Trial Separations

Are you thinking of a trial separation?

Have you and your partner or spouse started a trial separation?

Making the decision to separate, whether as a trial or permanently, is not a decision you make lightly. And the steps you take regarding your separation, even a trial separation, can have long-term consequences for you and your family.

 When is a Separation a Separation?

There are 3 elements to separation:

  1. Having an intention to separate. Where one or both parties have decided to separate;
  1. Communicating the intention or wish to separate to the other person. This can be verbally or in writing; and
  1. A change in behaviour such as:

– moving out of the home or moving into separate rooms/parts of the home;

– opening and operating separate bank accounts;

– not sharing meals together;

– not undertaking usual or regular domestic tasks for the benefit of the other person;

– not spending time together in or out of the home;

– advising children, family members, friends and/or other third parties that you have separated, especially if you continue to live in the same home.

Sometimes these 3 elements coincide however this is not always the case as a separation can be gradual over a long period of time. A decision to separate can be formed months or even years before that intention is communicated to the other party or spouse. And a change in behaviour can occur prior to the intention being formed. There are no “textbook” cases in separation. Each relationship is different.

It is important to understand that some parties cannot, or choose not to, physically separate and instead decide to live separately under the one roof with their former partner or spouse. Provided that they can prove the abovementioned 3 elements of separation then they will still be considered to have separated.

 

Things to consider prior to any trial separation

1.Where will you live? Are you going to stay in the home in another room in the home or are you going to move out? There might be very good reasons to leave the home, such as domestic violence or abuse. However if this is not the case and you are not afraid for your safety then deciding to leave the home can have serious consequences down the track for you and your children both financially (including when you are negotiating a property settlement with your former partner or spouse) and in practical terms. Always get expert family law advice before deciding to leave your home.

 

2. Will the trial separation affect the “status quo”? Will existing arrangements change or a new precedent be set? Thinking about the impact that your decisions will have on you and on your children and also on the day-to-day “household finances” is really important.

 

3. What decisions have been made about cash-flow during your trial separation? Have you agreed that your partner or spouse will keep paying some or all of your expenses? What happens if they change their mind once you have commenced the separation? Can you afford to support yourself and your children if necessary? Will the decisions and arrangements you have made before commencing the trial separation still work for you in 12 months time if the separation is not “temporary” after all? On the flip side, if you have agreed to help you partner or spouse pay for their expenses when they move out or when you have a trial separation, will you be able to maintain this promise in the long-term if the separation is not “temporary” after all? What impact will those decisions have on you and your ability to meet your own expenses? What if your partner or spouse is able to work but chooses not to because they don’t “need” to work to meet their own expenses? Will you still feel the same way in 6 or 12 months time?

 

4. If you own property with your partner you should not make any rash decisions about selling it or changing the way in which the property is held on the Certificate of Title. Instead you should have a discussion with an expert family lawyer about what you can do and the ramifications of each option. Put simply, taking these steps may not be a good idea for you in your particular circumstances and can have serious implications for you in the long-term.

 

5. Expect the “dynamic” at home to change. If you remain living in the same home as your partner or spouse during your trial separation you may not be able to tell them what to do and may have to “put up” with their behaviour. This might include them entertaining people in the home that you are not comfortable being around, coming home late or not keeping the home in the state you would like. Alternatively if you leave your home you may not be able to control what happens inside the home other than to request that it be kept in a reasonable state of repair.

 

6. Who are you going to tell about your trial separation? Who you tell and what you tell them can have a significant impact on things down the track, especially for calculating when your separation actually occurred. If you choose to stay in the home and then wish to get divorced you will need to ask a witness to provide an Affidavit outlining what they understand the circumstances of your separation to be.

 

Separation Checklist

Some things you should think about prior to a separation…

 

  1. Collect important documents e.g. birth certificates, marriage certificates and passports and place them in safe keeping. Keep a copy of each document handy – take photos of these documents on your phone if you can.

 

  1. Collect financial documents for yourself and if possible your partner, including:

 

  • Income Tax Returns and Notices of Assessments for the last three (3) financial years;

 

  • Any employment records you have including employment contracts, recent pay slips and records of leave entitlements;

 

  • Bank statements including savings and investment accounts, loan accounts (including personal loans, mortgages) and other liabilities (such as credit cards, store finance, hire purchases, store cards, family loan agreements etc.);

 

  • Share or investment statements and particulars of all shares in any public company;

 

  • Records and statements in relation to any entity that you are “associated” with. For companies this includes Articles of Association, Balance Sheets, Profit and Loss Statements and BAS statements. For trusts this includes Trust Deeds and Financial Statements and details as to whether you are the Appointee, Trustee or any beneficiary;

 

  • Details of any Real Property owned by either of you including the street address, rate notices etc.;

 

  • Details of other property owned by you e.g. motor vehicles (a registration certificate is helpful), tools, machinery and furniture etc. together with an estimate of the value of each. Also particulars of any items disposed of by Sale, Transfer, Assignment or Gift in the period twelve (12) months prior to separation to date;

 

  • Details for any superannuation account or entitlement in which you or your partner have an interest including recent statements for each and the financial accounts in relation to any self-managed superannuation fund; and

 

  • Details of any personal injury claim, inheritance or pending inheritance or other financial resource.

 

  1. Prepare an inventory of furniture in your home and take pictures of things that are difficult to describe. Things may be removed, sold or destroyed when you move out and it helps to know exactly what was there when you moved out as it can be surprisingly hard to recall later on.

 

  1. Open a new bank account and apply for your own separate credit card. Perhaps consider this step with a different bank. Ask for a reasonable credit limit. You don’t have to use it at this stage but it is a helpful safety net if an emergency arises.

 

  1. Find out what redraw facilities are available on your bank accounts and also determine what accounts can be operated by one signatory and what accounts require two or more signatories in order to operate. Consider getting advice about what options you have so as to best preserve assets.

 

  1. Organise a modest cash flow in case of emergency. You might be relying on joint funds in the beginning but you might find that money “disappears” or is depleted more quickly than you originally expected. At other times unknown or unexpected “debts” and “bills” suddenly arise.

