Understanding the Family Law Process
by Laura Costello
Family law in Australia encompasses divorce proceedings, financial proceedings and parental cases. Family law matters are often a considerably stressful and emotional time for all parties involved. It is therefore essential to seek the advice of a Melbourne Family Lawyer, to gain a better understanding of the family law process.
In Australia, the family law process has been modified to recognize the complexities involved in family law matters. The process recognizes that often young children are involved, and that maintaining a workable relationship is imperative for many families to move forward. Read on to find out how the family law process works, and how it can help your family during a dispute.
There are a number of legal considerations to address when proceeding with a divorce. In fact, there are specific requirements that need to be proven before an individual can file for divorce. It is therefore essential to consult with an experienced family lawyer at the beginning of a period of separation, in order to ensure that these requirements are met, and that you can proceed to a divorce proceeding if you decide to do so.
In Australia we practice under the concept of ‘no-fault divorce’. This means that the Court does not consider why the marriage has ended as a grounds for granting a divorce. Before you can apply for a divorce, you will need to satisfy the Court that you and your spouse have lived separately and apart for at least 12 months. You will also need to satisfy the court that there is no reasonable likelihood of a reunion. Many people are surprised to discover that granting a divorce does not determine any issues regarding property distribution, parenting arrangement or the finalization of a financial settlement.
The Division of Assets
In most situations it is best to arrange the division of any assets outside of the court. This can be done privately, or with the assistance of lawyers. You can then apply to have the resolution formalized by the court.
However, if you cannot agree on an arrangement privately, you can apply to the court for financial orders. In this instance, both parties will make submissions regarding their individual finances, and any costs that were shared and will continue to be shared by both parties. These costs commonly include school fees and other maintenance fees for shared children. There is no formula used to divide assets, or used to determine any amounts of ongoing spousal maintenance. This means that the court can consider the circumstances of each case individually, and grant a fair and equitable division for both parties involved.
The division of finances and other assets can be the most complex component of a marriage breakdown. This is due to the fact that in most marriages, finances and assets become mixed between both parties. The family law process understands this, and the court will seek to finalize an equitable division of finances. It will also ensure that both parties will be able to proceed on an individual income or with adequate maintenance payments, without falling into hard times.
Any matters involving the custody of children and ongoing financial support of children, are normally heard in the Family Court. If you and your former spouse cannot agree on arrangements for your children, you can apply for a parenting order to be made.
A parenting order will determine the following arrangements:
- Custody arrangements: how the child will divide their time between each parent
- Parental decision-making
- Child Support
It is important to understand that the Family Court has a duty above all else, to ensure that any decisions made are in the best interests of the children. This means that a primary goal of the court is to find a resolution that will allow the child to continue their strong relationships with both parents.
Understanding the family law process is integral in order to minimize anxiety, and to ensure that your rights are upheld throughout the process.
About the Author
Laura is in her final year of a Bachelor of Law/International Relations at Latrobe University. Currently writing for a Melbourne Family Lawyer, Laura is passionate about assisting individuals and families through difficult times.