Changes to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)

Changes to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)

On 6 May 2024, changes to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (‘Family Law Act’) came into effect. These new laws include changes to the parenting order framework and enforcement of child-related orders.

Changes relating to parenting matters are set out in the Family Law Amendment Act (No 87) 2023 (Cth) (‘Family Law Amendment Act’).

Why has the Family Law Act changed?

The Family Law Act has changed to further protect the best interests of the child.

Changes to the Family Law Act were informed by recommendations made in the Australian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry into the family law system. The final report offered 60 recommendations to reform and simplify a number of family law provisions, arrangements and procedures.

In particular, the Family Law Amendment Act has redrafted the parenting arrangements under Part VII of the Family Law Act. The Family Law Amendment Act simplifies judicial decision making, the best interest factors as well as parental arrangements and provisions.

Why did the best interest factors for parenting orders need to be changed?

When deciding whether to make a parenting order, the Family Court must regard the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration.

Under the previous legislative framework, the Court’s determination of the best interests of the child was based on ‘primary’ and ‘additional considerations’. However, the Australian Law Reform Commission concluded that this list of factors was overly complex and detracted focus from the best interests of the child.

New best interest factors for parenting orders

Consequently, the Family Law Amendment Act has revised s 60CC of the Family Law Act to create a new list of best interest factors for the Court to consider. These factors include:

  1. The arrangements in place to promote the safety of the child and the child’s carer
  2. Any views expressed by the child
  3. The developmental, psychological, emotional and cultural needs of the child
  4. The capacity of each proposed carer of the child to provide for the child’s needs
  5. The benefit of the child being able to have relationships with their parents and other people who are significant to them.

Repeal of the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility

The Family Law Amendment Act has omitted s 61DA of the Family Law Act relating to the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility when making parenting orders.

The Family Law Amendment Act has also repealed s 65DAA and s 65DAC of the Family Law Act. These sections relate to the considerations of equal time or substantial and significant time with the child’s parent and the effect of parenting orders that provide for shared parental responsibility.

Why has the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility been repealed?

The explanatory memorandum to the Family Law Amendment Bill 2023 argues that the repealing of these provisions is due to the misconception of parental arrangements after separation being determined by a parent’s entitlement to equal time instead of an assessment of the child’s best interests.

The explanatory memorandum also notes that the repealing of the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility is intended to prevent parents from agreeing to unsafe and unfair arrangements and to discourage parties from prolonged litigation owing to incorrect expectations of equal time.

Changes to the Family Law Act ensure that the best interests of the child are made paramount to prevent misconceptions from influencing parenting orders and arrangements.

How Etheringtons Solicitors can help

For the full list of changes to the Family Law Act, please visit the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia website.

If you would like to clarify how changes to the Family Law Act impact your own parenting orders or arrangements, we recommend speaking with a legal professional. To discuss your family law matter, please contact one of our experienced solicitors on (02) 9963 9800 or via our online contact form.

How Much Can My Wife Get in a Divorce?

How Much Can My Wife Get in a Divorce?

Following the breakdown of a marriage, separated or divorced parties must agree on how to divide their joint assets. As the division of property and finances is not included in a divorce order, a separate agreement must be made between you and your wife.

Reaching an amicable agreement with your wife about the division of joint assets will save you time, money and stress. Alternative dispute resolution processes such as mediation can assist in resolving any disagreements that may arise during this process.

If you cannot reach an agreement with your wife through these means, you can apply to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (‘the Court’) to have financial orders made that will settle the dispute for you.

What is a financial order?

A financial order is a set of orders made by the Court relating to the division of property or finances. When applying for a financial order, the Court will hear evidence presented by you and your wife and make a just and equitable decision. This decision may include altering property interests, redistributing finances, and ordering for the payment of spousal maintenance.

What factors affect the Court’s decision?

Contrary to the belief of a 50/50 split, there is no established formula or percentage the Court will use when making financial orders. Instead, decisions are made on a case-by-case basis depending on the individual circumstances of the separated parties.

The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) s 79(4) sets out a number of factors for the Court to consider when making financial orders. These factors include but are not limited to:

  • The ‘net asset pool’ comprising of the current value of all assets and liabilities. This includes superannuation entitlements, personal assets, assets in partnership, trust, or companies.
  • Direct financial contributions toward the acquisition, conservation or improvement of any property of each party. This includes assets owned at the beginning of the relationship.
  • Indirect financial contributions such as gifts or inheritances.
  • Non-financial contributions toward the acquisition, conservation or improvement of any property of each party. For example, home improvement or renovations to increase the value of the family home.
  • Financial contributions made to the welfare of the family, including any contribution made in the capacity of a homemaker or parent.
  • The future needs of each party with regard to age, health, financial resources, superannuation, childcare, and earning capacity.

The Court’s decision may involve the alteration of property interests and asset ownership to allow for the just and equitable redistribution of finances between parties.

Am I required to pay my wife spousal maintenance?

Spousal maintenance is financial support that is paid to your wife if she cannot adequately support herself following separation or divorce. This obligation depends on the financial capacity and needs of each party. Husbands and wives share an equal duty to support and maintain one another should the circumstances call for it.

