ARE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS IN BREACH OF THE FAMILY LAW ACT?

In the age of social media, it has become commonplace to use outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to vent our everyday frustrations, and quite often, these involve ex-partners.

Whilst it is understandable that the breakdown of a relationship is an emotional process, social media may not be the best place to vent to or seek comfort from family and friends if you are in the midst of a family law matter. A seemingly casual Facebook post may amount to a breach of section 121 of the Family Law Act if it identifies a party to proceedings before the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court, or a person who is in any way involved in the matter.

Common Misconceptions

Myth: It will be fine as long as I don’t mention my ex-partner’s name.

Reality: A person is taken to be ‘identified’ if the information given is sufficient to make it known to the public (or your Facebook friends, as the case may be) who that person is. This includes a physical description, an address, or even words such as “my ex”.

Myth: I’m allowed to post about my family law matters on social media if I only state facts, not opinions.

Reality: Your post does not have to be malicious or derogatory. As long it identifies a party to the proceedings, or a person who is in any way involved in the matter, it will amount to a breach of the Family Law Act.

Myth: My account is private so I can post whatever I want.

Reality: Even if your account is private, it is advisable not to post anything relating to your family law matters because these posts can still be seen by your “friends” and there is always a chance they could make it out to the general public.

Consequences

The consequences of a breach of section 121 are twofold: not only is there is a high risk that the contents of your post could be taken out of context and used against you in evidence in your family law matter; it is also an offence punishable by imprisonment for up to one year.

Suggestions

  • If in doubt, don’t post it.
  • Don’t respond to any comments or questions that your friends make about your family law matter on social media, and delete these comments as soon as possible.
  • If possible, refrain from using social media altogether until your family law matter is finalised.

Should you require assistance with any family law matters please contact one our family lawyers today on (07) 5591 5099.

Author: Shona Sahay

Director: Sophie Pearson

Date: 31/08/2017

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Family Court dismisses appeal by Wife seeking bigger share of blind Husband’s $622,842 lottery win

In a very recent decision, the Full Court of the Family Court of Australia sitting in Melbourne has dismissed a Wife’s appeal seeking a greater share of the property pool, made up primarily of the Husband’s lottery winnings. The case, Elford & Elford [2016] FamCAFC 45, is an important decision where the Court has found, having regard to the particular circumstances of the case, that the Husband’s lottery winnings, won during the relationship, was a contribution made solely by him.

This case involved a 68 year Husband, who was 22 years old than his 47 year old wife. The parties commenced living together in 2003, married in 2007 and separated in 2012. During their cohabitation, and one year into the relationship, the Husband purchased a lottery ticket, from his own source of funds and won $622,842. The Husband invested the monies and did not share the monies with the Wife or otherwise apply the monies to the relationship. Relevantly in this matter both parties kept their finances separate during their 9 year relationship. The Wife had a property and mortgage in her sole name and credit card debt in her own name.

During the relationship the Husband inherited an amount of $190,000 from his late mother’s estate. Again the Husband did not share the monies with the Wife or apply the monies to the relationship.

An important issue for the Court to take into account in this matter was the ill health of the Husband. The Husband had suffered a stroke in 2011 which left him blind and unable to drive or to read. It was approximately 12 months later that the parties separated.

When the matter was first before the Federal Circuit Court in 2014, the property pool consisted of:

Husband’s home                                                         $ 345,000

Husband’s bank balances and investments          $ 960,000

Wife’s home                                                                 $ 269,000

Wife’s mortgage                                                         ($ 234,575)

Wife’s superannuation                                               $ 67,189

Wife’s credit card and loan                                       ($ 21,000)

The Wife sought an Order that she receive 32% of the property pool. Unfortunately for the Wife, Judge Roberts of the Federal Circuit Court did not agree and ordered that the Wife receive 10% of the $1,400,000 property pool. This meant that the Wife was to receive a payment by the Husband in the amount of $51,000. The Wife being unhappy with the decision, appealed to the Full Court of the Family Court.

The Full Court of the Family Court, upheld the decision of Judge Roberts, meaning the Wife was only to receive the payment of $51,000 from the Husband and no more.

