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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Find answers to commonly asked questions below.

General Questions

Why do I need a lawyer? Can’t I do it myself?
If there is a Court that assists self-represented parties well, it is the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. In fact it is not uncommon for self-represented parties to appear in Court and run their cases. As a general rule, we would say the less complex your case in terms of the issues, the more likely you could run your own case without a lawyer (e.g. a sole divorce application). However, some of the reasons you may wish to have a lawyer by your side, regardless of whether your case is in Court, are: having an advocate to communicate with the other party/lawyer, especially when communication has broken down; a lawyer knows the law and will be able to draft documents so evidence can be admitted; a lawyer knows the process; a lawyer can provide strategic advice only gained by experience in practice; to have someone to guide you through an emotionally difficult time; not navigating a foreign process alone; to curb any anxieties about having to appear in Court; to ensure documents are prepared correctly; to look for and advise upon early settlement options.
Am I able to contact my solicitor at any time?
Yes, provided it’s during normal business hours. You can contact me by phone, email or text message – whichever is your preferred form of communication. If I am busy when you attempt contact, I will get back to you before the close of business.
How long will my case run for?
It depends on the nature of your case. If you are out of Court, we will explore the option of mediation as soon as practicable. If your case is in Court, as per the recent Guidelines provided by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia – 12 months, at the longer end. Of course, your case is always able to settle before then if an agreement is reached.
How do your payments work?
We ask that money be paid upfront into our trust account. Once we receive funds, we will then commence working on your matter. Upon your matter being completed, or a stage reached, you will be invoiced for work completed and money will be withdrawn from our trust account.
What services do you offer?
All our service offerings are bundled as packages, each with a fixed price. The nature of some matters means that sometimes fixed prices are not possible from the outset (i.e. Court litigation). In these circumstances, much will depend on factors such as the complexity of your case, and its history to date. Nonetheless, a fixed fee will always be explored.
Do I have to go to Court?
Hopefully not. Our aim is to make ourselves disappear from your life. Consistent with this, if it means we can resolve your case out-of-court, we will. Of course, we will not compromise your settlement outcome to simply save time. However, we know that litigation is costly in time, money and emotional resources, and we will not file for Court without exploring other alternatives first.
Are there any other additional costs to those quoted?
No. Each bundled package contain a list of services which we will do for you. The Cost Agreement we send you will reflect this. Anything outside of the original Cost Agreement will require a new Agreement to be signed. Generally, there will be no additional services required in addition to the original Cost Agreement signed, however unforeseen circumstances sometimes do arise, usually when in Court.
Will I be charged for contacting my solicitor?
No. The fixed price you pay for each bundled service includes all communication with your solicitor.
Will I need to speak to the other party?
Not if you don’t want to. The idea of having a lawyer is to have someone communicate on your behalf. We do encourage you to maintain regular and civil communication wherever possible, as there will be a day when we will not be present. Co-parenting requires a foundation of effective communication.
Do you offer payment plans?
At the time of writing this (March 2022), no. However, if you are of limited financial means, you may want to consider a grant of Legal Aid. Legal Aid is a public funded legal service which makes it possible for those with less financial means to access legal representation. For a Legal Aid Means Test Calculator, click here. If you pass the means test, we can then put in a Legal Aid Grant Application on your behalf and represent you.
Do you take on legal aid?

Yes, we are on the Legal Aid Family Law Panel and readily accept legal aid work.

