Lane Cove Family Lawyers

Separating or thinking of separating?

Wanting to know where to start?

Separation is one of the most difficult experiences that people can live through.  Knowing where to turn and what to do, especially in the early stages, can help you stay focussed and on track.

If you are looking for a Lane Cove Family Lawyer then we are close by.

Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers have been assisting separating couples in the Lane Cove area for many years.  We offer advice and representation in any of the following areas:

  • Separation
  • Divorce
  • Property Settlements
  • Parenting
  • Child Support
  • Super Splitting
  • De Facto Matters
  • Maintenance
  • Family Dispute Resolution

If you are looking for a family lawyer but are not sure who to approach or how to make the right decision for you then read on – the following questions will be invaluable in helping you make the best decision for your family:

How do you choose the right family lawyer for your separation?

Lawyers Accredited by the Law Society of New South Wales as Family Law Specialists possess a high degree of competence in their field of expertise. They are technically good and know their way around the relevant laws. How you relate to your lawyer and whether or not you understand them and feel that they understand you however can be equally if not more important when choosing a family lawyer to represent you.

How important is it to have an experienced family lawyer in your separation?

A family lawyer with lots of good experience can make the difference between reaching a family law settlement out of Court or not. Experienced family lawyers can more easily overcome roadblocks and break impasses between separating parties in any negotiating. Family lawyers bring a large number of options and scenarios to the negotiating table. They are an invaluable asset.

Will my family lawyer be on my side in my separation?

All family lawyers are bound by professional rules of conduct.  They also have duties to the Family Court.  It is in this context that your family lawyer is compelled to best advance your case.  They are your advocate and will push hard to achieve the optimum outcome for you in your separation.

How can I help my family lawyer run my case?

The family law system in Australia is very paper based.  Lots of disclosure documents, especially in financial matters, are required to be disclosed.  Being organised and gathering documents in a timely fashion goes a long way to assisting your family lawyer sort out your separation.  It can also make it far more cost effective.

What are the best questions to ask a family lawyer before you engage them to act in your separation?

Probably the 3 best questions to ask any potential family lawyer:

1.    what sets them apart from others?

2.    how can they help you in your particular separation?

3.    what options can they identify for you to help you stay out of Court?

Additionally, one question that often helps is:

4.    what would you do if you were me?

The right family lawyer for you will have listened to your story, have developed empathy and a “game plan” to get you out of your situation in the best way possible.  If they can quickly answer this last question to your satisfaction, then go with them.  If in doubt, don’t.

Does it matter if my family lawyer is part of a big firm or a small firm?

The short answer to this question is “no” but there are advantages and disadvantages to both.  A large firm is likely to be more resourced however this can be costly and result in you being “lost in the system”.  In a smaller firm, you are likely to receive a personal service and feel like you really count.  The costs may be lower however you need to be confident that the team is large enough to manage your situation if it runs off the rails.  Choose a boutique specialist family law firm big enough to get the job done but small enough for you to really matter.

What makes a good family lawyer?

The better family lawyers are:

1.    strategic thinkers;

2.    financially literate;

3.    appreciative and attuned to commercial realities ;

4.    able to read most situations and apply good judgement;

5.    respectful of others, understanding and patient with challenging situations;

6.    can leave their ego at the door and don’t entertain one-upmanship tactics.

In short, good family lawyers focus on the problem and do not get too personal with the people.  They are solution orientated and equipped with many strategies to achieve good outcomes.

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.

Encouraging Early, Cost-Effective and Amicable Family Law Settlements

Earlier this year the Australian Law Reform Commission published its findings after an extensive review of the operation of the current Family Law system.

One of the main reasons for this inquiry was to consider what reforms are necessary to achieve appropriate, early and cost-effective resolutions of all family law disputes.  The five (5) recommendations dealing with this goal are looked at here:-

  1. Compulsory requirement for alternate dispute resolution before commencing financial and/or property settlement matters

Importantly the Report recommends that the legislation be amended to:

  1. Require parties to take genuine steps to resolve their property and financial matters prior to filing an Application for Court Orders; and
  2. Mandate that the Court must not hear an Application unless the parties have lodged a genuine steps statement.

