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’ll worry about the law and it’s ever-present evolution!
When should I see a lawyer?
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.
If I see a Lawyer, does that mean I have to go to Court?
No. there is no need to go to Court unless there are issues that cannot be agreed between yourself and your former partner.
Integrated Family Law is committed to exploring with you the options best suited to your family and your needs. Commonly we talk about whether it is best to:
- Share with you initial information for you to take further when the time is right.
- Assist you in prompt negotiation and sorting out of the issues at hand
- Document and formalise your agreement
- Act on your behalf in a Court application
- Provide you with ongoing information and advice for a Court application that you run yourself.
How do we sort things out?
The Family Law Act requires all separating couples to attempt to resolve things by agreement.
This involves the simplicity of at least trying to talk through things, trying mediation or even lawyer assisted negotiations, well before even considering applying to a Court.
Mediation can be provided through organisations like Relationships Australia or Uniting Community Care. There are also private mediators (officially known as Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners) available for you to engage. A good place to start investigating mediation options is to call your local Family Relationship Centre for contact details. We can also provide you with mediators that our clients work with.
However, these professionals do not provide legal advice. We recommend that you source your legal adviser before you begin your negotiations, even though you may not engage them to provide services until you are ready to document your agreement.
What if we can’t sort things out?
The Family Law Act doesn’t just encourage people to try to sort things out, it makes it mandatory in most cases. You have to be able to demonstrate that you have tried to sort things out by mediation.
However, if because of family violence, significant communication difficulties or other complex issues you are unable to reach an agreement, then an application can be made directly to the Court for Orders. Most applications are heard by the Federal Circuit Court. The Family Court deals with the most complex matters.
The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court statistics tell us that of all applications that are filed, only about 5% proceed to trial. That means that for the vast majority of people, they will be able to reach an agreement.
For almost all families, it is not really a question of “will it settle”. The real question is “when will it settle”.
How long does it take to go to Court?
If your circumstances are urgent, we can apply to the Court asking that your application is allocated an urgent date. Depending on what is happening this could result in your case being in Court the same day, or in a month or more’s time.
Unfortunately, there is an ever increasing demand on our Court systems. Obviously, the exact time it takes will depend on demand at the time that your application is filed.
Generally, your first Court date will be 6 – 10 weeks from when your application is filed. This is another good reason to get early advice so that you can consider your options as soon as possible.