For example, if your wife is unable to support herself after separation, and you have the financial means to support her, you may be required to provide your wife with spousal maintenance.   

Ultimately, an order for spousal maintenance is decided by an overall assessment of each party’s ability to adequately support themselves, and if they are unable to do so, whether the other party has the capacity to meet those expenses and support them.

Contact Us

It is important to remember that there is no presumption of equality when dividing assets following a separation or divorce. If you are considering separation, or have already separated from your wife, we recommend seeking independent legal advice.

If you would like to discuss your unique situation with a family lawyer, please contact Etheringtons Solicitors in North Sydney on (02) 9963 9800 or via our online contact form.

How Much Can My Husband Get in a Divorce?

How Much Can My Husband Get in a Divorce?

Following the breakdown of a marriage, separated or divorced parties must agree on how to divide their joint assets. As the division of property and finances is not included in a divorce order, a separate agreement must be made between you and your husband.

Reaching an amicable agreement with your husband about the division of joint assets will save you time, money and stress. Alternative dispute resolution processes such as mediation can assist in resolving any disagreements that may arise during this process.

If you cannot reach an agreement with your husband through these means, you can apply to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (‘the Court’) to have financial orders made that will settle the dispute for you.

What is a financial order?

A financial order is a set of orders made by the Court relating to the division of property or finances. When applying for a financial order, the Court will hear evidence presented by you and your husband and make a just and equitable decision. This decision may include altering property interests, redistributing finances, and ordering for the payment of spousal maintenance.

What factors affect the Court’s decision?

Contrary to the belief of a 50/50 split, there is no established formula or percentage the Court will use when making financial orders. Instead, decisions are made on a case-by-case basis depending on the individual circumstances of the separated parties.

The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) s 79(4) sets out a number of factors for the Court to consider when making financial orders. These factors include but are not limited to:

  • The ‘net asset pool’ comprising of the current value of all assets and liabilities. This includes superannuation entitlements, personal assets, assets in partnership, trust, or companies.
  • Direct financial contributions toward the acquisition, conservation or improvement of any property of each party. This includes assets owned at the beginning of the relationship.
  • Indirect financial contributions such as gifts or inheritances.
  • Non-financial contributions toward the acquisition, conservation or improvement of any property of each party. For example, home improvement or renovations to increase the value of the family home.
  • Financial contributions made to the welfare of the family, including any contribution made in the capacity of a homemaker or parent.
  • The future needs of each party with regard to age, health, financial resources, superannuation, childcare, and earning capacity.

The Court’s decision may involve the alteration of property interests and asset ownership to allow for the just and equitable redistribution of finances between parties.

Am I required to pay my husband spousal maintenance?

Spousal maintenance is financial support that is paid to your husband if he cannot adequately support himself following separation or divorce. This obligation depends on the financial capacity and needs of each party. Husbands and wives share an equal duty to support and maintain one another should the circumstances call for it.

For example, if your husband is unable to support himself after separation, and you have the financial means to support him, you may be required to provide your husband with spousal maintenance.   

Ultimately, an order for spousal maintenance is decided by an overall assessment of each party’s ability to adequately support themselves, and if they are unable to do so, whether the other party has the capacity to meet those expenses and support them.

Contact Us

It is important to remember that there is no presumption of equality when dividing assets following a separation or divorce. If you are considering separation, or have already separated from your husband, we recommend seeking independent legal advice.

If you would like to discuss your unique situation with a family lawyer, please contact Etheringtons Solicitors in North Sydney on (02) 9963 9800 or via our online contact form.

The Benefits of a Prenuptial Agreement

The Benefits of a Prenuptial Agreement

In 2021, there were 56,244 divorces granted in Australia – the highest number of divorces recorded since 1976. With this apparent increase in separations, it is important to prepare for any eventuality before entering into a marriage or de-facto relationship. One such precaution is to enter into a prenuptial agreement, or prenup, which ensures that your personal finances and assets are protected in the event of separation.

What is a Prenup?

In Australia, a prenup is referred to as a Binding Financial Agreement (BFA). A BFA is a legal agreement between parties in a relationship and sets out how their assets and finances will be divided should their marriage or de-facto relationship end. Without a BFA, the division of finances in a separation is determined by the Family Law Act (No 53) 1975 (Cth).

A BFA takes into account the assets and liabilities of each person in the relationship. Types of marital and non-marital assets that can be included in a BFA are:

  • Spousal maintenance
  • Real-estate and businesses
  • Insurance, superannuation and pensions
  • Inheritances.

It should be noted that a BFA does not cover parenting or child custody arrangements. A Child Support Agreement will outline provisions relating to child support.

When can you enter into a Prenup?

  1. Prior to getting married or at the start of a de-facto relationship
  2. During the marriage or de-facto relationship
  3. After separation following a marriage or de-facto relationship.

