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.

Child Support – Minding Your Minors

Child Support – Minding Your Minors

When couples separate or divorce, there may be animosity or tension between them. However, when the parties share children, it is crucial that the breakdown of the relationship does not lead to the breakdown of the relationship either of the parents have with their children.

It is useful to aim your focus on what you are trying to achieve for your children both in the short and long term. Children are the primary concern. They did not choose to separate or divorce, and usually they love both parents equally. Your anger and hurt need to take a back seat if you want your children to grow up healthy, happy, and with support from both their parents.

Three effective strategies are:

  1. Focus on your ex’s good points – they will have some – they are what attracted you to them in the first place! This may not be easy, however in the long term it can be vital to achieving a healthy functioning family.
  2. Make harmony your goal. When it is achieved it is likely that both time and money will be saved. Harmony enables us to negotiate both child and parental needs resulting in a win/win situation for all.
  3. Seek advice from legal and counselling Knowledge is power and if used for the good of the family unit can often make the difference between a healthy and balanced family and one that becomes dysfunctional.

Your ex is the mother/father of your children. Your children are a part of you both. How you handle this transition will likely be reflected on how your children handle relationship difficulties as adults.

Seek Advice

 We understand breakdowns in relationships can be difficult and confronting times. If you would like to discuss your family law matter with one of our experienced family law lawyers, please contact us on 9963 9800 or message us here.

Special thanks to Alexandra Roberts, counsellor and psychotherapist for this article. Alexandra can be reached on 02 9929 2977 or 0409 201 604 and has rooms in Berry St, North Sydney.

Top 6 Power of Attorney Questions

Top 6 Power of Attorney Questions

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives a trusted person the legal authority to act for you and to make legally binding decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make these decisions yourself, such as in the case of serious illness. If you do not have a Power of Attorney then you should contact us and find out more.

Below are 6 common Power of Attorney questions that you should know the answers to.

1. In what circumstances is a Power of Attorney important? 

  • To relieve yourself of the day-to-day demands of financial paperwork and record keeping;
  • As a safety net when travelling or to allow someone to handle your affairs in your absence;
  • To avoid burdening family or friends with the responsibility of looking after your affairs; or
  • If you are unable to manage your prosperity or financial affairs.

2. Does the Attorney need to be a lawyer?

The person appointed does not need to have legal qualifications – you can appoint anyone. Deciding on the person to be appointed should be done with careful thought and consideration as you are providing them with significant power.

An ideal attorney should:

  • Have integrity;
  • Be willing to act in that capacity;
  • Have competence in areas of relevance;
  • Be able to act in a business-like manner;
  • Be able to spare the time necessary for the task;
  • Live in the locality in which they are to act;
  • Be agreeable to respecting the confidentiality of the donor’s (the person giving the Power of Attorney) affairs; and
  • Be impartial and have no known conflict of interest.

3. Are there different types of Powers of Attorney?

There are two types of Powers of Attorney.

A General Power of Attorney is:

  • Only valid while the donor has legal capacity;
  • Useful if you are going away for an extended period and you do not want the authority to continue should you lose legal capacity; and
  • Usually drawn up for a specific purpose.

An Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) which:

  • Continues to be valid even if the donor loses legal capacity due to disability or illness;
  • May empower your attorney to make financial, property, lifestyle and health decisions;
  • May be activated when required or upon loss of legal capacity; and
  • Allows your attorney to commence or to continue to manage your affairs even if you have become unable to give lawful instructions.

4. Is it better to have more than one attorney?

We recommend that you do have more than one attorney, or a substitute attorney. Therefore if the appointed attorney cannot act or continue to act, as it gives you more flexibility. Common instances where more than one attorney is appointed include:

  • When siblings are appointed together
  • A spouse and a child are appointed together

You can appoint attorneys to act “jointly” (this means they must agree on everything) or “severally” (this means one of the appointed persons can make decisions alone).

5. Should I pay my attorney?

This is not necessary to give legal effect to the power, and would normally only be considered if the attorney is a professional.