Further, in the event that a party has not made genuine efforts to resolve the matter, the report recommended that costs consequences should follow.

This new approach would bring matters relating to financial and property settlement in line with what is the current requirement for parenting matters ie. to try alternate dispute resolution first.  It would be a positive step for separating families. All too often, people rush off to Court without thinking about what they can do to help resolve a family law dispute. Adding costs consequences into the mix may be particularly effective, as it would remind parties of the seriousness and importance of complying with pre-action obligations.

  1. Acknowledging power imbalances in family law financial matters

It is commonly the case that one party in a relationship may be the “brains” behind the acquisition of the parties’ matrimonial property pool and possesses a high degree of financial literacy and commercial sense.  The other party who is often lacking this financial sense is left at a significant disadvantage in terms of the knowledge he or she possesses about the parties’ financial circumstances.

It is therefore proposed that the Family Law (Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners) Regulations 2008 (Cth) be amended to address this imbalance, referring to the ‘equality of bargaining power between the parties, including an imbalance in knowledge of relevant financial arrangements’ (own emphasis added) rather than just ‘equality of bargaining power between the parties’ which is what the Regulation presently states.

By identifying – and actually acknowledging – that the equality of bargaining power will be affected by power imbalances (such as a difference in financial literacy) in the Regulations, would leave dispute resolution practitioners in little doubt to ensure that such imbalances are mitigated to the fullest extent, where possible.

  1. Requirement for certificates to be provided by Dispute Resolution Practitioners

Similar to parenting matters, the Report proposes to amend the legislation to require practitioners to provide certificates to parties following their attendance at Dispute Resolution evidencing their attempts to resolve the matters between themselves.

This amendment would encourage parties to engage in dispute resolution prior to commencing proceedings. A further advantage that may arise from the implementation of this recommendation is the possibility of the Court’s current workload easing and the time delays associated with litigation reducing, thereby allowing the most intractable matters to be dealt with in a more timely manner.

  1. Extending the Protection of Confidentiality and inadmissibility of discussions and material in Dispute Resolution to property and financial matters

Confidentiality is an integral component of the Dispute Resolution process. There are various reasons why matters raised at mediation remain confidential and inadmissible, though perhaps the most obvious is the greater chance that people will be forthcoming and willing to participate frankly in the process without holding information back.

The Report proposes to extend the confidentiality and inadmissibility provisions already contained in the legislation to mediations of property and financial matters, with the exception of a sworn statement similar to a hybrid between a Financial Statement and Balance Sheet, which should be admissible.

The Report provides that this recommendation is based on the notion that it will support the implementation of dispute resolution “supporting disclosure, including through ensuring that parties provide disclosure and are aware of their obligations and the consequences of non-compliance in this regard”.

The difficulty with this proposal lies with matters where disclosure has not been forthcoming and the accurate financial circumstances of one party is unlikely to be discovered. There is a risk that malicious parties flagrantly breaching their obligations may draft a sworn statement that is not entirely accurate, while orally discussing financial matters more candidly and then having those discussions protected by the confidentiality provisions. However, in any event, is it understood that matters of this nature are more likely to proceed through the court process to final hearing.

  1. Clarifying disclosure obligations

The obligation on each party to provide full and frank financial disclosure is important when dealing with a property and/or financial settlement. Logically, it is difficult to ensure a just and equitable settlement when parties are not forthcoming with their financial positions.

Whilst the Family Law Rules 2004 (Cth) and Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001 (Cth) already outline obligations in relation to the duty of disclosure, the Report suggests amending the legislation to further clarify those disclosure obligations, together with the consequences for breaching those obligations.

It is hoped that by clarifying the duty of disclosure, it will especially benefit self-represented parties, as it will bring their attention in the first instance to the legislative requirements and the rules of the respective Courts requiring same.