 

  1. Remain involved in as much as you can with things your children are doing. Take up opportunities to engage in their lives. Consider speaking to your employer about flexible working arrangements that may be available, even if only in the short term.

 

  1. Compile a list of all people that provide care for your children including doctors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, paediatricians and the like. Get up to date information about all treatments and obtain copies of all reports.

 

  1. Touch base with your children’s classroom or preschool teacher just to “check-in” and understand better your child’s progress. Stay updated and involved in their school as best you can.

 

  1. Don’t vent on social media sites and be discrete with your posts on Facebook and the like. You don’t want compromising photos of yourself or unflattering comments circulating at this time as they can seriously backfire.

 

  1. Set up a separate confidential email account and change your passwords to any personal email, social media, internet banking and other accounts. It’s a good idea to also restrict access to these accounts from the family computer or other devices accessible by other family members.

 

  1. Try and get expert family law advice. Confidential, no obligation appointments are available at short notice from our friendly and highly experienced specialist team.

 

A trial separation can be a way to allow everyone to feel more comfortable with a new life and adjust to the huge changes that a separation brings. A trial separation can also allow you to test the “reality” of the decision you are about to make. Sometimes people suggest a trial separation as a way of easing the other person into a permanent separation even if they have already firmly decided that the relationship is over.

 

Trial separations can be confusing, very painful and emotionally fraught. And they can wreak havoc on you, your children and your financial security if the road ahead is not very clear.

 

If you are thinking of a trial separation or trying to make decisions about your separation or have recently separated or are currently trialling a separation and don’t know where things stand or need advice about the next steps to take, contact us on 9437 0010 or enquiries@familylawyersdw.com.au to discuss your matter. Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers offer Accredited Family Law Specialists on Sydney’s North Shore who are experts in all areas of family law.

 

 

How To Face Your Separation With Confidence When You’re A Stay At Home Mum

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 fact 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 maybe 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 skillset 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.

  1. 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 September 2020 statistics* depict that the median house price for homes was considerable, namely:
  • Lindfield – $2,880,000
  • Ryde – $1,557,500
  • Turramurra – $2,150,000
  • Mosman – $3,700,000
  • Lane Cove – almost $2,375,000
  • Frenchs Forrest – $1,615,000

*Price data from 02 September 2020. Data supplied by Hometrack Australia.

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.

Also read: Separation Checklist

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 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 is 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 joint 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 daycare 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. Importantly any useful tips, in the wrong sequence, at the wrong time and not in the right combination are not necessarily a good idea.

In conclusion:

  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 there is a significant distance between mum’s home and dad’s home; 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 your family’s future – now is not the time to gamble with your decision making, for you and your family.

Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers offer specialist family law advice in St Leonards on Sydney’s North Shore. We have a dedicated team of experienced family lawyers prepared to handle your matter effectively and efficiently, providing reliable, direct and practical advice. If you have recently separated or have a Family Law enquiry, please contact us on (02) 9437 0010 or email at enquiries@familylawyersdw.com.au

About the Author:  Lisa Wagner is Managing Director and Principal of Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers. Lisa is an Accredited Family Law specialist and a nationally registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner. Lisa has close to 30 years’ experience as a specialist family lawyer, experienced litigator and skilful negotiator in all family law matters.

Connect with Lisa on LinkedIn

Disclaimer: This post is 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 on (02) 9437 0010.

Q& A | Separation, Child Custody and Parenting

Q&A with Lisa Wagner, Principal and Managing Director, Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers.

 

Are you separating and want to know what’s best for your children?

Here are our trusted answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about separation and child custody.

 

Q: What’s the difference between a Parenting Plan and Parenting Orders?

A: A parenting plan is a written agreement that sets out parenting arrangements for your child(ren). These arrangements are usually determined by you and your former partner privately at a mediation or following some negotiation. If you and your former partner want to vary your Parenting Plan, you are able to do so at any time. However, it is important to note that a Parenting Plan is not a legally enforceable agreement and is not binding on parties.

Parenting Orders are arrangements that have been approved by the Court and as such are binding on both parties. Parties are able to vary the arrangements outlined in the Orders, provided both parties consent.   In the event there is disagreement regarding the Orders, you or your former partner can make an application to the Court seeking that the Orders be varied or set aside. There is a high threshold parties need to satisfy the Court in order to vary or set aside Orders.

 

Q: My partner and I have split up and I want to move interstate / overseas with my kids. And what about travel? Do I need my partner’s permission?

A: The short answer is yes.

There are laws in Australia regarding relocating with children. These laws apply even if there are no formal Court Orders that govern any agreement you and your former partner may have reached regarding parenting. Therefore, if you are seeking to move overseas or interstate with your children, this should be discussed and negotiated with your former partner. Moving overseas or interstate falls under the umbrella of “parental responsibility” as it is a major long-term decision that will impact your children. If there is no agreement, then you may be required to file a relocation Application in the Federal Circuit Court or Family Court.

Additionally, if you and your partner have separated it is best to ask for their permission to take your children interstate or overseas, even if it is only for a short holiday. Providing your partner with notice and an itinerary of travel will assist in reducing any fears your partner has that you may not return the children and is also a good co-parenting approach.

If you intend to relocate or travel with your children without the other parent’s permission, you should seek legal advice prior to doing so.

If your children are taken overseas or interstate without your consent, you should seek legal advice immediately.

 

Q: Can parenting orders be varied?

A: The Court is usually reluctant to vary parenting orders. However, in circumstances where both parties consent to the change or the Court determines it is appropriate to change the Orders, your final parenting orders can be varied.

In order for the Court to vary an existing parenting Order it must be satisfied that there has been a significant change in circumstances. Examples of what constitutes a significant change of circumstances may include one of the following:

  1. If either you or your former partner is seeking to relocate with your children;
  2. If the current Orders were made without all the relevant information having been made available to the Court prior to the making of those Orders;
  3. If you and your former partner have since consented to new parenting arrangements, such as entered into a parenting plan and the current Orders are no longer reflective of the actual arrangements for your children;
  4. If a substantial period of time has elapsed between the Orders being made and the Application being brought;
  5. If there has been allegations of abuse;
  6. If you or your former partner, or one of your children are of ill-health.