To check whether you are eligible for Legal Aid, go to the Means Test Calculator

Family Law Matters

Drug testing in family law matters
HAIR FOLLICLE TESTING Hair follicle testing is a type of drug test that uses a small sample of hair to detect the presence of illicit or prescription drugs in a person’s system. Here are some key points to know about hair follicle testing: – Detects drug use within the last 90 days – Drugs enter the hair follicles through the bloodstream, where they remain for up to 90 days – Can detect a variety of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, opioids, amphetamines, methamphetamine, PCP, and ecstasy – Limitations include not detecting recent drug use and potential false positives from environmental exposure – Only a small hair sample is needed, which can be taken from anywhere on the body How are they used in family law proceedings Hair follicle testing is sometimes used in family law cases, particularly in child custody disputes or parenting proceedings, to determine whether a parent has been using drugs or alcohol. The test results can be used as evidence to: 1. Assess a parent’s ability to care for their child 2. Determine the risk of exposure to drug use or unsafe environments 3. Inform decisions about custody, visitation, or supervision 4. Monitor compliance with court-ordered drug treatment or sobriety requirements In family law, hair follicle testing may be requested by: 1. The court itself 2. One parent (as evidence against the other parent) 3. A legal representative 4. A social worker or child protection agency It’s important to note that hair follicle testing is not foolproof and can have limitations and potential false positives. The court will consider the test results in conjunction with other evidence and factors to make informed decisions about the child’s welfare and parenting arrangements. CDT TESTING CDT testing is a measure of the level of a protein called carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (CDT) in the blood, which can indicate alcohol consumption. Here are some key points to know about CDT testing: – – CDT testing is often used in family law cases to determine whether a parent’s alcohol consumption may pose a risk to their child. – The test is usually done by blood sample and the result is given in percentage terms. – A result of 1.5% or higher may indicate alcohol consumption. – CDT testing is not a foolproof test, and the results must be considered in conjunction with other evidence. – The court may use CDT testing as one factor in determining custody and parental responsibility. URINALYSIS TESTING Urinalysis (UA) testing is used in family law to detect the presence of drugs or alcohol in a person’s system, often in child custody or parenting disputes. Here’s how UA testing is used in family law: 1. Drug testing: UA tests detect drugs like marijuana, cocaine, opioids, and others in urine. 2. Alcohol testing: UA tests detect alcohol consumption, including ethyl glucuronide (EtG), a metabolite indicating recent alcohol use. 3. Monitoring compliance: UA tests ensure parties comply with court-ordered drug treatment or sobriety requirements. 4. Risk assessment: UA tests help evaluate a parent’s ability to care for their child, considering drug or alcohol use. 5. Custody decisions: UA test results may influence custody arrangements, visitation rights, or supervision requirements. 6. Evidence in court: UA test results are used as evidence in family law cases, often in conjunction with other evidence. UA testing is commonly used in family law cases involving: – Child custody disputes – Parenting plans – Drug or alcohol abuse allegations – Court-ordered drug treatment or monitoring – High-conflict divorce cases It’s important to note that UA testing has limitations and potential false positives or negatives. The court considers UA test results in conjunction with other evidence to make informed decisions.
What are injunctions in family law matters
Here are some of the injunctions available in family law parenting cases: – – An injunction for the personal protection of a child – An injunction for the personal protection of a parent – An injunction restraining a person from entering or remaining in the child’s place of residence, employment or education – An injunction restraining a person from entering the place of work of the other party – An injunction for the protection of the marital relationship – An injunction relating to the use or occupancy of the matrimonial home – An injunction in relation to the property of a party to the marriage
Costs in family law matters
In family law cases, the cost of legal fees and expenses are typically paid by each party individually, unless otherwise agreed upon or ordered by the court. Here’s a breakdown of who may pay in various scenarios: 1. Each party pays their own legal fees (most common). 2. One party pays the other party’s legal fees (if agreed upon or ordered by the court). 3. The court may order one party to pay the other party’s legal fees in specific circumstances, such as: – If one party has a significantly higher income or financial resources. – To ensure a fair and level playing field in the legal proceedings. – As a sanction for unreasonable or frivolous conduct. 4. In some cases, the court may order a split of legal fees, such as 50/50 or 60/40. 5. Legal aid or government funding may be available in some jurisdictions for eligible parties. It’s important to note that the court’s primary concern is the best interests of the child(ren), and the payment of legal fees is secondary to this consideration. It’s always best to consult with a family lawyer to understand the specific costs and fee structures involved in your case.
Court based fdr - what is it
Court-based Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) in family law is a process in which a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner helps people resolve disputes with their former partner(s) . Here are some key points you should know about court-based FDR in family law: – The Court can refer your matter to a court-based FDR conference at any time during the proceedings. – The purpose of court-based FDR is to enable parties to negotiate respectfully and reach an agreement with the assistance of a Registrar and, where appropriate, a Court Child Expert. – All discussions at all stages of court-based FDR conferences are confidential unless threats of harm to a person or child are made. – The Registrar and Court Child Expert cannot make decisions or give legal advice in court-based FDR conferences. Their role is to assist the parties in finding a mutually acceptable outcome that will allow them to formalize their agreement and exit the court system. – Court-based FDR conferences can be held in person or via Microsoft Teams or other electronic means, including by telephone. – Court-based FDR conferences can take place over a full day (9.00am to 4.00pm) or a half day (9.00am to 1.00pm). – The Court will only make orders for these conferences where it is safe and appropriate for all parties to participate meaningfully. – If you have any concerns about your safety or the dynamic between you and your former partner, you can request that the FDR take place by shuttle (this is where the parties are in separate rooms and the Registrar and Court Child Expert move between the private rooms).