6. How do I know if the donor has sufficient mental capacity to make a power of attorney?

There is no simple formula, but in general terms they must be able to:

  • Understand the major consequences of a decision;
  • Take responsibility for making that choice; and
  • Make a choice based on the risks and benefits that are important to them.

If there is any doubt about capacity, it’s best to get in touch with a medical professional and ask for a written opinion. Remember, different powers require different levels of understanding. If a medical opinion about capacity is sought, it is wise to have the Power of Attorney signed on the same day as you get the medical report so there can be no subsequent claim that the appointment was invalid.

To find out more about Powers of Attorney and their benefits call us on (02) 9963 9800 or via our contact form here.

Relocation After Separation – What you need to know

Relocation After Separation – What you need to know

In family law, one issue which may arise following a relationship separation where children are involved is ‘relocation’. Relocation is the legal term for moving with your child to another town, state or country after a divorce or separation. Relocation may raise issues in relation to parenting arrangements if the moving interferes with the ability of the non-relocating parent to live with or spend time with their child.

It is best that parties try to amicably resolve all issues that will arise as a result of a planned relocation. This agreement can then be formalised in court through the filing of consent orders. If this is not possible, parties may apply to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia for a judicial determination. However, if you relocate without a court order or without the consent of the non-relocating parent, a court may require you and your child to return to your previous location.

The Law on Relocation

Issues around relocation are not explicitly referred to in the Family Law Act 1975. However, the overriding consideration of the Family Court in all matters concerning children, including variations to living arrangements, is determining what is in the best interests of the child. While the issue of relocation is not mentioned in legislation, there are countless court cases which provide guidance.

Factors Considered

There are a variety of factors that the Family Court may consider when determining an application for relocation. Below is a list of potential considerations:

  • Reasons or interests of the parent proposing the relocation
  • The reality of the parents’ circumstances such as the availability of affordable and appropriate housing, employment and family support
  • The impact of the proposed orders on the mental health and wellbeing of each parent
  • The effect the relocation would have on the non-relocating parent’s ability to see their child
  • The nature of the relationship between the child and each parent, as well as any other significant people in the child’s life such as grandparents and extended family
  • The impact the proposed relocation would have on the child’s relationships with their parents and significant people in their life
  • Travel costs of the non-relocating parent to see and spend time with their child
  • Proposals for how the non-relocating parent will be able to spend time with and communicate with their child

The outcome of each case is unique and based on its facts. Therefore, it is difficult to predict the outcome of cases without consulting a legal professional for advice.

Seek Legal Advice

If you have any questions or concerns regarding relocation, we can provide additional information and advice to you regarding your situation. If you would like to discuss your concerns with a legal professional please contact us on (02) 9963 9800 or via our contact form.

Grandparents Rights: Saving your rights to see your grandchildren

Grandparents Rights: Saving your rights to see your grandchildren

In Australia, grandparents have unique legal rights to approach courts to obtain orders which allow them to spend time with their grandchildren.

If you have concerns about the welfare of your grandchildren, you may need guidance about how to help protect them.

What Rights Exist for Grandparents? 

When it comes to family law, grandparents do have some rights. The law’s focus is on the well-being and best-interests of the child. That includes a child’s right to know and have contact with both parents and others seen as significant for their care and development, including grandparents. However, it is important to note that grandparents do not have an automatic right to spend time with their grandchildren; rather they have standing to seek orders from the court.

Parents who are separating often make plans for the future care of their children informally, and will agree on where their children will live. Some may draw up a written parenting plan setting out their arrangements for caring for children. They can make this more formal by registering it with the courts in consent orders.

If you are concerned about your future contact with your grandchildren, you can ask to be included in such plans. If you can’t agree with the separating parents about your future contact with the children, you can apply to the courts for parenting orders yourself.

What Does the Court Consider?

The courts emphasise the importance of children having contact with as much of their wider family as possible and growing up as part of an extended and supportive family group. Grandparents with a close ongoing relationship or who can show they are involved in the children’s welfare can also apply to the courts for parenting orders.