If one of the above circumstances applies to you, the Court will carefully consider what is in the best interest of your children prior to varying your parenting orders.

 

Q:  Do I still have to pay child support even though the kids are living with the other parent?

A:  Yes, you do. Whether or not the children live with you or the other parent, both of you are responsible for the financial support of your children. The amount that would be payable, however, is largely dependent upon the number of nights that the children spend with each parent, as well as the parents’ respective incomes.

With respect to meeting this obligation, you or the other parent can obtain an Administrative Assessment from Services Australia (formerly, the Child Support Agency) or alternatively, reach a private agreement amongst yourselves. Should you wish to document this agreement, a Child Support Agreement can be prepared which is registered with Services Australia and sometimes with the Court. Such an Agreement can include not only periodic child support, but also outline how you both will meet non-periodic payments (for example, in relation to the children’s extra-curricular activities, private health insurance, school fees and the like).

 

Q: Do I have a right to see my children?

A: In Australia, the short answer is that you do not have any right grounded in law to see your children. Family law in Australia, governed largely by the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (“the Act”) adopts a child-centric approach, focussing on the rights of your children and your responsibilities to your children as a parent rather than your rights as a parent. Your children have a right to enjoy a meaningful relationship with both of their parents. This will usually involve your children spending time with each parent, however there is no rule, presumption or “starting point” that your children will spend equal or “50:50” time with each of their parents. Furthermore, the paramount consideration of the Court in determining a parenting arrangement that is in the best interests of your children is to protect your children from harm or being subjected to or exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence. You have responsibilities for your children however you do not have a right to see or spend time with your children. Your children have a right to have a meaningful relationship with both of their parents if it is safe for them to do so and they will not be at risk of harm.

 

 

Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers offer specialist family law advice in St Leonards on Sydney’s North Shore.  We have a dedicated team of experienced family lawyers prepared to handle your matter effectively and efficiently, providing reliable, direct and practical advice. If you have recently separated or have a Family Law enquiry, please contact us on (02) 9437 0010 or email at enquiries@familylawyersdw.com.au  

 

 

About the Author: Lisa Wagner is Principal  and Managing Director of Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers.

Lisa is an Accredited Family Law specialist and a nationally registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner. Lisa has close to 30 years’ experience as a specialist family lawyer, experienced litigator and skilful negotiator in all family law matters.

Connect with Lisa on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/lisawagnerdwfl

 

Disclaimer:

This post is 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 on (02) 9437 0010.

Separation Checklist

At Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers we provide reliable, direct, and practical family law advice. We understand that feelings of stress and overwhelm often arise during a separation and in the time leading up to a separation. We have compiled a Separation Checklist, which outlines some of the things you should consider organising prior to a separation, we hope it provides some assistance to anyone facing a separation.

 

Things you should think about organising prior to your separation:

 

  1. Collect important documents e.g. birth certificates, marriage certificates and passports and place them in safe keeping. Keep a copy of each document handy – take photos of these documents on your phone if you can.

 

  1. Collect financial documents for yourself and if possible your partner, including:

 

  • Income Tax Returns and Notices of Assessments for the last three (3) financial years;

 

  • Any employment records you have including employment contracts, recent pay slips and records of leave entitlements;

 

  • Bank statements including savings and investment accounts, loan accounts (including personal loans, mortgages) and other liabilities (such as credit cards, store finance, hire purchases, store cards, family loan agreements etc.);

 

  • Share or investment statements and particulars of all shares in any public company;

 

  • Records and statements in relation to any entity that you are “associated” with. For companies this includes Articles of Association, Balance Sheets, Profit and Loss Statements and BAS statements. For trusts this includes Trust Deeds and Financial Statements and details as to whether you are the Appointee, Trustee or any beneficiary;

 

  • Details of any Real Property owned by either of you including the street address, rate notices etc.;

 

  • Details of other property owned by you e.g. motor vehicles (a registration certificate is helpful), tools, machinery and furniture etc. together with an estimate of the value of each. Also particulars of any items disposed of by Sale, Transfer, Assignment or Gift in the period twelve (12) months prior to separation to date;

 

  • Details for any superannuation account or entitlement in which you or your partner have an interest including recent statements for each and the financial accounts in relation to any self-managed superannuation fund; and

 

  • Details of any personal injury claim, inheritance or pending inheritance or other financial resource.

 

  1. Prepare an inventory of furniture in your home and take pictures of things that are difficult to describe. Things may be removed, sold or destroyed when you move out and it helps to know exactly what was there when you moved out as it can be surprisingly hard to recall later on.

 

  1. Open a new bank account and apply for your own separate credit card. Perhaps consider this step with a different bank. Ask for a reasonable credit limit. You don’t have to use it at this stage but it is a helpful safety net if an emergency arises.

 

  1. Find out what redraw facilities are available on your bank accounts and also determine what accounts can be operated by one signatory and what accounts require two or more signatories in order to operate. Consider getting advice about what options you have so as to best preserve assets.

 

  1. Organise a modest cash flow in case of emergency. You might be relying on joint funds in the beginning but you might find that money “disappears” or is depleted more quickly than you originally expected. At other times unknown or unexpected “debts” and “bills” suddenly arise.

 

  1. Remain involved in as much as you can with things your children are doing. Take up opportunities to engage in their lives. Consider speaking to your employer about flexible working arrangements that may be available, even if only in the short term.

 

  1. Compile a list of all people that provide care for your children including doctors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, paediatricians and the like. Get up to date information about all treatments and obtain copies of all reports.

 

  1. Touch base with your children’s classroom or preschool teacher just to “check-in” and understand better your child’s progress. Stay updated and involved in their school as best you can.

 

  1. Don’t vent on social media sites and be discrete with your posts on Facebook and the like. You don’t want compromising photos of yourself or unflattering comments circulating at this time as they can seriously backfire.

 

  1. Set up a separate confidential email account and change your passwords to any personal email, social media, internet banking and other accounts. It’s a good idea to also restrict access to these accounts from the family computer or other devices accessible by other family members.