As part of the Wife’s appeal, the Wife argued that Judge Roberts should have found that the lottery winnings were a ‘joint contribution’. If this argument was accepted it would follow that the Wife would receive a greater share of the property pool, or put simply, a bigger cash payment from the Husband. The Full Court did not accept this argument, and at paragraph 42 of their Judgment, noted:-

‘In her Affidavit the wife said: “[The husband] claims that this [lottery] win comprises his sole contribution. I claim it is a joint contribution made during the period of our relationship.” She was asked in cross-examination how it could be considered to be a “joint contribution”, and her answer was: “Because we were in a relationship”. When questioned further she conceded that:

  • she did not contribute financially towards the purchase of the ticket;
  • she did not pick the winning numbers;
  • the husband had been buying weekly tickets with those numbers since 1995;
  • she and the husband had been in a relationship for less than a year when his ticket was a winner;
  • the winning ticket had been in the husband’s sole name; and
  • the funds had been paid into the husband’s bank account.

What we can take from this decision is that there are circumstances where the Court will treat a lottery win, won during the course of a relationship as a ‘sole contribution’. If you would like to read the full decision, please follow this link:

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/FamCAFC/2016/45.html

At McLaughlins Lawyers, your Family Lawyers on the Gold Coast, we are able to provide you with practical family law advice for your individual circumstances and needs. We invite you to call our office on (07) 5591 5099 to speak to one of our family lawyers today.

Author: Nicole Fitzgibbon

Partner: Sophie Pearson

Date: 11/04/2016

Posted in Family, Matrimonial | Leave a comment

Collaborative Law

Sophie Pearson was one of the first trained collaborative professionals, completing her training in 2006, at the time Queensland Collaborative Law commenced.

Collaborative Law is a term reasonably new to the Australian “divorce” process, but is gaining momentum in Australia as one of the most respectful ways to separate.

What is Collaborative Law?

The values of Collaborative Law are integrity, human relationships and connections, and trust. Collaborative Law focuses on resolution and minimises conflict where spouses and former partners, their collaboratively trained lawyers, and other collaborative professionals working with the family such as, psychologists, financial advisers, and accountants, agree to resolve all issues of their case without the intervention of the Court.

The collaborative lawyers and the collaborative team work together with you to shape an agreement making considered decisions for the benefit of the family as a whole.

How does Collaborative Law Work?

Both parties have an initial meeting with their respective lawyers to obtain advice regarding the Collaborative Law process, and to identify the issues that are important to them.

The parties and their lawyers then come together in a four way meeting which includes you, your spouse or partner, and each of your lawyers to reach a settlement. There are often a series of four way meetings to reach the resolution where all issues are discussed in an open and non-confrontational manner.

Trained collaborative lawyers support the negotiations by providing the parties with not only the structure to facilitate the agreement, but also the benefit of their skills, advice and support. With this assistance, in an atmosphere of openness and honesty, couples can communicate their respective needs and work towards securing their future.

Is my Case Suitable for Collaborative Law?

Not all matters are suitable for Collaborative Law. Collaborative Law is an option for you and your spouse or partner if you:

  • Wish to spare your children from the emotional damage litigation can cause
  • Accept personal responsibility in moving forward and reaching agreement
  • Believe it is important to create healthy and more holistic solutions for your family
  • Understand and embrace the necessity to make full and frank disclosure about financial issues.

Collaborative Law is not a suitable option where:

  • Your primary aim is to seek revenge against your former spouse or partner
  • You are looking forward an easy way out
  • You think the procedure will enable you to pressure your spouse or partner to agree to your wishes
  • You want to avoid giving certain financial information to your spouse or partner
  • Where there has been a history of domestic violence or any form of abuse, the lawyers will first have to determine whether the collaborative process is suitable. It may be that other professionals will be required to be involved to assist and support you through the process, and to ensure that your interests are promoted and protected with no imbalance in negotiated power

What are the Advantages of Collaborative Law?

  • You keep control of the process, whether negotiating property and/or parenting matters
  • You avoid going to court
  • Your children(s) needs are given priority
  • The solution fits you and your family
  • You are focused on settlement rather than being focused on going to war at court

Divorce and separation are facts of life for about half of all marriages and relationships. Unfortunately, the personal turmoil that accompanies the end of the relationships is equally widespread. Increasingly, we are asked why the separation and divorce process is so devastating. Diminished self esteem, persistent hostility, reduced productivity and strained relationships amongst spouses and their children often result.

Too often, separation and divorce become a declaration of war. When children are involved, they may feel the hurt deepest and longest.

A growing number of lawyers and counsellors have made a commitment to offering separating couples an alternative to this picture.