The role of experts in family law proceedings
In family law proceedings, an expert is a neutral professional who provides objective evidence and opinion to assist the court in making informed decisions. Experts may be appointed by the court or engaged by one or both parties. Their roles include: 1. Assessment and reporting: Experts evaluate the family situation, interview parties and children, and prepare reports on their findings. 2. Evidence provision: Experts testify in court, providing objective evidence and opinion on specific issues. 3. Child custody and parenting evaluations: Experts assess the child’s needs, parental capacity, and relationships to inform custody and parenting arrangements. 4. Property and financial evaluations: Experts value assets, determine income, and assess financial capabilities to inform property settlements. 5. Risk assessment: Experts identify potential risks to children or parties, such as domestic violence or child abuse. 6. Mediation and dispute resolution: Experts facilitate mediation and dispute resolution processes to help parties reach agreements. 7. Specialized knowledge: Experts provide insight into specific areas, like child development, psychology, or finance, to inform court decisions. Experts in family law may include: 1. Psychologists 2. Social workers 3. Child development specialists 4. Forensic accountants 5. Property valuators 6. Family therapists 7. Mediators The court relies on expert evidence to make informed decisions, ensuring the best interests of the child and fairness in property and financial matters.
Domestic violence and family law matters
Domestic violence can significantly impact family law proceedings in several ways: 1. Priority on safety: The court’s primary concern is the safety of the parties and children involved. 2. Risk assessments: The court may order risk assessments to determine the level of risk posed by the perpetrator. 3. Restraining orders: The court may issue restraining orders to protect the victim and any children. 4. Parenting arrangements: The court may limit or restrict contact between the perpetrator and the child(ren) or grant sole custody to the victim. 5. Property settlement: The court may consider the impact of domestic violence on the victim’s contributions to the relationship and adjust property settlement accordingly. 6. Spousal maintenance: The court may consider the impact of domestic violence on the victim’s ability to work and earn an income. 7. Evidence: Evidence of domestic violence may be considered in court proceedings, including witness statements, documents, and expert testimony. 8. Legal representation: The court may appoint a separate representative for the child or require the parties to have legal representation. 9. Mediation and negotiation: Domestic violence may limit the ability to negotiate and mediate, as the victim may feel unsafe or intimidated. 10. Court’s discretion: The court has discretion to make decisions based on the specific circumstances of the case, prioritizing safety and the best interests of the child(ren). Domestic violence can have a significant impact on family law proceedings, and the court’s primary concern is the safety of all parties involved.
Using recordings in family law matters
Yes, recordings can be used as evidence in family law cases, but there are certain requirements and considerations that apply: 1. Admissibility: The recording must be deemed admissible by the court, which means it must be relevant, reliable, and not obtained illegally or unfairly. 2. Authenticity: The recording must be authenticated by the person who made it, or by other evidence, to prove it is a genuine recording. 3. Accuracy: The recording must be an accurate representation of the conversation or event. 4. Context: The recording must be considered in context, taking into account the circumstances in which it was made. 5. Privacy: Recordings may raise privacy concerns, and the court may need to balance the right to privacy against the need for evidence. 6. Legal advice: It’s essential to seek legal advice before using recordings as evidence, as the rules of evidence can be complex. Types of recordings that may be used as evidence in family law cases include: 1. Audio or video recordings of conversations or incidents 2. Phone calls or messages 3. Voicemails 4. CCTV footage 5. Recordings from smart home devices or apps Recordings can be used to support various claims, such as: 1. Family violence or abuse 2. Contravention of court orders 3. Parenting disputes 4. Property disputes 5. Negligence or breach of duty It’s important to note that using recordings as evidence can have implications, such as: 1. Privacy concerns 2. Emotional distress 3. Potential for manipulation or editing 4. Authenticity challenges The court will carefully consider the recording’s content, context, and reliability before admitting it as evidence.
How avo’s affect family law matters
An Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) can significantly impact family law cases in several ways: 1. Impact on parenting arrangements: An AVO can limit or restrict contact between a parent and child, affecting parenting arrangements and custody. 2. Evidence of family violence: An AVO can be used as evidence of family violence, influencing decisions on parenting and property matters. 3. Risk assessment: The existence of an AVO may lead to a risk assessment to determine the safety of the child or other party. 4. Restraining orders: An AVO can restrain one party from contacting the other or approaching their residence, affecting communication and negotiation in family law proceedings. 5. Impact on property settlement: In some cases, the existence of an AVO may be considered in property settlement negotiations, particularly if the AVO alleges violence or abuse that affects the parties’ ability to cohabitate or jointly own property. 6. Legal representation: If an AVO is in place, the court may appoint a separate representative for the child or require the parties to have legal representation. 7. Court’s priority: The court’s primary concern is safety, so the presence of an AVO may lead the court to prioritize safety over other considerations in family law proceedings. It’s important to note that an AVO is a separate legal matter from family law proceedings, but the two can intersect and impact each other.
Life cycle of a family law case
The life cycle of a family law case typically includes the following stages: 1. Pre-action (pre-litigation): Parties negotiate and attempt to resolve disputes before filing a court application. 2. Initiation: A party files an application or petition with the court, starting the legal process. 3. Service: The application is served on the other party, notifying them of the proceedings. 4. Response: The other party files a response or answer with the court. 5. Pre-trial (interim) phase: Parties engage in discovery, exchange documents, and may attend mediation or conciliation. 6. Trial (hearing): Both parties present their case to a judge, who makes a final decision. 7. Post-trial (post-judgment) phase: Parties comply with the court’s orders, and any necessary adjustments are made. 8. Appeal (if necessary): A party may appeal the court’s decision to a higher court. 9. Finalization: The case is concluded, and the parties move forward with their lives. Please note that this is a general outline, and the specific stages may vary depending on the jurisdiction and the complexity of the case.