 

  1. Try and get expert family law advice. Confidential, no obligation appointments are available at short notice from our friendly and highly experienced specialist team.

 

 

 

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 dedicated team of experienced family lawyers to handle your matter effectively and efficiently, providing you with reliable, direct and practical advice.

 

Disclaimer: 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 & Family Lawyers North Shore

Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers provide trusted divorce and family law advice and assistance to people on Sydney’s North Shore & North Sydney.

Are you looking for an Accredited Family Law Specialist lawyer on Sydney’s North Shore? Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers are pre-eminent family law solicitors you can rely on. For more than two decades our family lawyers have been assisting people in Sydney with their family law matters.

Our family lawyers’ expert experience 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:

  • Divorces
  • De facto relationship matters
  • Same-sex relationship matters
  • Financial/property settlements
  • Parenting matters (including pertaining to assisted fertility issues)
  • Child support & Child Custody
  • Strong court representation
  • Assisted reproduction technology and Surrogacy
  • Some of the Issues Our Clients Face
  • Do you know the difference between a Divorce and a separation?
  • What about the difference between a property/financial settlement and a Divorce?

Believe it or not, although the words are often used interchangeably each of these matters is a very different legal issue with different ramifications. We can help you understand the differences and guide you through the family law process as it applies to your particular circumstances.

  • Did you know that until recently the law treated couples living in a De Facto arrangement very differently from couples who were married?
  • Did you know that the date of your separation can affect how the law applies to you?

If you’re living with someone else and you’re uncertain about your rights, we can help you work out what you’re entitled to.

  • You’ve probably heard a lot in the media about recognition of same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage.
  • Did you know that in recent years there have been significant reforms to the Australian legal framework which have allowed better recognition of same-sex couples and their children?

If you’re contemplating separating from your partner and you’re uncertain about your rights or responsibilities or how this may affect your children, we can help you understand your entitlements.

  • Have you used assisted fertility procedures to help you have a family?
  • Have you used a surrogate or donor to help you create your family?
  • Do you know what your rights and responsibilities are? Do you know theirs?
  • Do you know how your child legal rights may be affected by assisted fertility issues?

Family Law Accredited Specialists are required to undertake continued learning specifically in respect to issues relating to family law. Our divorce solicitors are well positioned to advise you in relation to all family law issues. We will provide appropriate legal assistance to you as you navigate this difficult new terrain.

  • Do you know what factors influence the calculation of child support by the Child Support Agency?
  • Do you know what changes in your or your former partner’s circumstances would allow for a change to the child support assessment?
  • Do you need a Binding Child Support Agreement?
  • Did you know you can be paid child support for a child aged over eighteen years of age if they’re still attending school?

Our highly experienced family lawyers are well versed in respect of the “rules” pertaining to child support and can provide you with clear advice on your rights and responsibilities in relation to all aspects of child support.

Why Choose Doolan Wagner?

We understand that people are often worried about involving themselves in what they fear are complex and expensive legal processes. We will give you clear and concise legal advice and guidance.

We are a specialist firm located conveniently in St Leonards on Sydney’s Lower North Shore. Visiting us is relatively stress-free and will help you avoid the congestion of Sydney’s CBD and the North Sydney Commercial Precinct. We are an easy 15-20 minute drive from Hornsby, Ryde, Gladesville, Chatswood and St Ives and there is ample street parking nearby. We are also only a short 2-3 minute walk from St Leonards train station. There are regular trains from Central, Hornsby and Epping. St Leonards station is a major stop for various local buses.

Affordable Family Lawyers North Sydney

And as a smaller firm, we don’t have the same overheads as some of the larger “city-based” firms. We understand that families facing a family breakdown are often facing added financial pressures as well. We do our best to keep your costs down by offering highly competitive rates. Our competitive fees don’t mean you will get anything other than top-quality legal advice and assistance because we promise that you will not just be a file in a cabinet to the family lawyers at our firm. We believe in giving all of our client’s personal care and attention.

Also read: How Much Does a Divorce Cost?

We also recognise that often clients may be confused about what the “real” or “live” issues are. Knowing how best to approach obtaining appropriate legal solutions in their divorce and separation is important. As a firm that only practices in the area of family law, our family lawyers have the level of experience that clients are looking for to assist them to face their separation, divorce and other family law issues with confidence. We can get to the “heart” of your matter quickly and won’t waste your time or money focusing on issues that don’t matter.

We will guide you through every aspect of your family law matter, from the first stages of legal planning through to finalisation of your family law matter. It is our view that, no matter how complex or simple your matter appears to be, it is essential to obtain early legal assistance from an experienced family lawyer (preferably an Accredited Family Law Specialist) so that you can get the answers you need. This will enable you and your family to positively move forward with your lives. It is very important that you have a clear legal plan prepared prior to engaging in any family law processes, whether it be approaching the negotiating table or filing an Application in the Court. We can help you with developing your legal strategy and assist you throughout the family law process.

Expert Divorce Lawyers North Sydney

We know that our help can put you in the best position to secure the optimal outcome that works for you and your family. Our Accredited Family Law Specialists are skilled at negotiating the often challenging family law setting. Their approaches, together with their sensitive and personal service and support, will put you in the best position free from uncertainty and unnecessary worry.

Whatever your circumstances are, we promise you that we will handle your matter with your personal circumstances at the forefront of our minds. We will listen to you to ascertain your wants, needs and concerns so that any advice we provide to you is tailored to your specific needs. We are not afraid to adapt our methods and approaches to suit your family’s needs and can either provide a sensitive approach or strong court representation, depending on your needs.

We have family lawyers who have had extensive experience in the collaborative law process and are collaboratively trained. By being able to engage in a more collaborative legal process in the majority of our family law matters we attempt to enable our clients to have the utmost input and control over their matter. This approach also allows independent professionals to contribute to the legal process to ensure that the parties will have the most appropriate, effective and positive outcome possibly achievable in their matter. And it also helps keep our clients costs down because we will do our best to settle matters by alternate dispute resolution mechanisms such as negotiation, roundtable settlement conferences, mediations and arbitrations.

