legal solution.

As your Family Lawyer, we take on our role with a strong depth of knowledge and experience, and with great respect for you our client.  We understand that you may be in a stressful and emotional frame of mind when you meet with us and because of this we want you to take the time to understand the above tips.  If you are able to take our tips on board we are confident that you will be able to keep your legal costs at a reasonable level and reach the right outcome for you.

Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers offer specialist family law advice in St Leonards on Sydney’s North Shore. If you have recently separated or have a Family Law enquiry, please contact us on (02) 9437 0010 or to discuss your matter in complete confidence. We have a team of experienced and caring professional family lawyers available to help you in this difficult time.

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.

Divorce Lawyers Northern Beaches, Manly, Balgowlah & Forestville

Are you thinking of separating and want to know where you stand?  Separated and wanting to know what your rights are?  Looking for the best family law representation a stone’s throw away or in a convenient location?

If you are separating, separated or thinking of separating and want easy to understand information from a specialist family law firm, then read on.

Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers provide expert divorce and family law advice and assistant to people on Sydney Northern Beaches including Manly, Balgowlah & Forestville.

Looking for an accredited family law specialist on the Northern Beaches?

Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers are trusted family law solicitors you can rely on.  For close to three decades our lawyers have been assisting people in Sydney’s North Northern Beaches, Manly, Bowgowlah & Forestville with their family law matters.

Our family lawyers expertise and skills are recognised by The Law Society of New South Wales through its Accredited Specialist Scheme.

Our Services

We are expertly placed to assist you in relation to all family law matters including:

  • Property Settlements
  • Divorce
  • De-facto relationship matters
  • Parenting matters
  • Spouse maintenance
  • Same-sex relationship matters
  • Child support
  • Mediation
  • Collaborative Law
  • Strong court representation

Why Choose Doolan Wagner?

Engaging a lawyer can be a daunting step.

You may be worried about their fees.  Uncertain that you will be treated as “just another case” or that they simply won’t understand all the issues that are important to you.

These feelings are normal.  In fact, thinking this way is to be expected especially when so much is at stake.

We understand this.

To us, you matter.

Our principal Lisa Wagner is an accredited family law specialist and has been looking after separating couples and helping them achieve good outcomes for nearly 30 years.

Lisa and the team at Doolan Wagner understand the issues that you face.  We are aware that Manly and its surrounding areas of Balgowlah, Forestville, Collaroy and neighbouring suburbs reflect a changing demographic.

We have assisted young couples to manage their separation, the payment of private school fees for their children into the future.  We have assisted in separating couples of teenage children identify appropriate parenting arrangements and secure flexible parenting plans that will work for them now and down the track. Lisa believes in what she does and as a result, you can trust that we will do for you what we say we will do.

If you are looking for a supportive, accessible and easy to understand family lawyer then we are right for you.

We will not make promises that we cannot stick to.  We will, however:

  1. Answer all your questions
  2. Have the time to “reality test” your options
  3. Clearly explain to you each alternative as it arises
  4. Be pro-active in securing the earliest and the best settlement for you
  5. Talk in plain English
  6. Be transparent with our charges

In brief, we commit to deliver every one of our clients a quality and professional service which is personal and real.

Our family law team is small and close-knit.  Each of our lawyers is specially trained.  They also hold degrees in associated disciplines such as psychology, economics and education, as well as their legal training.  In addition, many of our team either have completed a Masters Degree in Family Law or are currently undertaking Masters courses of study.  Family law is a vocation for our professional staff and not just a job.

Additionally, we have dispute resolution practitioners and lawyers also trained in collaborative family law practice.  We have a breadth and depth of experience that we employ each day to benefit you.

We can quickly get to the heart of the matter and not waste your time and money on the issues that don’t count.  Located in St Leonards on Sydney’s lower north shore we are in close proximity to Sydney’s northern beaches and Sydney’s north shore.  A simple 20-minute car drive from Manly, Balgowlah and Forestville.

We offer the added benefit of anonymity.  Engaging a lawyer outside the suburb where you live or work ensures that your privacy is protected.

So where to from here?

If you are wanting to know where you stand?  or  If you are truly contemplating separation?

If your spouse has walked out or you are thinking of leaving the home or if you have separated and now need to get things sorted then take the next step…

We offer an obligation-free confidential consultation at short notice and outside of business hours if required.  We can take the hassle out of the situation you are facing and make it easier.  That we can guarantee.

If you have recently separated or have a Family Law enquiry, please contact us on (02) 9437 0010 or to discuss your matter in complete confidence. We have a team of experienced and caring professional family lawyers available to help you in this difficult time.

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.