When will dcj intervene in a family law matter
The Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) in Australia may intervene in a family law case in certain circumstances, including: 1. Child protection concerns: If there are allegations of child abuse or neglect, DCJ may intervene to ensure the child’s safety. 2. High-risk family violence: DCJ may intervene if there is a significant risk of harm to a party or child due to family violence. 3. Serious contravention of court orders: DCJ may intervene if a party repeatedly breaches court orders, putting the other party or child at risk. 4. Significant parenting disputes: DCJ may intervene if parties are unable to agree on parenting arrangements and the dispute is having a significant impact on the child. 5. Allegations of international parental child abduction: DCJ may intervene if there are concerns that a child may be taken out of the country without the other party’s consent. 6. Serious concerns about a child’s welfare: DCJ may intervene if there are concerns about a child’s physical, emotional, or psychological well-being. 7. Failure to comply with court-ordered mediation: DCJ may intervene if parties fail to attend mediation as ordered by the court. When DCJ intervenes, they may: 1. Conduct investigations 2. Provide reports to the court 3. Recommend counseling or mediation 4. Apply for court orders 5. Represent the child’s interests in court The goal of DCJ intervention is to ensure the safety and well-being of children and families, and to support the court in making informed decisions.
What is parental responsibility in family law
Here are some key points to know about parental responsibility in family law: – – Parental responsibility refers to the duties, powers, responsibilities, and authority a parent has in relation to a child. – Both parents have parental responsibility for the child unless there is a court order stating otherwise. – Parental responsibility remains even if the relationship between the child’s parents changes, such as separation, divorce, or remarriage. – Parental responsibility includes making decisions about major long-term issues relating to the child, such as education, religious instruction, medical treatment, and travel. – Day-to-day care and minor decisions are not considered parental responsibility. – The court can make orders for equal shared parental responsibility or sole parental responsibility based on the best interests of the child. – The Family Law Amendment Act 2023 removed the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility, and now each case is evaluated on its specific merits.
Use of criminal records in family law cases
Criminal records can be used in family law cases in various ways: 1. Child custody and parenting arrangements: A party’s criminal history may impact their ability to provide a safe environment for the child. 2. Risk assessment: Criminal records may be considered in risk assessments to determine the likelihood of violence or harm to a party or child. 3. Character evaluation: Criminal records can be used to evaluate a party’s character and trustworthiness. 4. Supervised visitation: A criminal record may lead to supervised visitation to ensure the child’s safety. 5. Restraining orders: Criminal records may be used to justify restraining orders to protect a party or child from harm. 6. Property settlement: In some cases, criminal records may impact property settlement negotiations. 7. UCCJEA (Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act) proceedings: Criminal records may be considered in determining jurisdiction and enforcement of child custody orders. 8. Child support: Criminal records may impact a party’s ability to pay child support. It’s important to note that the court’s primary concern is the best interests of the child. The relevance and weight given to criminal records will vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case.
Costs notices in family law matters
Cost notices in family law cases are documents that outline the legal fees and costs that have been incurred by a party in a family law matter. The costs notice must be provided to the client, the court, and the other party in the matter. The purpose of a costs notice is to ensure that all parties are aware of the costs of running a family law matter and to encourage parties to take a sensible and pragmatic approach to litigation. Some of the costs that may be included in a costs notice are: – The total costs a client has incurred to date – Disbursements such as valuation fees, court fees, and barrister fees – An estimate of the costs the client may incur at each stage of the proceedings – An estimate of the costs the client will incur for the remainder of the proceedings Cost notices are required to be provided before every court event, including directions hearings, interim hearings, and final hearings. They are also required to be exchanged before mediation and may be required when offers are being made.
Subpoenas in family law matters
Subpoenas in family law cases are legal documents issued by the court that require a person or organization to: 1. Produce documents or evidence (Subpoena for Production) 2. Attend a hearing or trial to give evidence (Subpoena to Give Evidence) 3. Both produce documents and give evidence (Subpoena for Production and to Give Evidence) Subpoenas are used to obtain evidence that is relevant to the case, but is not in the possession of the parties involved. They can be issued to: – Third parties, such as banks, schools, or employers – Expert witnesses, such as psychologists or valuers – Social media companies or other online platforms The purpose of subpoenas in family law cases is to: – Gather evidence for child custody or property disputes – Verify the accuracy of financial disclosures – Obtain records or documents that are relevant to the case – Compel witnesses to testify in court Failure to comply with a subpoena can result in serious consequences, including fines or even imprisonment.
Overview of the central practice direction in family law cases
The Central Practice Direction for family law cases includes the following principles: – – Risk: Prioritises the safety of children, vulnerable parties and litigants. – Parties, lawyers and the courts obligations: Achieves the just resolution of disputes according to the law quickly and cost efficiently. – Efficient and effective use of resources: Ensures the appropriate handling of risks wherever they are identified. – Approach to case management: Ensures consistent case management with early triaging of matters and the use of internal and external Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). – Importance of ADR: Encourages the use of appropriate ADR to resolve disputes before entering into litigation. – Costs consequences for failure to comply with orders: Non-compliance with court orders may attract cost consequences. – Lawyers’ obligations about costs: Ensures lawyers are sensible and reasonable about the cost of litigation. – Identifying and narrowing issues in dispute: Issues in the case are narrowed to those genuinely in dispute. – Preparation for hearings: Parties and lawyers should be prepared for hearings. – Efficient and timely disposition of cases: Courts will act efficiently and effectively to finalise pending matters.