If you’re still not convinced we can help you, perhaps reading some of our client testimonials will set your mind at ease…

Take the Next Step…

Facing issues in relation to intimate family or relationship matters can be stressful, daunting and worrisome. These matters have the potential to affect your emotional wellbeing, as well as have a substantial effect on the wellbeing of other family members and your finances. Obtaining timely specialist family law advice, guidance and support in relation to all family law matters will set you on the best path forward.

If you live or work on the North Shore of Sydney and:

  • are experiencing a relationship breakdown; or
  • need advice regarding your family’s circumstances; or
  • want to know more about your rights and responsibilities; or
  • just need to know where you stand…

We can help you because Lisa Wagner & her family law team is made up of highly experienced Accredited Family Law Specialists and highly regarded registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners. So, take the next step and call us on 9437 0010 or email enquiries@familylawyersdw.com.au to find out how we can 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.

Divorce Lawyers North Shore FAQ’s

Back to School Costs After Separation – How Far Can Your Child Support Payments Go?

The payment of Child support continues to incite much heated conversations.  Whilst a government report commissioned a few years ago found that of those people surveyed:-

  1. many believed that the amount of child support being paid was considered to be about right; and
  2. many said that the actual child support that was being paid was being paid in full and on time.

we often hear people complaining that they are paying too much child support or not getting enough child support.

The basic child support formula is complicated and multi-layered. It relies upon detailed research into the costs of raising children in different age bands as its starting point. The basic formula then takes into account the parents respective relevant incomes and the amount of time that each of the children spend with each parent in determining an appropriate level of child support to be paid and/or received. The formula also makes allowances for new siblings and other dependents and for other “life” considerations. There are grounds upon which you can seek to change an administrative assessment of child support if, for example, you can satisfy the Department of Human Services that the income of one or both parents is not properly taken into account or the costs of raising your child or children are special in all of the circumstances. Provided you meet particular provisions these matters can also be considered by the Family Court.

However, how relevant is the basic formula for separating families living in most areas of Sydney?

Perhaps two of the biggest factors relevant to large parts of Sydney that are not necessarily captured in the basic child support formula are:

  1. The high costs of housing in Sydney; and
  2. The growing propensity to send children to private schools especially at the secondary school level.

These two factors weigh heavily on the budgets of most families not just those experiencing separation. Creeping housing costs in Sydney are difficult to escape. The cost of education and in particular “back to school” fees are also significant and are costs that we cannot have a great deal of control over.  Availing yourself of the second hand uniform stall or recycling hand-me-down clothes and books goes only a small way towards making ends meet.

The basic child support formula is meant to cover the costs of public school education and associated expenses including uniforms, shoes, stationary, books and the like.

Payments of child support do not “spike” in January/February each year to take extra “back to school” costs into account. If you are receiving child support and are obliged to meet all the “back to school” costs yourself then you either need to try to budget for this expensive time of year over the course of the previous twelve months, or as most people do, use credit cards and spend the next few months playing “catch-up”.

Private school fees and the extra expenses charged at most private schools along with the extra “back to school” costs generally are only payable by an ex-spouse if you have secured a departure order from the Court or have entered into a Binding Child Support Agreement with your former spouse or partner requiring that all or a proportion of those expenses are paid. In either case provision can be made for the payment of a raft of “back to school” expenses that are incurred at the start of the year or at other times including:

  • Laptops, IPads and IT expenses (even maintenance, repair and replacement costs)
  • Hockey sticks, team uniforms sports equipment and registration costs
  • Musical instruments, tuition and examination charges
  • Incursions, excursions and even overseas immersion trips
  • Camp fees, Cadets and Duke of Edinburgh

No matter what your budget or your circumstances after separation, it is vital to understand what all your true child costs are and also what they are likely to be moving forward, including non-recurring costs like “back to school” expenses. It is also essential to determine what real income will be available to meet all of these costs. “Back to school” costs which spike at the start of each year are a strong reminder of how important this is. This is true for all families but particularly so for families experiencing separation. Clearly setting out who will be responsible for all of these child related expenses is crucial and these obligations should be clearly included in a Binding Child Support Agreement or Court Orders. Without any settlement being documented in this way there is no real obligation for either parent to meet these costs and these costs can be really felt as children get ready to return to school each year.

Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers offer specialist family law advice in St Leonards on Sydney’s North Shore.  If you would like some more information about child support 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.  Lisa Wagner is the founding principal of Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers, an Accredited Family Law Specialist and a nationally registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner on Sydney’s North Shore.  We also 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.

Neutral Bay Family Law

Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers have been providing expert advice to people in Neutral Bay and surrounding areas for close to three (3) decades and understand the common issues and questions that arise for the local community.

Located on Sydney’s lower north shore, Neutral Bay continues to appeal to young professionals, wealthy families and retirees.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2016 Neutral Bay had a population of 10,488, most of who were aged between 25 and 44 years, comprising married (37.6%) and couples in a de-facto relationship (17.7%). About half of the families in Neutral Bay had children.

Often our clients from Neutral Bay and its surroundings:

  1. Are concerned about the division of their respective hard-earned assets and their entitlements in relation to their ex-partner’s assets.
  2. Are considering future parenting arrangements and how to meet the payment of private school fees and best achieve sensible child support agreements.
  3. Are wanting to secure their superannuation and retirement income ensuring stability and certainty in retirement.

Engaging a family lawyer can be a daunting step. At Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers we understand that each matter is unique and we tailor our advice to suit you. Each and every one of our clients are important to us and we endeavour to achieve the best result for all of our clients bearing in mind that engaging a family lawyer means that you are likely experiencing one of the hardest times in your life.

If you are looking for an Accredited Family Law Specialist near Neutral Bay, along with an experienced and dedicated team of family lawyers, then contact us at Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers to arrange an initial consultation for a reduced fixed rate and have all of your family law questions answered.

Read on to learn about some of the commonly raised Family Law issues that may be important to you. And also view our range of family law services.

It’s often not 50/50

A lot of separating couples seek legal assistance to divide their assets and liabilities however are not aware of what factors will be considered, what they’re entitled to and how the Court will assess their situation.