Collaborative Family Law

Is Collaborative practice right for my family law matter?

What is Collaborative Family Law?  How does it work?

Wanting to know more about Collaborative Family Law, if so, read on as we discuss what it is and how Collaborative Practice can positively impact your family law experience.

Collaborative practice is a process that has slowly developed in various areas of law throughout the past 10 years. This practice, however, has finally found solid footing in Family Law in Australia.

What is collaborative practice?

The process can best be described as a series of conversations which aim to put both your and your partner’s interests on the table for open discussion. This is where you each consider what is important to you moving forward (such as who retains the former matrimonial home, or how the children will spend religious holidays with you), and where your legal representatives will also individually advise you as to the family law issues at hand.

How it can benefit you in your separation?

Collaborative practice in Family Law is a process that encourages both parties to actually work together to resolve their own disputes, whether property or parenting-related, or both. It’s a relaxed and supportive process and one which embodies a conversation-style of resolution where there is no ‘threat’ of Court looming over your heads as you negotiate and where you are both committed to negotiate in good faith. It also enables parties to feel empowered and as though they have a voice which is listened to by their partner.

A more long-term benefit of the collaborative process is that there is a greater chance that you and your partner will be able to maintain a relationship with one another after your separation, particularly in circumstances where you share the care of young children and are expected to co-parent after separation. It also assists you both to communicate more effectively with one another and further minimise any potential conflict or hostility.

So, what is the process?

While you and your partner have the assistance of a collaboratively-trained ‘team’ of professionals including a neutral coach and your respective family lawyers (as well as other experts such as financial advisers or child psychologists, should you wish), this process is especially designed to allow the both of you an opportunity to explore a variety of solutions with the aim of reaching an agreement in relation to your Family Law matter. These solutions allow you and your partner an advantage of settling your matter how you actually want, and not how the Court determines.

In the collaborative family law process, both you and your partner, as well as your respective family lawyers each sign a contract called a “Participation Agreement” which outlines a number of principles and guidelines including that you will not go to Court, you will negotiate in good faith, and you will be honest, transparent and speak openly throughout the process. The Participation Agreement also includes a provision that states that in the event the negotiations fail, both parties’ legal representatives will cease to act. The benefit of this is that it encourages both parties to properly commit to the process and make a genuine attempt to reach a solution.

Once the Participation Agreement is signed, you can expect that the process may take several sessions before you reach an agreement in relation to your property and/or parenting matter. The number of sessions needed, however, varies and depends on a number of factors including, for example, the nature of the discussions (such as whether you wish to discuss your property or parenting matter, or both), issues in dispute, whether you and your partner have exchanged all financial documents and other information that may be needed, as well as whether you choose to bring in other independent professionals to assist.

Once you and your partner have reached an agreement, your legal representatives will then prepare the necessary family law settlement documents to ensure that your agreement is legally enforceable.

Is it quicker than the Family Court?

 Generally, yes. This depends, however, on you and your partner’s willingness to settle the matter. The more effort and determination you both put in to the collaborative process, the more likely it is that the process will be much faster than filing an Application with the Family Court.

In circumstances where one party is not willing to commit to the process or fails to comply with the provisions contained in the Participation Agreement (for example, they refuse to provide necessary financial disclosure documents), you may find that the process is being ‘dragged’ out at significant costs to you. At this stage, it may be appropriate to re-evaluate whether it is beneficial for you to continue with this process.

 Is it costly?

 Before you, your partner and the collaborative team sit down to start discussions, your family lawyer will inform you of their costs to prepare for and attend each session. You and your partner will each meet your own legal fees and enter into separate costs agreements with your respective legal representatives.

Sometimes the process can become more costly where other professionals, such as financial advisors or child consultants, are brought into the team. These type of costs, however, are generally shared between you and your partner.

Whilst the collaborative process may not be a ‘cheap’ option compared to other forms of dispute resolution (such as mediation or lawyer assisted mediation ‘LAM’), the majority of clients view the collaborative process as a worthwhile investment.

 How do I know if collaborative practice is right for me in my family law matter?

There are circumstances where collaborative practice may not be appropriate such as where there is high conflict, family violence or children are at risk. The process may also not be suitable for those who are Court-focused, unwilling to negotiate openly and honestly with their former partner, or who are hostile and simply want ‘justice’.

 If you and your partner have separated and are looking at how best to sort out your finances or the care arrangements for the children, and you wish to do so privately, amicably and resolve matters how you want, the collaborative process may be for you.

If you would like more information about the collaborative process and whether this is a suitable option for you, please contact our office on (02) 9437 0010 or to make an initial appointment with one of our collaboratively-trained family lawyers.

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.