Twenty years ago, in a case where a grandmother had applied to be allowed to have contact with her grandson, the judge stated that “we live in troubled economic times and by way of example, in 20 years’ time, the child may have need for finance in establishing a house, in purchasing a car, in any number of areas. The more people that are loving and close to him and can help him, who feel an obligation towards him, the healthier it would be for the child.”

An order may enable you to have some visits or communicate with your grandchild, perhaps by phone or email. It will be up to the court to decide what should happen, based on what it thinks is in the child’s best interests.

Although you have a right to apply for parenting orders, this does not mean the courts will necessarily decide in your favour.

What is the Process? 

The law requires that families first attend family dispute resolution or mediation before going to court. An independent person trained in helping families will lead these conferences, with the aim of helping everyone come to an agreement.

If mediation fails, you will need legal advice before going to court and a certificate from an accredited dispute resolution practitioner to show you’ve attempted alternative dispute resolution. You also need to find out how strong your case is, what forms and documents you will need to lodge with the court to support your case, what orders you should ask for, which court is better to start the case in, and the costs of taking legal action.

Even if you decide to represent yourself in court, it is important to get legal advice about how to prepare your case.

You can apply to court for your grandchildren to live or spend time with you whether their parents are together or separated. You will not need a certificate of dispute resolution if there is a fear of violence or the matter is urgent, or one party cannot take part in alternate dispute resolution because of a disability.

In cases where there is strong parental opposition to court orders sought by grandparents, a court appointed family consultant may be required to prepare a family report for submission to the court, to assist the court in deciding whether to grant a parenting order for the grandparent.

Contact Us

If you are concerned about your grandchildren’s welfare for any reason, or know people who are, please call us on (02) 9963 9800 or via our contact form.

Freezing Orders: Common Misconceptions

Freezing Orders: Common Misconceptions

We will all be involved in a dispute at some point in our lives. We may even reach a point where we want to take someone to court in order to reach an outcome that we desire.

Have you wondered what happens if the other person is not able to pay up if you win against them? If you reasonably believe that the other person is going to sell their property in an attempt to avoid paying if they lose a court dispute, asset freezing orders (also known as asset preservation orders or Mareva orders) are one way to make sure your opponent has enough resources to meet a judgment against them.

There are lots of misconceptions about when and how you can get an asset freezing order.

Myth 1: Their purpose is to seek security for a pending judgment

Too often, applications for a freezing order are made with the sole intention of seeking security for a judgment which a plaintiff hopes to gain in the future. There are certain requirements you must meet before the court will make a freezing order.

Myth 2: They’re easily lodged with few requirements

This is an extreme order which will not be granted lightly. There are a variety of requirements that must be satisfied before the court will allow the order.

  1. Firstly, there is a minimum standard to which the case must be The case must be a ‘good arguable case’, that is, you must be able to convince the court that you have a serious issue to be tried by the court.
  2. Next, the plaintiff must prove that there is a real danger that the other person may dispose of their assets in order to avoid paying if you win. You will be required to provide significant evidence to support this claim. Any judge hearing such an application will ask: ‘is there an imminent transaction and have you given notice to the other side?’
  3. Finally, the court will also consider the nature of the defendant’s assets – for example they may consider the financial standing of the defendant, including their credit history.

Myth 3: You can freeze all assets held by the respondent

When applying for a freezing order, the plaintiff cannot simply request a blanket freezing order over all of the known assets a defendant possesses. The value of the assets covered by the freezing order cannot exceed the likely maximum amount of the reasonable claim by the plaintiff.

The order must also exclude assets for dealings by the respondent for legitimate purposes. This may include payments for ordinary living, business expenses or dealings in the discharge of contractual obligations, that were incurred before the freezing order was made.

Seeking legal advice 

It is imperative that you are accurately informed of the obligations and requirements of a freezing order before lodging an order with the court. If you would like further information regarding freezing orders or general litigation advice, please do not hesitate to contact one of our experienced litigation solicitors on 9963 9800 or via our contact form.