Key Takeaways

  1. In most cases, Alternative Dispute Resolution options such as engaging lawyers to assist in negotiations, participating in a Collaborative Law process, or attempting mediation should be the first course of action if you are having difficulties with your ex-partner.
  1. Should the proposed amendments be incorporated into the current legislation and you are experiencing a financial and/or property settlement matter, you may be required to attend mediation and obtain a certificate before you can file an Application in the Court.
  1. Again, if the proposed amendments are taken up, beware of potential cost consequences that may befall those who do not properly satisfy the pre-action procedures.
  1. The obligations in relation to full and frank financial disclosure continue to be stressed to potential litigants, with the hope that clarifying the Rules in this regard will assist people to better understand how to discharge this continuing duty.

As 2019 draws to a close it is worthwhile reflecting on these recommendations which at the very least encourage best practice among family lawyers and other professionals assisting people who are separating to achieve early, cost-effective and amicable settlements.

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 enquiries@familylawyersdw.com.au 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.

Happy Holidays for some, but not for all

It is that time of year again when parents frantically purchase last minute presents, are subjected to holiday songs and generally spending time with their extended families and share a lovely meal with one another.   Parents are also busy rushing to Chatswood Chase, Northbridge Plaza or now even Balmoral Beach, Mosman to have a photo taken of their children with Santa.

However, for some families with separated parents, the holiday season can be an emotionally fraught time which results in sadness, disappointment and discord where children may be caught in the middle.

Some of the issues which may arise in the lead up to the holidays can include:

  1. The other parent changing their mind about existing parenting arrangements without consultation;
  1. The absence of Court Orders which set clear boundaries; and
  1. A parent deciding that they will not encourage the children to spend the holidays with the other parent, as a result of recent behaviour (whether such behaviour is reasonable or not).

So what happens when disagreements arise which jeopardises your children spending an enjoyable holiday with you? Well there are certain steps separated parents can take to ensure that this does not occur. They are explained in greater detail below.

Out of Court

When one party is being difficult, sometimes a simple letter from a solicitor reminding a parent of their obligations pursuant to existing Court Orders (if any) or to the Family Law Act, is enough to put things back on track.

Please remember, at all times, to remain child focused and ensure that the best interest of the child (or children) are of paramount importance.

If you do not want to get lawyers involved, then you are also able to negotiate with the other parent either by yourself or with the assistance of a mediator. Should you take this approach, then you should be mindful of the following when communicating with one another:

  1. Try and come up with a plan ahead of time – Whilst Court Orders are often preferable (given their enforceability), sometimes a parenting plan or a written proposal to the other parent is a helpful way to minimise potential conflict for both parents and more importantly for the children.
  1. Make sure you know where you stand legally – Under the Family Court system, there is no entitlement to an equal division of time for Christmas holidays. Instead, each case is determined on the individual circumstances.

From a practicable perspective, the best thing for both parents is to remember that this time of year is about the children and their happiness, which usually involves the children spending time with both parents (provided it is safe to do so). This means that you will need to try and consider what arrangements will be best for the children ahead of your own interests or feelings.

  1. Communication – Sometimes parents cannot effectively communicate with one another without it resulting in conflict. In those cases, parents should implement a different method of communication such as a communication book or contact via email or text message. Whichever method you decide to use, the aim is to shield the children from the conflict between yourself and the other parent so as to prevent irreversible harm caused to your children’s emotional and psychological wellbeing.
  1. Remain child focused – A lot of family lawyers advise their clients to remain ‘child focused’ and whilst it may seem like an obvious and simple piece of advice, it is the most important and often one concept some parents have difficulty in grasping.

One of the ways you can remain child focused, is to remember that this time of year is supposed to be one of joy and happiness for children and therefore it is important that they are protected from any potential conflict from you and the other parent. By exposing them to any conflict, you risk imposing unnecessary stress on children who may feel torn between pleasing both parents.