Types of Court Events

Directions Hearing

A directions hearing in family law is a preliminary hearing held in court to manage the progress of a case. It’s an opportunity for the court to:

– Identify the key issues in dispute
– Set a timeline for the exchange of documents and information (called “disclosure”)
– Determine the need for additional evidence or experts
– Consider the possibility of settlement
– Provide guidance on the next steps in the case

The purpose is to streamline the case, promote efficiency, and encourage resolution. It’s usually a brief hearing, and the court may provide directions (orders) to guide the case forward.

Don’t expect the Court to make parenting orders during this type of hearing. The Court will not look into the merits of each party’s case and determine the competing claims.

This is not to say that the solicitor’s cannot come to an agreement on parenting orders (consent orders) and ask the Court to make them. However in the absence of any agreement, the Court simply will not make any firm parenting orders.

Interim Hearing
An interim hearing in family law is a temporary hearing held to address specific issues or disputes that require immediate attention, pending a final determination of the case. It’s usually held to: – Resolve urgent matters, such as child custody or financial support – Address enforcement or violation of existing orders – Consider temporary arrangements or restraining orders – Hear applications for interim relief or injunctions – Manage the case’s progress until a final hearing Interim hearings are typically shorter and more focused than final hearings, and the court’s decisions are usually interim measures, effective until the final hearing or further order. They help prevent unnecessary delays and provide necessary guidance until the case is fully resolved. Interim hearings are the first opportunity for the Court to make parenting orders in your case. They may determine residency issues such as residency, spend time and communicate between parents and their children. You will not be required to give oral evidence during these hearings. Your solicitor will make submissions to the Court based on the evidence filed in the proceedings, which may include the Affidavits filed by the parties, any subpoena material stored by the Court, and any independent reports (e.g. Child Impact Reports).
Compliance and Readiness Hearing
A compliance and readiness hearing in family law is a court hearing to ensure that both parties are complying with previous court orders or agreements, such as child support, alimony, or custody arrangements. The hearing also assesses whether both parties are ready to proceed with the next stages of the case, such as a trial. During the hearing, the court may: – Review progress on outstanding issues – Address any non-compliance or violations – Set deadlines for outstanding tasks or documentation – Schedule further hearings or trials – Encourage settlement negotiations The purpose is to promote accountability, efficiency, and resolution in family law cases. During the hearing, the Court will request information such as: – How long the final hearing is estimated to take. The number of witnesses for each party. Whether all expert reports have been completed (and which are outstanding). Whether there are allegations of family violence, such that a self-represented party may need to be appointed a solicitor by Legal Aid to cross-examine the other party at a final hearing. The Court will set down your matter for a final hearing and the parties will then need to comply with the filing directions made by the Court, for example the submitting of trial affidavits and case outlines.
Final Hearing
A final hearing in a family law case is the last stage of the legal process, where the court makes a definitive ruling on the outstanding issues. It’s usually held after all evidence has been presented, and the court has considered: – Testimonies from witnesses – Documentary evidence – Submissions from both parties (or their legal representatives) At the final hearing, the court aims to: – Resolve all remaining disputes – Make binding decisions on issues like: – Child custody and parenting arrangements – Property division and asset distribution – Spousal support and maintenance – Child support – Finalize the terms of the divorce or separation Your legal counsel will engage in cross-examination of the other party as a means of testing the evidence. Cross-examination is a legal process where a party’s witness is questioned by the opposing party’s lawyer to challenge their testimony, credibility, and evidence. The goal is to discredit or clarify the witness’s statements, and to present alternative explanations or evidence to the court. The court’s decisions at the final hearing are typically conclusive, and the parties are expected to comply with the orders made. If necessary, the court may also provide reasons for its decisions, which can be important for future reference or potential appeals.