Benefits of a Prenuptial Agreement

A prenup promotes open communication and transparency about the financial circumstances of the relationship. Other practical benefits of a prenup include:

  1. Security and flexibility – Parties are able to negotiate how their joint assets will be reasonably distributed. Parties are also able to secure the property they have accumulated prior to the relationship to ensure the just division of assets.
  2. Tax benefits – Parties are eligible for transfer duty exemptions or capital gains tax rollover on assets transferred under the agreement.
  3. Efficiency and cost effectiveness – Preparing a BFA is usually more time efficient and cost effective than working out a final division after separation.

How is a prenup enforced?

As a BFA operates to oust the jurisdiction of the Family Court, there are many requirements that must be fulfilled to ensure the BFA is enforceable. Some of these conditions include:

  1. The agreement must be signed by all parties.
  2. Each party must have received independent legal advice before signing the prenup or provided a statement
  3. Each party must have signed the prenup voluntarily.
  4. The prenup must contain a complete disclosure of each party’s financial standing.

The validity and effectiveness of a prenup is determined by the court. The court may set aside a prenup if the above requirements are not followed or if at the time of the agreement a party’s conduct was unconscionable and possessed reckless disregard for the interests of the other parties or if the acquisition of property was on fraudulent and unjust terms.

To learn more about the importance of executing an enforceable financial agreement and the circumstances in which a BFA may be set aside, please read our article.

Contact Us

To ensure your assets and property are protected in the event of a relationship breakdown, we recommend seeking professional legal advice. If you would like to discuss the creation or amendment of a Binding Financial Agreement please contact us on (02) 9963 9800 or via our online contact form.

Family Law – What Happens to Superannuation Upon Separation?

Family Law – What Happens to Superannuation Upon Separation?

When couples separate, a property settlement is one way of determining who owns what assets. This can be straightforward when the assets are clearly defined – such as a house, car, or income. However, assets like superannuation are less clear, and need to be carefully considered.

Types of Superannuation

There are a number of superannuation schemes that have different characteristics. For example, many public servants have what is called a defined benefit, so that when they reach a certain age they will receive either a pension or a lump sum which is preordained. Other people have what we call contribution schemes, in which both themselves and their employers contribute to their superannuation fund over time. Eventually, they will receive back what has been contributed, as well as any interest that has accrued on the fund.

How Does Separation Impact Superannuation?

When you are contemplating a property settlement, it is most important that you try and give your superannuation interest a value. It is sometimes necessary for that interest to be valued by an expert to give it a figure that can be added to the asset pool for division amongst the parties.

In some circumstances, sums of superannuation may be transferred between the parties to a property settlement. For example, if one party has no superannuation, perhaps because they do not work, the property settlement may order that a lump sum from the other party’s settlement be transferred into a new scheme for the first parties benefit.

In other instances, a ‘flag’ can be placed on one party’s superannuation fund. When that party retires, and withdraws their superannuation, an agreed upon lump sum is automatically paid to the other party, rather than the person in whose name the fund is recorded.

Legal Advice

When dealing with superannuation, it is crucial for people to understand that it must be taken into consideration in a property settlement. Property settlement and family law proceedings can often be complex. If you would like further information regarding property settlements or if you have any general family law enquiries, please do not hesitate to contact one of our experienced solicitors on 9963 9800 for a confidential discussion or via our contact form.

Property settlements can be very complex, get legal advice

When dealing with superannuation, it is crucial to understand that it will be taken into consideration in a property settlement. Property settlement and family law proceedings can often be complex. If you would like further information regarding property settlements or if you have any general family law enquiries, please do not hesitate to contact Etheringtons Family Lawyers in North Sydney on 9963 9800 or via the below contact form for a confidential discussion.

Property Settlement in Family Law – How Important are Contributions?

Property Settlement in Family Law – How Important are Contributions?

When a married or de facto couple separate or divorce, a significant part of that process is the separation of assets and liabilities – known in the family law world as “property settlement”. Property settlement in family law encompasses the division of joint assets, protection of assets in only one party’s name, a claim on one party’s assets by another, and any dealings in between. It even involves arraignments as to who gets what piece of furniture or who gets “custody” of a treasured pet.

Property settlement involves figuring out the value of each parties assets and liabilities (joint and not), and then dividing all those net assets in a percentage.

The percentage will shift depending on a number of factors. A significant step in determining who receives what percentage is by considering what contributions each party has made to the marriage or relationship.

The courts consider contributions that are made at the commencement of, during, and after a relationship.

Contributions can be financial or non-financial

Financial contributions are what money and property each party has brought to the relationship. This includes:

  • What both parties had by way of assets (or debts) at the start of the relationship
  • What each party brought in by way of income during the relationship
  • Whether one party received a windfall such as a lottery win or an inheritance
  • Any “wastage” of assets by parties as a non-contribution, such as money spent on gambling or other uses the court considers to be a waste

Non-financial contributions are any contributions that are not financial in nature.

They can include:

  •  Care of children Household duties
  • Undertaking renovations or other works to improve the value of a property

The courts will usually consider a host of other factors to determine property settlement, however, contributions remain a very important part of that process. Usually if a party has no children, or if their relationship or marriage is deemed to be relatively short in duration, contributions will be the most important factor in determining the entitlements for each party upon separation.