If you try to negotiate with the other parent without the assistance of a solicitor or third party and it is unsuccessful, do not give up. Instead, try and engage with either a counsellor or a family law mediator who can assist both you and the other parent in reaching an agreement. By having an experienced mediator or counsellor present it may assist both parents to remain focused on the children and can greatly assist in reaching fair agreement which benefits the children.

Going to Court

In the lead up to Christmas, there is a routine influx of parenting applications filed with the Family Court. Commonly, parents (understandably) begin to panic if they do not reach an agreement as to where, and with whom the children will spend Christmas.

Whilst Court is certainly an option available to parents, it should not the first point of call, rather it should be the last resort. More often than not, the best decisions for children are made by the parents rather than a Judge.

In the event an agreement cannot be reached without Court intervention, then it is important to remember that the deadline for filing an Application with the Court to deal with holiday arrangements is usually early in November of each year. While it may be acceptable to purchase last minute gifts, it is not advisable that a last minute approach be applied when dealing with children in the Court system. Of course, each year there are incidents that cannot be foreshadowed and you may be forced to file an urgent application with the Court. Whilst this does not automatically mean that your matter will be heard, there are occasions where the Court hears an application filed at very short notice.

Though it is important to be aware of that those incidents where a Court urgently hears an application filed past this deadline is the exception and not the rule. So if you are planning on making an application, it is important that you contact a family law solicitor as soon as possible and well prior to this deadline.

How Doolan Wagner can help

As specialists in family law, Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers, are highly experienced in dealing in each aspect of family law, including resolving holiday arrangements. Some of the ways we can assist include:

  1. Providing you with advice regarding any parenting proposal you may wish to raise with the other parent, including advising of experienced counsellors or mediators who can assist you;
  1. Writing a letter to the other parent reminding them of their obligations;
  1. Assisting you in the mediation process, including attending mediation with you (if required);
  1. Preparing and filing all necessary urgent family law applications, as well as, attending Court on your behalf; and
  1. Drafting Consent Orders or a Parenting Plan reflecting an agreement you may reach with the other parent.

If you or someone you know is facing difficulties with their parenting arrangement for the holiday season, please do not hesitate to contact us on (02) 9437 0010 or send us an email at enquiries@familylawyersdw.com.au to discuss your matter in complete confidence.  Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers offer specialist family law advice, conveniently located in St Leonards on Sydney’s North Shore.  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.

Separation and Divorce – How Best to Weather the Storm

The North Shore of Sydney has been battered in recent weeks by unprecedented storms leaving homes and many families hugely impacted as 2019 draws to an end.  Property has been lost and tensions have flared as manageable commutes turn into nightmare gridlocks.

Coupled with the end of the school year and the Christmas/New Year festivities it is to be expected that many local families are feeling the heat.

If your relationship is already strained, then you may be contemplating separating from your spouse or de-facto partner.  Even if it is not something you are wanting, you may find yourself on the receiving end of news from your partner or spouse that they no longer want to keep the marriage going.

If you are in this situation then it is important that you do your best to be prepared and stay in the driver’s seat.  Calling us can make the difference to how you weather this different kind of storm. Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers has been assisting separating couples on the North Shore of Sydney and Sydney’s Northern Beaches for a very long time.

The Principal, Lisa Wagner is a local resident, an Accredited Family Law Specialist, a nationally registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner and skilled in Collaborative Family Law Practice. Lisa has been successfully helping separating couples resolve their family law matters for nearly 30 years and leads a small, select team of experienced professionals who work tirelessly to ensure the best outcome for you and your family should you be facing a separation or marriage breakdown.

Why Choose Us?

Rather than hear only what we have to say – click here to listen to what some of our previous clients say;-

https://vimeo.com/340127113

  

How to choose the best Family Lawyer for you

 Choosing the right family lawyer is a very important decision to make.  To help you choose the right family lawyer for you please click on the links below to read some further helpful information:

What options are available to stay out of court?