Types of Expert Reports

Child Impact Report
A Child Impact Report is a report prepared by a Court Child Expert that contains information about a child’s experiences, needs, and views in the context of a family law dispute. Here are some things you should know about a Child Impact Report: – The report is usually ordered by the court in the early stages of proceedings. – The report is prepared by a Court Child Expert who is a qualified psychologist or social worker. – The report considers several factors, including the child’s development, relationships, views, and risk factors. – The report helps the court understand the child’s needs and make decisions that are in the best interests of the child. – The report is provided to the judge, who then releases it to the parties involved. – The report is not binding, but it can be a valuable tool for the court in making decisions about the child’s welfare.
Family Report
A family report is a document prepared by a family consultant that assists the judge in making decisions about the arrangements for the children in a family law dispute. Here are some key points about family reports: – The family consultant considers the family’s circumstances, the children’s experiences and development, and other relevant issues – The report makes recommendations for arrangements that will best meet the children’s future care, welfare and developmental needs. – Family reports are usually ordered by the court, but parties may request a private professional to prepare the report. – The report is provided to the judge, who then releases it to the parties involved . – The report is not binding, but it can be a valuable tool for the court in making decisions about the child’s welfare. The Family Report can be challenged at any final hearing.
Who pays for the report
If both parties are legally aided, then the Court will usually appoint a Court-based expert to conduct the interviews and prepare the report. The parties will not be liable to pay anything other than potentially a small contribution requested by Legal Aid. If one of the parties has private representation, then the Court will usually consider them to be liable to pay for any independent expert reports. These determinations are made on a case by case basis, and it may be that parties need to file Financial Statements with the Court to determine who should pay for any independent expert reports.

Information about Orders

DCJ and section 69ZW Orders
A Section 69ZW order, according to the Family Law Act of 1975, is an order made by the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court that requires the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) to provide the court with documents or information related to child abuse or family violence. The specific documents or information that must be provided are those that record or relate to: – – Notifications to the agency of suspected child abuse or family violence – Investigations into or assessments of these notifications – Reports from these investigations
Parenting plans vs. Parenting orders
A parenting plan is a written agreement that is signed by both parents and outlines the agreed arrangements for the care of the children after separation or divorce. The following are some of the things that you can include in a parenting plan: – Where the children will live – The time the children will spend with the other parent – How long-term decisions will be made about the children’s education, health or religion – International and interstate travel – Child support or maintenance – Extra-curricular activities for the children Please note that a parenting plan is not a legally enforceable agreement, but it can be used as evidence in court if you need to apply for parenting orders in the future. On the other hand, Parenting orders are legal orders that are made by a court about children, which can cover the following: – – Who the children will live with – The time the children will spend with each parent and with other people, such as grandparents – The allocation of parental responsibility – How the child will communicate with a parent they do not live with or other people – Any other aspect of the care, welfare or development of the child – The process to be used to sort out disagreements about the order later – How persons with shared parental responsibility will communicate with each other These orders are legally binding and can only be changed in limited circumstances.
How can I change existing parenting orders
To change existing parenting orders, you can follow these steps: 1. Review the orders: Check the existing orders to see if they can be varied or if there is a provision for review. 2. Seek legal advice: Consult a family lawyer to discuss your options and the best approach. 3. File an application: Lodge an application with the court, stating the changes you seek and the reasons for them. 4. Serve the other party: Have the application served on the other party (e.g., the other parent). 5. Attend a hearing: Go to court and present your case to a judge, who will consider the application and make a decision. Grounds for changing parenting orders: – Change in circumstances (e.g., relocation, new partner) – Child’s needs or welfare – Failure to comply with existing orders – New evidence or information Remember: Changing parenting orders can be complex and emotionally challenging. Seek professional legal guidance to ensure the best possible outcome for all parties involved.
What are recovery orders
A recovery order in family law is a court order that mandates the return of a child to their rightful parent or guardian. The order can be initiated by various individuals, including: – – A parent of the child – A person with whom the child spends time or communicates under a parenting order – An individual with parental responsibility for the child – A grandparent of the child – A person concerned with the care, welfare, and development of the child The purpose of a recovery order is to: – – Locate the child and return them to their rightful guardian – Provide guidelines for the child’s care until their return – Prevent further removal of the child by the person who initially took them Recovery orders can be made when there are already parenting orders in place or when there are no parenting orders. If a recovery order is filed against an individual, they have the option to file a response.
What do when the other party is contravening court orders
What is a contravention application A contravention application is a legal tool in family law that ensures parties comply with agreements and orders set by the court. The application is filed by one party if the other party fails to comply with a previous court order or agreement. Here are some key points to know about contravention applications: – – Filed to punish the party that breached the agreement or order – Used for family law cases involving parenting arrangements, child support and property settlements – Can be filed for non-compliance with court orders, breach of parenting plans and failure to pay support – The applicant must prove the breach and that the respondent has no reasonable excuse for the breach – The court may impose penalties, such as fines and imprisonment, if the breach is serious How do I file a contravention application To file a contravention application in family law, follow these steps: 1. Determine eligibility: Ensure the breach is significant and you have tried to resolve the issue with the other party. 2. Gather evidence: Collect documents and records proving the breach, such as: – Court orders or agreements – Communication records (emails, texts, letters) – Witness statements – Evidence of attempts to resolve the issue 3. Fill out the application form: Use the prescribed form (e.g., Form 11 in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia) to detail: – The order or agreement breached – The nature of the breach – The dates of the breach – The efforts made to resolve the issue 4. File the application: Submit the completed form and supporting documents to the relevant court registry (Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia or Family Court of Western Australia). 5. Pay the filing fee: Pay the required fee (waivable in some cases). 6. Serve the other party: Have the application served on the other party, usually by a process server or mail. Note: Seek legal advice to ensure you follow the correct procedure and meet the necessary legal requirements.
Affidavits - what are they
In family law, an affidavit is a written statement that is confirmed by oath or affirmation, used as evidence in court proceedings. It’s a sworn document that contains facts and information relevant to the cAse, signed by the person making the statement (the “deponent”). Affidavits are commonly used in family law to: 1. Support or oppose applications 2. Provide evidence in contested hearings 3. Verify the authenticity of documents 4. Outline the history of the case 5. Detail events, conversations, or incidents relevant to the case When preparing an affidavit, it’s essential to: 1. Be truthful and accurate 2. Use a formal tone and language 3. Sign and date the document 4. Have it witnessed by an authorized person (e.g., a lawyer or justice of the peace) Affidavits carry significant weight in family law proceedings, as they represent a person’s sworn testimony. It’s crucial to ensure the accuracy and truthfulness of the information provided, as false or misleading statements can have serious consequences.
Varying existing orders
The Rule in Rice v Asplund The rule in Rice v Asplund states that to vary a final parenting order, a significant change in circumstances must be demonstrated since the final order was made. This change must be serious enough to warrant revisiting the final order and must be in the best interests of the child. Examples of significant changes include: – Relocation of the child – Non-disclosure of important information at the time of the original order – Abuse of the child – Original orders no longer reflect current arrangements – A substantial amount of time has passed – Serious contravention of existing orders This rule aims to protect children from ongoing litigation by ensuring stability and certainty in their lives.
Section 60CC
Section 60CC of the Family Law Act 1975 determines the best interests of the child in family law matters. The court considers the following factors :- – Safety and well-being of the child and caregivers – The child’s expressed views – Developmental, psychological, emotional, and cultural needs of the child – The benefit of a child of having a meaningful relationship with both parents – The need to protect the child from harm – Any other fact or circumstance that the Court thinks is relevant – The child’s right to enjoy their Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander culture
Pre-court procedures - mediation and the section 60I certificate
S60I CERTIFICATE A Section 60I certificate is a document issued by family dispute resolution practitioners (FDRP) that contains a record of the efforts made by parties to resolve their disputes. The certificate is named after the relevant section of the Family Law Act of 1975 and is required for parents who wish to apply to the court for a parenting order. The certificate will contain details such as the following: – The names of the parties and the FDR practitioner – The issues in dispute – Outcomes of the FDR process – One of the following declarations: o One party did not attend the FDR o The FDR was not considered appropriate for the situation o Both parties attended and made a genuine effort to resolve the dispute o Both parties attended but one or both did not make a genuine effort o The FDR was not continued MEDIATION BEFORE COURT Mediation is a process where a neutral third-party facilitates a discussion between parties to resolve disputes without going to court. In family law, mediation is often required before court proceedings for several reasons: 1. Cost-effective: Mediation is generally less expensive than litigation. 2. Time-saving: Mediation can resolve disputes faster than court proceedings. 3. Less stressful: Mediation is often less confrontational and stressful than court. 4. Flexible: Mediation allows parties to create their own agreements, rather than being bound by court orders. 5. Improved communication: Mediation encourages parties to communicate effectively and work together. 6. Child-focused: Mediation prioritizes the best interests of the child. 7. Preserves relationships: Mediation can help maintain a positive relationship between parties, especially important for co-parenting. 8. Court requirement: Many courts require parties to attempt mediation before proceeding to court. Mediation can help resolve various family law disputes, including: – Child custody and parenting arrangements – Property division and financial disputes – Child support and maintenance – Spousal maintenance – Divorce and separation agreements By attempting mediation before court proceedings, parties can potentially avoid the stress, expense, and uncertainty of litigation, and instead, work together to find a mutually beneficial solution.
Interim vs final parenting orders
Here are the differences between interim and final family law orders: – – Interim orders are temporary orders that are made in urgent situations and are in place until the final outcome. – Final orders are made after a contested hearing, or by agreement between the parties, and are permanent arrangements and outcomes. – Interim orders are usually made in relation to issues such as: – Parenting – Living arrangements for children – Financial matters in separation – Final orders are made after all evidence has been considered. – Final orders are not necessarily irrevocable, as both parties in family law proceedings may have the right to set aside those orders or apply for a change to the orders in the event of a substantial change in circumstances.