So how does the Court approach a matter where both parties have made their own respective contributions? And, how would the Court consider a situation where one party had been predominantly a “homemaker” or “stay-at-home parent” and the other the “breadwinner”?

In relation to Family Law matters, the approach normally taken in all property applications is a four-step process. These four steps are:

1. Identifying the net asset pool which includes the value of all the property of the relationship, less the debts of the relationship.

2. Assessing the contributions made by each of the parties. Basically, contributions may be any of the following:

2.1. Direct financial contributions including being towards the acquisition of assets.

2.2. Indirect financial contributions, for example where one party’s income is used to buy the groceries each week to enable the other party’s wages to be applied directly towards the mortgage.

2.3. Non-financial contributions, including contributions as a homemaker and parent.

3. Making any adjustment needed to be made to take into account “future needs” factors such as the age and state of health of each of the parties, financial circumstances, care of children and earning capacities.

4. Structuring a settlement that is just and equitable.

It is important to remember that each matter will be assessed on its own particular facts.

Also read: Lane Cove Family Lawyers

Are inheritances included in a property settlement?

An inheritance received by a party can be included as an asset available for distribution in the matrimonial pool of assets however may be treated differently to other property depending on the particular facts of a case. For example, an inheritance received early in a long relationship and applied towards a mutually owned asset of the parties is characterised as a financial contribution by that party however the significance of it will diminish over time.

If an inheritance is deemed to be unavailable for distribution as it is not yet available, an adjustment can be made to the remaining assets when taking into account the future needs of both parties and the benefit the particular party has as a consequence of a prospective inheritance.

How is superannuation considered?

Ordinarily, the current values of parties’ entire superannuation entitlements are included in any Balance Sheet. This does not, however, prevent superannuation benefits or entitlements as at the commencement of a relationship or accrued after a separation, from being asked to be considered outside a Balance Sheet or excluded/quarantined. Each case will turn on its particular facts. Generally, parties may negotiate how their superannuation entitlements are considered and/or divided and the Court will likely accept any agreement the parties achieve in the event that it is part of an overall just and equitable resolution of their financial matter.

Can I make a claim for ongoing financial support from my ex?

A party may make a claim for spouse maintenance in the following circumstances:

  1. If the party is unable to support herself/himself adequately;
  2. If the other party has the capacity to provide financial assistance.

An application for spouse maintenance is separate to a property settlement in family law. It is more likely to be considered by a party where that party to the relationship was predominantly a “homemaker”, is of poor health, is required to care for children in addition to themselves and in any event, has a lower employability level and capacity to support themselves.

An example of a person who may wish to claim spouse maintenance from their former partner would be a party who had been in a lengthy relationship and considered a “homemaker” and became financially dependent on their former partner.

Can I prevent my ex from making a claim for ongoing financial support?

In short, the answer is yes. A Financial Agreement can operate to prevent future claims for spouse maintenance. As the name suggests however, it is an “Agreement” which is required to be entered into by both parties and comply with specific legislative requirements in order for it to be valid. This includes obtaining independent legal advice.

Neutral Bay Family Lawyers
Separation can be hard at any age and at Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers in Neutral Bay we can make the process so much easier.

How can I protect my estate from a potential claim from my partner in the future?

Importantly, achieving a property settlement by way of Consent Orders also does not protect your estate from a claim being made against it by your former partner upon your passing.
Similarly, Consent Orders do not prevent you from making a claim against your partner’s estate after their passing.

This could be a significant consideration for a retiree, particularly where the separation from their former partner was on “bad terms”. A Deed of Release however can be entered into at any stage to protect one’s estate from a former partner’s potential future claim on their estate.

Without this documentation being prepared, both you and your former partner are eligible to make a claim against the other’s estate. Some people are of the view that the possibility of a further claim being made against their estate by their former partner is to be expected or is a fair outcome. In certain circumstances clients may not want to abandon their ability to make a claim against a former partner’s estate at a later time should their ex pre-decease them. Other people feel very strongly about the need to protect their estate against such a possible claim. A Deed of Release will assist in finalising all possible claims between them and their former partner, both now and upon their death.

How do I formalise parenting arrangements in relation to my children?

Often when parties separate, the child/ren of the relationship are caught in a battle between their parents in respect of parenting arrangements.

Separating couples with children have to additionally consider future parenting arrangements and child support issues.

Parenting Consent Orders can deal with a huge number of the issues parents face in a separation including where the child will live, the time spent with the other parent, parental responsibility, school holidays, special occasions and communication. The primary consideration in parenting matters is the best interests of the child. It is a distinct principle in family law and it will be paramount in all parenting matters.

Child Inclusive Conference (“CIC”)

In the event that parents cannot reach an agreement about parenting arrangements, a CIC is an available option as part of the Court process to assist families.

A Family Consultant selected by the Family Court will conduct your CIC and will hold separate interviews with you, your former partner and your child/ren in order to understand your family’s situation and your respective perspectives. We note that a CIC has a particular emphasis on assisting the Court to understand the experiences of the children after separation and at the present time.

It is important to note that a CIC is not a confidential process. After your CIC, a memorandum will be released including conversations, information obtained by the parties and child/ren and the Family Consultant’s recommendations arising from the process.

Binding Child Support Agreement

Many parents who would be able to make an application for an Administrative Assessment through the Department of Human Services prefer to enter into an agreement on their terms and so opt to enter into a Binding Child Support Agreement.

A Binding Child Support Agreement will formalise your agreement with the other parent in relation to child support payable for the child/ren and provides certainty about financial support for the child/ren in the future.

Applying for a Divorce – what’s involved?

Most parties choose to get divorced soon after separation in order to formalise the end of their marriage. In Australia, a person may not remarry if they are still married to another person. Preparing a Divorce Application, waiting for a Divorce Hearing and obtaining a Divorce Order from the Family Court, all take time. The process may be prolonged if your former partner is not agreeable to the divorce. Proactive steps can be taken to ensure this process is not unnecessarily delayed.

