Family Law is the system that exists within the law to help people resolve the legal aspects that come about in relation to family and relationship breakdown.
Family Law – The Basics
It is a reality for many that our adult relationships do not last for our whole lives. After 15 years of being involved with families as one relationship ends, or perhaps another is beginning, we have learned that there is no one single approach for everyone. For some families, a separation is an extraordinarily difficult transition. For others, it is a respectful and yet strained time, and for some families, it is quite simply a time to focus on safety.
You can feel comforted by the fact that we are committed to assisting you and your family come through this time as quickly as possible, steered towards a better future.
The law for separated families is governed by the Family Law Act 1975. The Family Law Act is a piece of legislation continually under review.
We are used to a legal world in which the landscape is constantly changing. You focus on yourself, your changes, and your family, and we will worry about the law and its ever-present evolution!
Early advice is always the best! We are quite comfortable to meet with you for some initial analysis and information, even if it is well before you want to do anything. In fact, we will not allow you to engage our services until the time is right.
How are Family Law Issues Resolved?
We know that everyone wants to know “where do I stand”. However, the much more difficult question to deal with is “how will I get there”.
Fortunately, family law is an area where there has been a lot of work done on making sure there are a wide range of what we call dispute resolution options. Which basically means there are different ways to try and get things sorted out for you.
We are able to assist with you with the dispute resolution option that is best for you.
This is the tried and true method of exchanging information and ideas for settling things. Lawyers would describe this as making offers of settlement. You don’t need a lawyer involved to negotiate. This can begin by just having a discussion with your former partner about options and seeing how far those discussions can go.
However, you may not be confident that you understand the issues well or perhaps you are just tired of trying to have what has become a repeated conversation with your former partner.
We find those are the most common situations when we are asked to begin negotiating on behalf of our client.
There is a form of legal practice called collaborative law. Family Law is an area that is well suited for collaboration. Instead of seeing the matter as two sides trying to come to a resolution, instead the overall outcome is seen as a joint project to work on. Collaborative law involves signing an agreement that you won’t go to Court, and can include other experts working together with the collaborative team. This can include people like accountants, counsellors, and financial planners.
A mediation is a meeting that is hosted by a trained and accredited mediator. The mediator is not a decision maker and remains impartial to the matter. They are trained to assist with the discussions and to help with problem solving ideas. It is still up to the parties to reach an agreement (or not). There are mediations with lawyers and mediations without lawyers.
There are some mediation services that are provided with free or minimal fees, as they are supported by government funding. There are also private mediators that are more often used in matters where the matter has gone further down the “legal dispute” path.
Arbitration is a process that can be a bit like going to a “private court”. Instead of waiting until a Judge is available to hear and decide your case in a traditional Court, you can choose on a voluntary basis to participate in an arbitration. This will result in a quicker decision being made and will therefore save legal fees. An arbitration involves your case being prepared in as much detail as if you were going to court, but you are instead asking a qualified Arbitrator to make the decision about the issues in dispute. Arbitration decisions are legally binding, and like a court decision can only be appealed on points of law.
This is the formal name for “going to Court” as a dispute resolution option. You cannot go to Court for a parenting matter until you have a mediation certificate, and you should not go to Court for a property settlement matter until you have made genuine attempts to resolve the matter, including mediation or arbitration. Most family law matters are dealt with in the Federal Circuit Court, with the most complex matters being dealt with in the Family Court.
When an application is filed, it doesn’t go straight to a Judge for a final hearing. There are a number of preliminary steps and can be multiple interim hearings before the case is listed for trial. The Court can also order that you attend mediation, as an attempt to either limit the issues in dispute or to potentially resolve the matter. It can realistically be anywhere between 1 to 2 years after a case begins before it has a trial or final hearing date.