Miscellaneous Matters

All about the ICL
Who are they In family law, ICL stands for Independent Children’s Lawyer. ICLs are lawyers appointed by the Court to represent the best interests of the child in family law proceedings, ensuring that the child’s voice is heard and their welfare is protected Key aspects of an ICL’s role include: – – Arranging evidence and expert reports – Facilitating the child’s participation – Representing the child’s views – Acting as an honest broker between parties – Promoting settlement negotiations – Considering the child’s views and welfare – Ensuring the child’s best interests are represented Who pays for them? In family law, the costs of an Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL) are typically borne by the parties involved, usually in proportion to their income and financial capacity. Here’s a general breakdown: 1. Both parties pay: In most cases, the parties share the costs of the ICL, often in a proportion agreed upon by the parties or ordered by the court (e.g., 50/50, 60/40, etc.). 2. Court orders: The court may order one party to pay the ICL’s costs, or a larger proportion of the costs, if: – One party has a significantly higher income or financial resources. – One party is considered responsible for the need for the ICL’s involvement (e.g., due to disputes or lack of cooperation). 3. Government funding: In some cases, the government may fund the ICL’s costs, such as: – Legal Aid funding (subject to eligibility criteria). – In cases where the parties are unable to pay and the court considers it necessary for the ICL to be involved. It’s important to note that the ICL’s costs are typically paid in addition to each party’s own legal fees.
How does the independent expert report interview process work
Expert report interviews in family law are conducted by a family consultant or expert (such as a psychologist or social worker) to gather information for a family report. Here’s a general outline of the process: 1. Introduction: The expert explains the purpose and process of the interview. 2. Background information: The expert asks about the family’s history, relationships, and dynamics. 3. Parent-child relationships: The expert explores the quality of the relationships between parents and children. 4. Parenting abilities: The expert assesses each parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs. 5. Child’s experiences: The expert may speak with the child (depending on their age and ability) to understand their perspective. 6. Observations: The expert may observe interactions between family members. 7. Questions and clarifications: The expert seeks additional information to clarify any concerns. 8. Report preparation: The expert analyzes the information and prepares a report with recommendations for the court. These interviews help the expert gain a comprehensive understanding of the family situation, enabling them to provide informed recommendations to the court.
My case has been placed on the evatt list - what does this mean?
The Evatt List is a specialized court list in family law that focuses on managing high-risk family law cases, such as those involving family violence, child abuse, or other safety concerns. The list is named after the Honourable Elizabeth Evatt AC, the first Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia. Here are some key points about the Evatt List: – The Evatt List is managed by a highly qualified team of Senior Judicial Registrars, Judicial Registrars, Court Child Experts, and court staff, in consultation with Judges – Only eligible proceedings that have been determined as high risk through the risk screening process are eligible for consideration in the Evatt List – The Evatt List ensures that families who are the most vulnerable are provided with appropriate resources, support, and timely court events – It is a case management pathway that responds to the particular needs of the family as efficiently and effectively as possible to minimize the risk of further trauma and harm.
What is the role of the child support agency?
The Child Support Agency (CSA) in Australia plays a crucial role in the following roles: – – Assessment: The CSA conducts initial assessments of child support applications and determines the appropriate level of child support payments using a standard formula. – Collection and Distribution: The CSA collects and distributes child support payments from the paying parent to the receiving parent, ensuring timely and accurate transfers. – Variations: The CSA may assist in conducting reviews of child support arrangements, considering the circumstances and factors presented by both parents and determining whether a variation is appropriate or necessary. – Enforcement: In cases where child support payments are not being made, the CSA can take enforcement action against the non-compliant parent to ensure the payments resume.
Supervised contact centres
In family law, a supervised contact centre, also known as Children’s Contact Services (CCSs), is a neutral and safe place for children to spend time with the parent they do not live with. The purpose of CCSs includes: – Enabling parents to re-establish or maintain a relationship with their children. – Facilitating the transfer of children from one parent to another in a safe environment. – Allowing families to transition to self-management of their parenting time arrangements when possible and safe. CCSs are used in situations such as: – High conflict post-separation cases. – Allegations of child abuse or domestic violence. – Substance abuse or mental health issues. – Re-introduction of a parent. – Lack of parenting skills or experience. These services are often court-ordered, and their objective is to prioritize the best interests and safety of the child while promoting a meaningful relationship with both parents.
What to expect on the first day in court
The first court date in a family law case, also known as a “mention” or “directions hearing”, is usually a brief proceeding to: 1. Confirm parties’ identities and legal representation. 2. Identify the issues in dispute. 3. Determine the next steps in the case. 4. Set a timeline for the exchange of documents and information (discovery). 5. Schedule further court dates, such as a conciliation conference or a trial. You can expect: – A short appearance before a judge or registrar (usually 15-30 minutes). – To confirm your identity and legal representation (if applicable). – To briefly outline the issues in dispute (e.g., custody, property, child support). – To receive directions from the court regarding the next steps and timelines. – To potentially engage in brief negotiations with the other party (if applicable). It’s essential to: – Arrive early and be prepared. – Bring all relevant documents and paperwork. – Be prepared to clearly outline your position and concerns. – Listen to the judge’s directions and follow their instructions. Note: The specific procedures may vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific court. Your lawyer will guide you through the process and prepare you for the first court date
Best interests of the children - how is it determined
When determining the best interests of a child, a court considers various factors, including: 1. Child’s age, gender, and developmental needs. 2. Parental ability to provide a stable and loving environment. 3. Child’s relationship with each parent and siblings. 4. Child’s physical, emotional, and psychological needs. 5. Parental cooperation and willingness to communicate. 6. Geographical distance between parents’ homes. 7. Child’s wishes (if old enough). 8. History of domestic violence, abuse, or neglect. 9. Parental substance abuse or mental health issues. 10. Ability to provide for the child’s education, health, and welfare. 11. Stability and continuity of the home environment. 12. Parental ability to foster a positive relationship between the child and the other parent. The court’s primary consideration is the child’s best interests, not the parents’ interests or rights. The court may also consider expert evidence from professionals like psychologists or social workers. In Australia, the Family Law Act 1975 sets out the primary considerations as: 1. The benefit of the child having a meaningful relationship with both parents. 2. The need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm. The court balances these considerations to determine the arrangements that best serve the child’s interests.
The children’s views - how are they considered
In family law proceedings, children’s views are considered by the court to ensure their best interests are represented. The court may consider: 1. The child’s age and maturity level 2. Their ability to express their views 3. Their understanding of the situation 4. Their relationship with each parent 5. Their wishes and preferences The court may use various methods to ascertain the child’s views, such as: 1. Interviews with a family consultant or psychologist 2. Reports from a child development specialist 3. Letters or statements from the child 4. Evidence from a trusted adult, like a teacher or counselor The court will consider the child’s views in the context of the entire case, balancing them with other factors, such as: 1. The child’s best interests 2. Parental capacity to meet the child’s needs 3. The child’s relationship with each parent 4. The child’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being While the child’s views are important, the court ultimately decides what is in their best interests. The court may not always follow the child’s wishes, especially if they are not in their best interests. In Australia, the Family Law Act 1975 requires the court to consider the child’s views, while also ensuring their safety and well-being.
Co parenting apps
Here are some examples of co-parenting applications: 1. OurFamilyWizard: A popular app for co-parents to communicate, share schedules, and manage expenses. 2. CoParenter: An app that helps co-parents communicate, coordinate, and document interactions. 3. Coparently: A comprehensive app for co-parents to manage schedules, expenses, and communication. 4. 2Houses: A co-parenting app for scheduling, communication, and organizing child-related information. 5. Parenting Apart: An app for separated parents to communicate and manage co-parenting tasks. 6. FamCal: A shared calendar app for co-parents to schedule and organize family events. 7. SplitSmart: An app for co-parents to manage schedules, expenses, and communication, with a focus on reducing conflict. 8. CoParentHub: A centralized platform for co-parents to communicate, share documents, and manage schedules. These applications aim to facilitate effective co-parenting, reduce conflict, and prioritize the well-being of children.

Commonly Asked Divorce Questions

How long does it take to get divorced?

We like to finalise divorce matters in around 3-4 months.

From the date of you contacting us, we want to file documents within 1 month. From there, it can take up to 1-2 months before the Court date, and then a mandatory 1 month before the divorce order is finally granted.