In order for a Divorce Application to be accepted and a Divorce Order to be made, the Court must be satisfied that the parties separated and thereafter lived separately and apart for a continuous period of not less than twelve (12) months immediately preceding the date of the filing of the Divorce Application.

Family Law authorities have established that there are three (3) elements which need to be present for separation to be proven, namely:

1. Intention;

2. Communication; and

3. Action/Change in behaviour.

Parties to a marriage may be held to have separated and to have lived separately and apart however notwithstanding that they have continued to reside in the same residence or that either party has rendered some household services to the other. In each case, the question of whether parties have separated will be a question of fact. Broadly, some factors that the Court may consider include the:

1. The financial situation of the household and relationship;

2. Nature of the relationship and household;

3. Sexual relationship of the parties; and

4. Public knowledge of the separation.

It is important to note that an application for property orders must be made within twelve (12) months of your divorce order taking effect. Once this time lapses, you will have to obtain the Court’s permission to initiate property proceedings and this is not obtained lightly.

Are psychologist notes really confidential in family law matters?

Most information that is shared with health professionals will be confidential and is prohibited by law from being shared with anyone, except in limited cases where there is a greater need to protect the safety of the patient or another member of the community.

Evidence such as counselling notes must be relevant to the issues presented before the Court in order to be admissible. If the evidence cannot “rationally affect (directly or indirectly) the assessment of the probability of the existence of a fact in issue in the proceeding” it would not be relevant to the case (s55 Evidence Act 1995 (Cth)).

Therefore, information is legally confidential will not suffice in protecting it from being exposed in family law proceedings. Family law courts are flexible in accepting evidentiary material in order to understand and successfully resolve parenting matters involving children and are willing to assist a party in protecting particular aspects of evidentiary material in order to render the remaining relevant material admissible.

Are there any alternatives to Court?

Alternative dispute resolution affords parties different processes to assist them in resolving their matter out of Court.

Mediation is a very common form of alternative dispute resolution where parties to a dispute, with the assistance of a mediator, identify issues, develop options, consider the respective parties desires and endeavour to reach an agreement. The mediator simply conducts the mediation however does not have an advisory or determinative role.

Collaborative Law is another process available that is led by lawyers representing each of the parties and where it is agreed that the lawyers will cease to act for their clients in the event that the matter proceeds to litigation.

Court is a time-consuming, costly and unpredictable process that most clients wish to avoid. Engaging in alternative dispute resolution in family law matters should be an important consideration for most parties. It would not be suitable however for matters involving violence.

Lisa Wagner - Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers
Meet Lisa Wagner from Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers

Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers – how can we help you?

We are a reputable specialist family law firm located conveniently on Sydney’s lower north shore. We are local to Neutral Bay residents and consistently strive to achieve the best outcome for our clients.

Every matter is different and we explore all available and suitable options including mediation, negotiation, collaborative law and litigation for our respective clients in potentially the most challenging period of their lives.

We have a dedicated team of experienced family lawyers prepared to handle your matter effectively and efficiently, providing you with reliable, direct and practical advice.

Being less than a ten (10) minute drive from Neutral Bay and located only a block away from St Leonards train station, come see us for an obligation-free confidential consultation and understand where you stand.

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.

Moving out of Sydney after Separation

Are you seeking to relocate with your child?

Or are you facing a relocation application by your former spouse?

Read on to find out more about family law relocation applications.

In making a decision in respect of parenting arrangements, including the determination of relocation applications, the Court takes into account the primary considerations as set out in Section 60CC of the Family Law Act 1975 as to what is in the best interests of the child.

In determining what is in the child’s best interest the Court must take into account the following primary considerations in accordance with Section 60CC of the Family Law Act 1975:

  1. The benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both of the child’s parents; and
  2. The need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm and from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence.

When making a parenting order in relation to a child, the court must apply the presumption that it is in the best interests of the child for the child’s parents to have equal shared parental responsibility for the child. We note, however, that the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility is rebutted in circumstances where family violence has occurred.

Further, pursuant to section 65DAA of the Family Law Act 1975, if a parenting order provides (or is to provide) that a child’s parents are to have equal shared parental responsibility for the child, the court must:

  1. Consider whether the child spending equal time with each of the parents would be in the best interests of the child; and
  2. Consider whether the child spending equal time with each of the parents is reasonably practicable; and
  3. If it is, consider making an order to provide (or including a provision in the order) for the child to spend equal time with each of the parents.

So, how does the above relate to a relocation application?

Firstly, no particular section of the Family Law Act 1975, specifically sets out the law in respect of the issue of relocation. Rather, each relocation case is considered in the context of the best interests of the children and particularly Part VII of the Family Law Act 1975.

In the case of A v A: Relocation Approach (2000) FLC the Full Court of the Family Court set out an approach to be used as a guide in determining parenting cases involving relocation. When considering parenting orders in the context of a relocation application by one parent, the case of A v A stands as authority for the following:

  1. That the issues of relocation and the best interests of the child must be considered as interdependent matters;
  2. A persuasive argument in support of or against, the proposed relocation does not need to be set out;
  3. The interests of both the relocating parent and the non-relocating parent must be evaluated in the context of the best interests of the child;
  4. The Court is not obliged to disregard the legitimate interests of the parents. However, where there is a conflict between the legitimate interest of the child’s parents, the paramount consideration of the child’s best interest interests must be given priority.
  5. The parent seeking to vary the present arrangements and ultimately change the child’s place of residence bears the onus of satisfying the Court that the relocation is in the child’s best interests.

Other considerations that the Court will take into account when determining a relocation application account include:

  1. Whether a meaningful relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent could be maintained despite the reduced time with the non-relocating parent. Also relevant to this consideration are the child’s age and the relocating parent’s willingness to facilitate a relationship.
  2. The benefit to the child having a meaningful relationship with both parents.
  3. The need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm and from being subject or exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence.
  4. Any views expressed by the child.
  5. The nature of the relationship the child has with each parent and others.
  6. The extent to which each parent has taken, or failed to take, the opportunity to participate in making decisions about major long term issues, spending time, communicating with and maintaining the child.
  7. The likely effect of the proposed move on the child.
  8. Whether the practical difficulty and expense of the child spending time with the other parent will substantially affect the child’s right to maintain personal relations and contact with both parents on a regular basis. For example, if the child is an infant, telephone contact is difficult meaning that communication with the other parent is limited.
  9. Whether an order which is sought would be least likely to lead to further court proceedings being initiated by the other party.