Collaborative practice is a solutions-oriented approach that seeks to preserve the long term interests of families. It differs from conventional separation and divorce methods, in that couples pledge in writing to work towards an agreement without going to Court.

The collaborative practice offers spouses and their lawyers the option of an expanded team, including divorce coaches, communications experts, child specialists and financial consultants to help focus on what is truly important for the future.

Separation and divorce will always remain a significant life event, but the collaborative practice can help the individuals and families move beyond the pain to feel whole again.

We can help families make the separation and divorce process a more peaceful transition to a new life.

McLaughlins is the Gold Coast’s oldest Law Firm with professional and approachable Lawyers providing the highest standard of innovative legal services.  Our promise to you is to be honest and trustworthy, reliable, professional, approachable, and supportive and to provide value for money.

If you require legal assistance with family law matters please contact our family law department at McLaughlins Lawyers.  

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Court and Queensland Parliament taking tough stance against Domestic Violence

Domestic violence has been at the forefront of the Australian media in recent months.

Recently amongst the stories making headlines, a South Australian Judge, His Honour Judge Muscat, has sentenced domestic violence perpetrator, Mr Andrew Ritter, to over six years jail with a non-parole period of five years for two assaults against his ex-partner who he had been in a relationship with for about two years. Mr Ritter pleaded guilty on both counts.

His Honour heard that Mr Ritter punched, slapped and spat on his ex-partner who feared reporting this to the police because of Mr Ritter’s threats to hurt her and her children. Mr Ritter accused his ex-partner of having affairs behind his back and had taken control of her finances to buy himself alcohol and drugs. Mr Ritter’s ex-partner would flee the violence by hiding in a local soccer ground, playground or cemetery where she sometimes slept out of fear of returning home.

Whilst sentencing Mr Ritter, His Honour remarked that Mr Ritter is “morally weak for beating her up so regularly and treating her badly…, weak for not taking control of [his] drug and alcohol problem… [and] weak for not controlling [his] aggression.” His Honour said that the case was the worst he had seen with respect to domestic violence, and that no man was ever justified in any way or under any circumstance to physically or emotionally abuse their girlfriends or domestic partners. His Honour said that society rightly looks to the courts to protect women from men such as Mr Ritter, and that “no longer will society simply stand in silence whilst men continue to beat and abuse their girlfriends, partners and wives. Strong deterrent sentences are necessary to demonstrate to perpetrators of violence against women that society, through its courts, will not tolerate such behaviour“.

The Queensland Parliament is also responding with Queensland Attorney-General Ms Yvette D’Ath recently introducing a bill to amend domestic violence laws to address growing concerns. Ms D’Ath commented on the bill stating that it “provides a strong framework from which to effect real change and prevent future domestic and family violence deaths…”, and that “despite efforts to reduce domestic and family violence, on average two women die in Australia each week at the hands of a violent partner, husband or father“. The bill had the bipartisan support of the Queensland Parliament.

The Criminal Law (Domestic Violence) Amendment Act took effect on 1 December 2015 and has increased the maximum penalty for contraventions of a domestic violence orders from two years to three years imprisonment. The maximum penalty for respondent’s who have been previously convicted of a domestic violence offence has increased from 3 years to 5 years imprisonment.

The Bill also amends the Queensland Evidence Act such that persons against whom domestic violence has been or is alleged to have been committed may be treated as a special witness when giving evidence. This gives the court discretion to exclude the person charged or the other party from the room whilst the court is sitting or be obscured from the view of the special witness while the special witness is giving evidence. This applies to both domestic violence and criminal proceedings.

It is hoped by all that the recent changes to our legislation will see a decrease in the prevalence of domestic violence in Queensland and the rest of the nation.

Should you find yourself in need of a lawyer on the Gold Coast to assist with domestic violence and/or family law matters please contact our experienced team at McLaughlins Lawyers today on (07) 5591 5099.

Author: Elise Foote

Partner: Sophie Pearson

Date: 08/12/2015

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“I am not sure I am the father and I am paying child support” – What are my rights?

There are occasions where a person is assessed by the Child Support Agency (CSA) to pay child support in circumstances where they are not sure they are the father of the child. The CSA will only make an assessment for a person to pay child support if they are satisfied that they are the parent of the child. The CSA is able to satisfy themselves of this if there is a presumption of parentage.

Under the Family Law Act 1975 there is a presumption that you are the father of a child if any of the following apply:-

You and the mother were married when the child was born.