 There are many paths to take when deciding how best to resolve your family law matter after you separate.  Collaborative Practice, Mediation and Arbitration, are just a few.   Every family law matter is unique and speaking to a specialist family lawyer is critical.  In the meantime if you want to view more information on some of these “out of court” options, please click on the links below:

However if an out of court settlement is not possible we are experienced in representing you in court.

 

 What Will It Cost?

 A divorce need not be expensive.  Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers offers a no-obligation initial consultation at a fixed cost of $350 (incl. GST).

We pride ourselves on being cost competitive whilst reflecting the specialist service and advice that we provide.

We are always available to discuss our fees with you and the likely charges that you will incur should you decide to retain us.

Please click on the link below to find out some further information on how to keep your family law costs down:

What is the Next Step?

Please call us.  We are open every week day between 8.30am – 5.00pm and are conveniently situated close to St Leonards train station. Street parking is readily available outside our doorstep.

Importantly we are closed over the Christmas and New Year period, reopening at 8.30am on Monday 13 January 2020.

In the meantime here is some information you may find useful from a few of the 2019 cases we have successfully handled this year.

Restraining A Person From Entering A Residence or a specified area in which a residence is situated

At times continuing to live in the same house as your ex after separation is near impossible. Coercive and controlling partners or even longstanding toxic dynamics which might impact children can prove sufficient to justify the exclusion of one partner from the matrimonial property. The restraints afforded in this way can be extended to the personal protection of parties if they have been married.  Looking at the particular circumstances of the cohabitation, including what housing alternatives an ousted party may have significantly determine the success of applications for exclusive occupation and ancillary relief.

Preventing A Parent From Leaving Australia

The Family Court of Australia has the power to prevent a parent from leaving Australia in circumstances where a child has been removed overseas. Restraining a person’s freedom of movement can be an effective strategy to secure the return of a child to Australia particularly when that child has been removed to a country which is not a signatory to the Hague Convention. In many ways this is a remedy of last resort and so will not be granted by the Court lightly. Persuasive evidence must be presented to convince the Court that it is in the child’s best interests that such an order be made. In doing so, the court is likely to require details as to who is the primary carer and the effect on the child of any order that is made.

Separating Under The Same Roof

The high cost of living in Sydney often means that people stay living together in the same house after they separate. When it comes time to get a divorce people in this situation are required to provide extra evidence (in Affidavit form) setting out the circumstances of them living separately and apart under the same roof. This additional evidence must detail how one spouse communicated to the other that they regarded the marriage as over. Particulars of how the relationship then changed is also critical. A supporting affidavit from a friend, neighbour or family member is also necessary setting out what they know of your particular circumstances. If the responding spouse objects to the Divorce Application proceeding a hearing by a Senior Registrar in the court may be set.

Who gets to keep the dog?

In Australia, Courts have a limited capacity to determine “living arrangement” for pets as there is no legislation that governs family law and pets. At present, pets are dealt with as “property” in the Family Court of Australia and accordingly, would be subject of a property order like any other items of property including real estate and furniture.  In circumstances where you and your partner or you and your children are all very attached to your family pet, one option which may be favourable to you is to negotiate Orders relating to your pet to allow you to share the possession of the pet. For example, the pet may live with you whilst the children are in your care and with your ex-partner while the children are in their care. This is just one option available to you and we would invite you to come and speak with us if you are experiencing difficulties determining who your family pet will live with.

Does delay in resolving your family law matter, matter?

The short answer is yes. You have one (1) year from the time of your Divorce Order becoming effective to file an Application seeking property orders with the Court. If you have been in a de facto relationship, you have two (years) from the date of separation to file an Application seeking property orders. In the event that you do not file within these time frames, the Court may not hear your case. You will need to seek leave pursuant to Section 44 (3) of the Family Law Act to have you Application heard “out of time”. If you have separated but are not intending to settle matters by way of entry into Consent Orders, we recommend that you seek legal advice.

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 send us an email at enquiries@familylawyersdw.com.au 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.