FAQS – here are some of the questions that we are asked frequently:

  1. Can I move overseas or interstate with my child without the permission of their father/mother?
  2. What if I can’t afford to stay in Sydney but my partner is refusing to agree to me relocating?
  3. Will my partner be successful in relocating with my child?

If you are considering relocating or your partner is attempting to relocate with your child or you have pondered any of the above questions, we are available to talk about how best to approach this particular situation and look forward to hearing from you.  We are conveniently located in St Leonards on Sydney’s Northshore within easy walking distance of the train station. Please contact us to find out more or speak to one of our specialists on 94370010 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.

Separation and Tax Debts

Can the Family Court direct that my ex take my tax debt?

 The High Court of Australia was recently asked a question as to whether a party to a marriage could be substituted for the other in relation to a Tax Debt under section 90AE of the Family Law Act (“The Act”). The Commissioner of Taxation (“The Commissioner”) intervened in the matter to suggest that the Family Courts did not have power under the relevant section.

In accordance with procedural requirements the question was reverted from the Federal Circuit Court to the Full Court of the Family Court of Australia (“The Full Court”). The Commissioner was not satisfied with the answer provided by the Full Court and appealed to the High Court of Australia (“The High Court”).

The specific question posed to the High Court was, “Does section 90AE(1)-(2) of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) grant the court power to make Order 8 of the final orders sought in the amended initiating application of the wife?”

The order sought by the wife was in the following terms:

“Pursuant to section 90AE(1)(b) of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) in respect of the [Wife’s] indebtedness to the Commissioner of Taxation for the Commonwealth of Australia [for] taxation related liabilities in the amount of $256,078.32 as at 9 August 2016 plus General Interest Charge (GIC), the [husband] be substituted for the [wife] as the debtor and the [husband] be solely liable to the Commissioner of Taxation for the said debt”.

 Section 90AE(1)(b) of the Act allows the Court to direct a creditor of the parties to substitute one party of the marriage for the other in relation to a debt owed to that creditor. The Commissioner submitted that as a Commonwealth body they should not be bound in the same way as other third-party creditors. That submission was rejected by both the Full Court and by the High Court, although it was conceded by the High Court that the circumstances under which a party should be substituted for another pursuant to section 90AE of the Act in relation to a tax debt would be rare when considering the criteria set out under section 90AE(3)(b) and (d).

By way of background, the husband and wife were married in 1992 and separated in July 2009. On 5 November 2009 the husband was declared bankrupt. On 12 November 2009 the wife had a default judgment made against her for $127,669.36 with General Interest Charges (GIC) continuing to accrue such that by August 2016 the total amount owing to the Commissioner was $256,078.32.

There is a general principal when interpreting legislation that the Crown should not be bound. Although this is the starting point for interpreting legislation, the ultimate question is whether that presumption is rebutted and, if so, the extent to which the legislation intends to bind the Crown. Holding to this principle, the Commissioner submitted that section 90AE of the Act should not bind the Crown, and accordingly the Family Courts did not have the necessary jurisdiction to make the orders sought by the Wife.

In reviewing the statutory framework of the Act, The High Court noted that the Act had been expanded over the years to specify that a debt owed by a party was to be included as ‘property’ of the marriage for the purposes of the Act. The Act makes provision for a debt to be transferred and describes a creditor as a relevant third party to proceedings under the Act.

The Commissioner accepted that they were a creditor for the purposes of some sections of the Act but not for the purpose of section 90AE. This submission was rejected by the Court.

The High Court said that the operation of section 90AE could leave the Commissioner ‘no worse off’ and noted that the operation of section 90AE of the Act should protect Commonwealth Revenue and would not ‘disrupt’ the operation of taxation law.

When considering the facts of this case, in particular the husband’s bankrupt status, it is helpful to understand the criteria that a court must look to when making an order under section 90AE as sought by the wife.

Section 90AE(3) of the Act relevantly states:

                “(3) The court may only make an order under subsection (1) or (2) if:

  • the making of the order is reasonably necessary, or reasonably appropriate and adapted, to effect a division of property between the parties to the marriage; and,
  • if the order concerns a debt of a party to the marriage – it is not foreseeable at the time that the order is made that to make the order would result in the debt not being paid in full; and
  • the third party has been accorded procedural fairness in relation to the making of the order; and

 (d) the court is satisfied that, in all the circumstances, it is just and equitable to make the order…” (emphasis mine)

 When considering subsections (3)(b) and (d) it is clear that in this case the Court could not be satisfied that the tax debt would be repaid by the husband and so the Court would not be empowered to make the order for substitution sought by the Wife under section 90AE of the Act.

An alternative power for the Court to substitute a party for a tax debt is set out in section 80(1)(f) which allows a court to make an order that “payments be made directly to a party to the marriage, to a trustee to be appointed or into court or to a public authority for the benefit of a party to the marriage (emphasis mine).

An order directing payment under section 80(1)(f) requires that some form of liquid asset exists to meet this payment, or that assets are readily saleable for the purpose of satisfying the payment. If the funds or assets are not available for an order directing payment pursuant to section 80(1)(f) the High Court notes that it is unlikely, even requires the conclusion, that the criteria in section 90AE(3)(b) could not be met and therefore an order under that section would be precluded.

The High Court concluded that although section 90AE of the Act confers the necessary power to make an order directing the Commissioner to substitute one party for another in respect of a tax debt the Court cannot answer that question in any specific case without directly addressing the factors set out in section 90AE(3) which require, amongst other things, a consideration of whether that debt can be paid in full and that it is otherwise just and equitable to make the order.

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.

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 practiced 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 which 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 lawyers 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 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 practice 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 in Mosman:

  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 client’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 wellbeing 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 enquiries@familylawyersdw.com.au. 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