Do I need to speak with my partner during the process?
No. All the communication happens from us to your partner or their solicitor, if they have one.
How does serving documents work?
We work closely with reputable service companies to ensure your partner receives the documents. We initiate a job request with the server company and one of their workers attends your partner’s address to serve the documents. Your partner will need to sign certain documents to prove to the Court that they have received the documents.
How much do you charge for a divorce?
$1,650 (inc. GST). This amount does not account for document process server fees and attendance at Court (if required).
What if my partner doesn’t want to get divorced?
Australian Family Law does not require a person’s consent to get divorced. Provided certain requirements are met, for example 12 months’ separation and at least one of the parties is resident in Australia, the divorce will go through. A party may object to the Divorce and file a Response, however it will not be upheld simply because they do not want to get a divorce. They must prove to the Court that one of the requirements for divorce are missing. Commonly, it will be when a party asserts that 12 months’ separation has not yet occurred.
What’s divorce got to do with parenting arrangements and property?
Think of Family Law cases as having three heads: Divorce, Parenting and Property. The Divorce head is the legal termination of the marriage. It permits the parties to re-marry as polygamy is unlawful in Australia. In how it relates to Parenting, at the Court divorce hearing the Court wants to be satisfied that proper arrangements are in place for the care, welfare and development of the children. In the Divorce Application, there is space to describe the parenting arrangements in place. In terms of its interaction with Property, parties have 12 months to initiate a Property Settlement claim in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia from the date on the Divorce Order. There will be no in-depth exploration of Parenting and Property matters at the Divorce Hearing. These are explored in separate cases which require the filing of separate documents.
What if my partner refuses to accept service of the divorce application?
All reasonable attempts need to be made to serve documents on the other party. However, if a party is clearly avoiding service then evidence will need to be shown to the Court of attempts made. It may mean that a Court dispenses with the need for service, meaning service will not need to occur.
What if I don’t have any contact details for my partner?
The Court will want to see that all reasonable attempts have been made to locate your partner. For example, searching the electoral roll, asking friends and family, reviewing social media. If the search fails, the Court can grant a variety of Orders such as a Substituted Service Order and Dispensation of Service Order. The former permits the Divorce Application to be served on your partner other than by hand, for example their last known email address or social media account. The latter allows the Divorce to be processed without service needing to occur, though this is less common.
I was married overseas, can I still get divorced?
Yes. Provided there is a valid copy of a marriage certificate, the divorce can proceed.
What if I don’t have my marriage certificate?
All reasonable attempts will need to be made to locate the marriage certificate, such as making inquiries with public record institutions such as Births, Deaths and Marriages. If a marriage certificate cannot be obtained, you will have to give evidence of a marriage ceremony taking place. This may require leading evidence from witnesses present at the ceremony, such as friends, family and/or marriage celebrants.
Can my partner and I get divorced jointly?
Yes, this is called a “Joint Divorce Application”. It is in fact a smoother process since both parties are in agreement and does not require us to arrange a process server to serve documents on your partner. It will require the ordinary Application to be completed and signed by both parties.
Still have more queries? Download our “Divorce Pack” which explores in greater detail how Divorce is considered in Australian Family Law.

Commonly Asked Child Custody Questions

Who gets custody of the kids?
Every case is different and will depend on its unique facts. Broadly speaking, parenting arrangements have to be in the children’s best interests – this is the guiding principle of Australian Family Law. Ultimately, what meets a child’s best interests will depend on variables such as their age, maturity, living arrangements, their relationships with the parents and other important people, and whether there exists any high risk issues such as family violence or drug usage.
Can we immediately go to Court?
Generally, no. Parties are required to participate in mandatory mediation before initiating Court proceedings. There are of course exceptions to this rule, for example where family violence exists or where there is a real risk of harm to the child.
The other parent and I have agreed on parenting arrangements, where to now?
That’s great. Provided the arrangements and workable and in the children’s best interests, a consented outcome is far better than spending time and emotional resources in litigation. You may choose to have these arrangements turned into a Parenting Plan or filed with the Court through Consent Orders.
We have attended mediation and it failed, where to from here?

If you have not yet been issued with a “Section 60I certificate” from the mediator, request one.

The next step is to prepare the required Court documents and commence a Parenting case in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

How long does a parenting case take in Court?
The recent Guidelines by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia have set the life-cycle of a case at 12 months. Considering cases could historically take around 2-3 years to complete, this is an ambitious target. While the results of the recent reforms will be determined in time, our goal is to resolve your case wherever possible. Settlement options can be pursued at any stage of the Court process and we will work with you to ensure there is no wastage in time, money and emotional resources.
Do our kids get any say in the parenting arrangements?
As a general principle, the older the child is, the more influential their views become, though it will always depend upon maturity levels. For example, the views of a teenager would carry far more weight than those of a toddler. While children’s views may be influential, they are only one of several factors the Court must take into account when making orders that reflect the children’s best interests.
How common is a 50/50 equal shared custody arrangement?
It depends. Not every case is suitable for an equal shared care arrangement. Without limiting the scenarios, for example: where there are very young children (e.g. under 3) whom have a strong primary attachment to one parent; where the communication between parents is poor or non-existent; or where the distance between the parents’ residences makes it unworkable. In the end, each case will depend on its unique facts and circumstances, and the Court will be guided by the best interests of the children as the guiding consideration.
How do parenting arrangements work with child support assessments?

Child support is calculated on several factors, one of which is the number of nights within a fortnight that the children spend with each parent.

Free child support estimate calculator

Still have more queries? Download our “Parenting Pack” which explores in greater detail how parenting arrangements are considered in Australian Family Law.

Commonly Asked Child Support Questions

Who is responsible for child support?
Any person who is legally declared a “parent” of a child. This includes adoptive parents, as well as parents of children born from artificial conception procedures.
My partner and I have agreed privately on child support, what now?
To give effect to a private agreement, you may wish to enter into a Binding Child Support Agreement. This is a legally binding document signed by both parents after having each received independent legal advice. This document can set out the amount of periodic child support payable, as well as how other expenses are to be paid (e.g. private health or private education).
What does child support cover?
Child support can cover expenses such as clothing, food and education. Once a parent receives the child support payment, it is ultimately up to them to decide on how the money is allocated.
How is child support calculated?

The level of child support is calculated upon several factors, including: the costs of raising children; the incomes of both parents; the self-support expenses of the parents; the number of nights each parent has the children in their care.

Free child support estimate calculator

How do I get child support payments started?

If you want the Child Support Agency – the government – to collect child support from the other parent, begin the required Application to get the process started.

Alternatively, if you wish to implement a private child support agreement, we can assist with this. Tell us more about your case and we will then advise you of the best alternatives.

I have received a letter from the Child Support Agency notifying me of a child support increase, what can I do?
If you believe the increase in child support is a mistake, you can write to the Registrar of the Child Support Agency to seek an appeal of the decision. If the decision is upheld, your only recourse then is to seek a higher, administrative review via the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
When does the obligation to pay child support end?
Either when the child turns 18 or becomes a “member of a couple”, or when a terminating event occurs such as adoption.
Still have more queries? Download our “Child Support Pack” which explores in greater detail how Child Support is considered in Australian Family Law.