  1. You and the mother were living together in the period beginning not earlier than 44 weeks and not ending less that 20 weeks before the birth of the child;
  2. Your name is on the child’s Birth Certificate.
  3. A Court has made a finding that you are the parent of the child.
  4. You have executed an instrument acknowledging you are the father of the child.

The CSA can further accept a child support application where a person is a parent under the Family Law Act 1975,such as where the child was born as a result of artificial conception, surrogacy or to recognised same-sex couples or where a person has adopted the child.

If you believe that the CSA has made a mistake as none of the above apply you can object to the assessment. There are strict timeframes that apply for parties to lodge their objection.

Alternately you may be able to agree with the mother independently to undergo DNA testing so that you can satisfy yourselves that you are or you are not the father. However you need to be aware that DNA test results are not binding on the CSA and your obligation to pay child support will only end if the mother agrees for it to end or there is a declaration made pursuant to Order 107 of the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 that a person should not be assessed in respect of the costs of the child because they are not a parent of the child.

In the event that you are unable to lodge an objection to the CSA as one of the criteria apply or your objection has been otherwise been refused, you can make an Application to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia or the Family Court of Australia and seek a declaration pursuant to Order 107 of the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 that you are not assessed to pay child support as you are not a parent of the child. When you make the Application to the Court you can seek an Order that you, the mother and the child undergo DNA testing.

If you require assistance in objecting to a child support assessment or making an application to the Court for a declaration to end your child support liability, please contact one of our experienced Gold Coast Family Lawyers today by phoning (07) 5591 5099.

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“Notice of Risk” – Compulsory from 12 January 2015

Under the Family Law Act, parties are required to file a “Notice of Risk” if they allege that a child has been abused or is at risk of being abuse, or if there has been family violence between the parties or there is a risk of family violence.

From 12 January 2015, each parenting application filed in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia must have a Notice of Risk filed.  This Notice is a way to facilitate screening of matters in the Court to identify various risk factors at the earliest opportunity and to aid the effective early intervention case management pathway of the Federal Circuit Court.

The Notice of Risk is designed to identify a wide range of risks to children in parenting proceedings including mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, parental incapacity and other risk factors.  The Notice will also enable more timely notification to relevant child protection authorities.

If you have any queries regarding your parenting matters, or questions surrounding bringing a parenting application in the Court, please contact a member of our family law team.

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Independent Children’s Lawyers

The role of the Independent Children’s Lawyer is to assist the Court in making Orders which are in the best interests of the child.

An Independent Children’s Lawyer will not be appointed in all parenting matters before the Court, however either party can seek the appointment of an Independent Children’s Lawyer or otherwise they may be appointed by the Court on their own initiative.

Circumstances where an Independent Children’s Lawyer may be appointed include matters where:-

  • There are allegations made of child abuse;
  • There is an apparent intractable dispute or high level of dispute between the parties;
  • There are issues of cultural or religious differences between the parties affecting the child;
  • There are issues relating to either the parties or the child with respect to significant medical, psychiatric or psychological illness;
  • Where there is a proposal to separate siblings; and
  • Where neither party to the proceedings is legally represented.

What does the Independent Children’s Lawyer do?

As the role of the Independent Children’s Lawyer is to represent the child’s best interest, they are required to gather information to enable them to form a view as to what Orders are in the best interests for the child. There are many ways the Independent Children’s Lawyer can gather this information which includes asking the Court for a Family Report (see: family reports in children’s matters http://www.mclaughlins.com.au/family-reports-childrens-matters/) to be prepared, issue subpoenas to government departments and the children’s school, doctors and the like, speak to the child’s teacher and in some circumstances speak to the child directly.

Can I talk to the Independent Children’s Lawyer?

If you have solicitors acting for your behalf in your parenting matter you must have your own lawyer contact the Independent Children’s Lawyer, you are unable to contact them directly.

If you are self acting, when the Independent Children’s Lawyer is appointed, they will write to you and the other party or their solicitor and provide their contact details. You may then contact the Independent Children’s Lawyer with issues you wish to raise with respect to the parenting matter.

Do I have to pay for the Independent Children’s Lawyer?

Usually Legal Aid Queensland will pay the entire costs for the Independent Children’s Lawyer. There are some circumstances where Legal Aid Queensland may ask a party to contribute to the costs of the Independent Children’s Lawyer, and this is in cases where there financial circumstances permit a party to do so, or by Order of the Court.

If you have any further questions regarding Independent Children’s Lawyers or questions about parenting matters contact the family law team at McLaughlins Lawyers today on (07) 5591 5099.

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What’s the worst that could happen if I don’t comply with parenting orders?

The judgment of Ridgely & Stiller [2014]FCCA2668 is a sobering reminder of how a Court can deal with parenting arrangements and what the consequences are of not putting a child’s best interests before the parents’ own interest.

Judge Bender of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia heard Mr Ridgely’s application for parenting orders in relation to his 8 year old daughter.  Mr Ridgely wanted his daughter to live with him and spend essentially alternate weekends and holiday time with her mother.  Ms Stiller wanted the opposite – that is, their daughter to live with her, and spend alternate weekends and holidays with her father which had been the arrangements for some time.  Judge Bender made orders in favour of Mr Ridgely.

So the question is – why did the Court make orders that were so different to what the 8 year old had been used to for more than 6 years?

There was a history of litigation between the parents, with the proceedings first commenced by Mr Ridgely in September 2008.  Orders had been made on an interim basis, with final parenting orders being made on 7 September 2009.  These orders provided for the little girl to live with her mother and spend time with her father, graduating over time to alternate weekends, a mid week evening and half of school holidays.  On 16 September 2012, the mother unilaterally suspended Mr Ridgely’s time with the little girl.  Ms Stiller alleged that Mr Ridgely had threatened her and bruised her arm at a changeover.  The suspension of time caused Mr Ridgely to file a further contravention application and then a further application seeking orders for the daughter to ultimately live with him.  The parties were able to reach agreement and entered into parenting orders on 18 April 2013 which provided for the daughter to live with Ms Stiller but spend 5 nights each fortnight with her father, and half of the school holidays.  Between September 2012 and 18 April 2013, the little girl had spent no time with her father.  Ms Stiller then filed an application on 13 June 2013 seeking orders to reduce the father’s time with their daughter.  The basis of her application was that their daughter was not coping well with the increase in time with her father pursuant to the Orders of 18 April 2013.  This caused a number of events to transpire – a further family report was prepared, interim orders were made for the daughter to see her father and the family was sent to participate in family therapy.  The second family report recommended that unless the Court could be satisfied that Ms Stiller would facilitate the little girl spending time with her father, that the Court should make orders for her to live with her father and only spend time with her mother.  Again, during this litigation process, the little girl had not spent time with her father from 17 July 2013 until 17 April 2014.

Mr Ridgely’s position was that Ms Stiller could not, and would not, support his relationship with their daughter.  Mr Ridgely gave evidence that in his view, Ms Stiller could see no benefit in their daughter having a relationship with her father.  Mr Ridgely’s position was that if the little girl were to live with him, he would ensure she spent time with Ms Stiller and that he would encourage her relationship with her mother.  He said that if the little girl were to remain living with Ms Stiller, there would continue to be periods of time where Ms Stiller would not facilitate his time with their daughter and that Ms Stiller could not encourage her relationship with her father.

Ms Stiller’s position was that the arrangements as they were should stay in place (that is, the little girl live with her and spend time with her father).  Ms Stiller said she did understand it was important for the little girl to have a relationship with her father and that she would encourage that relationship and comply with Court orders in the future.

When explaining why she had unilaterally ceased time with the father previously, the mother gave evidence that at a changeover the father had grabber her arm so hard it bruised her and that he had threatened to kill her.  Ms Stiller said this caused the little girl to become fearful of the father and refuse to spend time with him.  In the course of the litigation evidence was given from a police officer who Ms Stiller had reported the event to, and it seemed that the mother had changed her version of events and that she had not at first instance reported bruising or a threat to kill.  The mother then attended upon another police station, and reported the bruising and threat to kill, an inconsistent version of events.  The father denied these events.  When questioned as to why she agreed to the consent orders in April 2013 which saw the father spend 5 nights a fortnight with the little girl and holiday time, Ms Stiller said she was under pressure from her legal representatives, and that at no time did she believe the arrangements were in her daughter’s best interests.  Ms Stiller was also asked as to why she would attend at the school on days when Mr Ridgely was to collect the little girl, and would also have her mother and sister with her (the maternal grandmother and the maternal aunt).  Ms Stiller gave evidence that it was to help their daughter as she was distressed by the idea of going with Mr Ridgely.  The Mother was also asked why she would not encourage the child to go with Mr Ridgely from a Contact Centre, and why she would have the little girl sit on her lap and not encourage her to go.  Ms Stiller was questioned as to whether there was any reason for the little girl to be afraid of her father.  The only reason the mother gave was that she was afraid that he might take her away from her mother.  Ms Stiller was asked why she had cancelled a number of appointments with a therapeutic counsellor who was working with the parties to rebuild the father’s relationship with the little girl.  Ms Stiller said that she had gained employment which prevented her from attending.

The therapeutic counsellor gave evidence that Ms Stiller’s complaints of the father were extremely trivial.  The counsellor also undertook a number of observation exercises, which caused her to form a view that the child was receiving very powerful messages from Ms Stiller that she was uncomfortable about the child spending time with Mr Ridgely.  From a psychological perspective, the counsellor made observations that the child felt disloyal to Ms Stiller and was betraying her if she was to act naturally and relaxed with her father.  The counsellor gave evidence that it was in the child’s best interests to live with the father, and that she could thrive in the father’s household.  The family report writer also gave evidence that the child’s fearfulness of her father did not arise from the father’s actions, but rather from information supplied by the mother.  The family report writer observed the child to appear not to have permission from the mother to either have or enjoy a relationship with her father, and that the mother’s interference had worsened over time.  The family report writer also gave evidence as to the impact the mother’s behaviour was having on the little girl.  She reported the child as presenting as being under enormous pressure, and that she was very distressed.  One comment made by the report writer was “X wants the opportunity to love both parents simultaneously and she reflects herself as being pecked to death by her parent’s incessant questioning and the requirement she conform to her mother’s wishes”.  The family report writer also supported the position that the child live with the father.

Ultimately the Court found that the child had been able to maintain a positive relationship with the father, notwithstanding the periods of time when she had not seen her father.  The Court also found that it was the mother’s inability to support the child’s relationship with the father that went “to the very heart of the matter“.

When determining a parenting matter, the Court looks to the framework established by the Family Law Act 1975 and case law.  Generally (and there are exceptions) it is in a child’s best interests to have a meaningful relationship with both parents.  Judge Bender found that in this case.  The concern for Judge Bender was whether the mother could facilitate the child having this meaningful relationship with her father.  The Court was also concerned that the mother was exposing the child to psychological harm.  Both the counsellor and the family report writer supported this position.

The Court found that the mother had for many years actively interfered with the child’s time with her father, and that the mother continually perpetuates her very negative views of the father to the child.  The Court had previously tried to minimise the child’s distress by making orders for changeover at a contact centre or school, but the mother continued to interfere with this process.

When making Orders, Judge Bender made comment that for the Court to take the somewhat drastic step to change a child’s primary carer… there must be very compelling reasons.  The Court was satisfied that this was one of those cases.  The Court ultimately found that the only way the little girl could have a meaningful relationship with both her parents, was to live with her father.

If you have any questions regarding your parenting arrangements, please contact one of our family lawyers.  In the busy lead up to Christmas we are making sure to keep availability to meet with new clients and have 3 lawyers available – Sophie Pearson, partner; Rebecca Barron, associate and Nicole Fitzgibbon, solicitor.

Posted in Children, Collaborative Law, Family, Matrimonial | Leave a comment

Blake & Sam…. the fairy tale is over but what have we learnt? (Lessons from The Bachelor)

No doubt some of you have been watching this season of The Bachelor intently, and it seems that it will continue to peak interest even after the show has ended.  Hearts have been broken, engagement rings have gone missing (maybe?) and social media followers have flocked to see every photograph or comment posted by the Bachelor, or the Bachelorettes.

This has got me thinking… what valuable family law lessons can we take from The Bachelor when exiting relationships?  Here are my top 3 tips from Blake and his ladies:

  1. Everyone will have an opinion about your relationship ending

As we’ve seen from the ratings peak for The Project’s interview with Blake and Sam, people are interested in the end of relationships.  They want to talk about it, share their views and experiences, and sometimes people will take sides – #teamblake #teamsam for example.

In ordinary everyday Australia, when people’s relationships end, others are interested to find out what happened, and will offer their opinion and perspective to you.  Particularly with financial settlements or parenting arrangements following the breakdown of a relationship, your friends, family and acquaintances will offer their opinion as to what should happen with your property settlement, how much you should get, what time the kids should spend with each parent and so on.

While these views are often given in a well meaning way, and from a place of love and support, it is important to bear in mind that the views of your friends and family are coloured with their experiences of your ex-partner or ex-spouse and also their experiences in life (i.e. perhaps their own separation).

When contemplating seeking legal advice, do your research and find a lawyer that you are comfortable with and that practices in family law.  Build a relationship of trust and respect with your lawyer, so that you are confident in their advices – even when others may be telling you that you’re worth “at least 70%” or that your ex-spouse can only expect every other weekend with the children.

  1. Look after yourself during difficult times

We’ve learnt from the bachelorettes to band together and support each other in a time of crisis.  We’re watching the photographs being posted to Instagram of the ladies coming together to support Sam and the public support for her is overwhelming.  A support network is invaluable after a separation, to help with child care or simply to be a shoulder to cry on.  Let people be on #team(you), but keep point 1 in mind.

It’s important to keep well – physically and mentally.  During a family law matter, you will have times of stress and frustration and you will have an easier time managing the stress and frustration if you are as well as you can be.  For parents, it’s a natural instinct to take care of the children, but you should also take care of yourself and be kind to yourself.  This could be simple things like taking time for you by walking the dog alone, or escaping to watch a movie.  Perhaps you might even take yourself out to dinner – #dirtystreetpie perhaps?

  1. The impact a new partner can have

It seems from media releases that The Bachelor has rekindled a relationship with one of the Top 3 Bachelorettes and no doubt there will be much discussion of this new relationship in the media.

Sometimes relationships end because there’s been someone else.  Sometimes, people start a new relationship very quickly after leaving the last relationship.  This can have huge impacts on family law matters.  Sometimes a new partner can distract people from finalising their financial relationship, or for separated parents a new partner can impact upon their co-parenting relationship or the time their children will spend with that new partner.

It’s a very difficult position to be in, and to manage the impact a new partner can have on the end of your relationship, it’s good to refer back to points 1 and 2 – whilst it’s lovely to hear the comments and opinions from your support network, try to listen with some objectivity and also, continue to take care of yourself and not become distressed by the new partner’s involvement with your ex.

To talk with one of our family lawyers, please call (07) 5591 5099 or go to our website www.mclaughlins.com.au.

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Overseas travel for separated families – some things to consider

With Christmas only 6 weeks away and school holidays looming many parents will be thinking about holidays and domestic and overseas travel. It is timely to think about your rights and obligations as a parent who seeks to travel overseas with your children.

The first hurdle can often be having passports issued for the children. If the children do not already hold passports then both parents are required to sign an application seeking the passport is issued and if one parent refuses then the passport office will not issue passports for the children.  The parent who wants the passports so they can travel will need to make an Application to the Court and seek the other parent sign an application for the passport and if they refuse then the court sign on their behalf. When making such applications parents also need to think about the types of orders they need for travel, for example if there are any restrictions on where a parent can travel, who is to hold the passport and how long can the travel be for to name a few.

It is important to be aware that if there are court proceedings underway or there are parenting orders already in place which do not provide for overseas travel then pursuant to Section 65Y of the Family Law Act the parent who wishes to travel overseas with the children must first obtain the written consent of the other party before removing the child from the country, even if it is for a short holiday.  If you are unable to obtain that written consent from the other parent then you again must turn to the Courts and make an Application for the travel orders that you seek be made.

At McLaughlins Lawyers we are often asked by parents what they need to tell their ex-partner about when they want to travel with the children,  tips we often provide to parents  include:-

  1. Plan ahead and do not commit to any bookings you have written consent from the other parent. In our experience the most common difficulty arises where a parent books a holiday without first obtaining the other parents consent to have a passport issued, or the consent to travel. The parent booking the holiday runs the risk of loosing money they have paid for the holiday and disappointing the children when the planned and paid for holiday does not go ahead.
  1. Provide the other parent all the information you can about the proposed travel and provide as much notice as you can. Give details regarding the destination, the length of the holiday, where you will be staying and how the children can be contacted when they are away. Provide the other parent with your travel itinerary and copies of travel insurance documents.
  1. Be flexible with time. If you are seeking to spend additional time with the children then you would normally do so, or trying to negotiate more time then what any existing orders provide for, then consider offering the other parent additional time when you return with the children, or be flexible with respect to the remainder of the school holiday break so that there is some incentive for your ex-partner to consent to your travel plans.

If you are unsure as to whether you are permitted to travel with your children or need help negotiating overseas holiday plans with your ex-partner please contact the family law department at McLaughlins Lawyers today.

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