Needing to source a good family lawyer can be a daunting task, but rest assured, there are plenty of family lawyers in Sydney from which to choose. Often, the reason for needing a family lawyer is not a positive one. It can mean that you’ve separated or divorced and need to navigate your way through parenting agreements and child support, and property settlements. Of course, it can also mean that you are simply planning for the future with a
prenuptial agreement or drawing up a will. Regardless of your reason for seeking them out, you need to ensure you are happy with your choice of family lawyer and that they furnish you with clear and concise advice and explain the legal jargon you run into along the way.
Just What Is Family Law?
Family law is just that – legal matters related to everything to do with families and relationships. It covers everything from family planning, including adoption, right through to your last will and testament. There are many areas of family law. It is important to choose family law specialists if possible because you need to ensure you get straightforward advice and information that you can understand when it comes to family law matters. Let’s have a look at the different services you might expect from your Sydney family lawyer.
Child support is often referred to as child maintenance in Australia. Child maintenance is a regular amount of money that one parent usually pays to the other to ensure that the financial needs of their shared child are being met sufficiently. Financial needs include such things as a roof over their head, food to eat and clothes to wear. It also covers any expenses for education and associated activities. Child maintenance is typically paid until the child reaches the age of 18, but it can continue after that age in certain situations. While estranged parents can negotiate child support between themselves, most family lawyers in Sydney would recommend that the arrangement be formalised through the CSA (Child Support Agency).
What is the CSA?
The Child Support Agency evaluates how much child support a parent should pay for their children. Child support is not a fixed, flat rate. Instead, the CSA uses a mathematical formula to determine how much should be paid. This payment will usually be adjusted annually. Their assessment factors in such things as:
- How many children there are.
- The ages of the children.
- The parents’ income.
- How much time will my children get to spend with me?
Most family law specialists would recommend that parents paying their child support privately keep detailed records of all transactions, citing the recipient’s name, how much the payment was and who it was for. Such private arrangements are known as binding child support agreements and must detail:
- Whether or not the payments are to be periodic, non-periodic or a combination of both payment types. A periodic payment is a regular payment made weekly, fortnightly or monthly, while non-periodic payments tend to be lump-sum payments made for specific items such as school fees.
- Whether the payment will be made to the other parent or directly to the child’s school or doctor.
- How much the payment will be.
- How frequently the payment will be made.
- How the payment will be made.
Parents can also choose to have the CSA collect the money on behalf of the child.
Sometimes parents believe the assessment for child support was unfair or inaccurate in some way. Those parents may apply to have their assessment altered if the circumstances warrant such an alteration.
It is always hard when relationships break down, but it is even more so when children are involved. There is so much more to factor into the breakup. Where will the children live most of the time? Are there concerns about the children spending time with the other parent? What is the best possible outcome for the children?
A parenting arrangement will benefit everyone, including the children. A set arrangement sets out a routine for everyone to follow that gives a sense of stability and predictability to make things easier on the children. Sydney’s best family lawyers will advise you to formalise your parenting arrangement by drawing up a parenting plan or arranging a consent (parenting) order.
While your parenting plan doesn’t need to be prepared by a law firm or have the Court’s approval, it does need to be in writing with the date and the signatures of both parents. This type of agreement is not enforceable so that you can adjust it from time to time by mutual understanding. If you can keep the children as the focus of your negotiations, this type of agreement is perfect. However, if you cannot reach an agreement regarding parenting arrangements, the Court will do it for you.
If you’re looking for a binding, enforceable document incorporating your parenting arrangements, your family lawyers recommend a consent order. Consent orders can encompass parenting matters, maintenance, and property matters. Consent orders have to be approved by a court registrar. Once they are approved, they are then binding upon both parties and enforceable by law. As a result, these orders are less expensive and simpler to navigate than a binding financial agreement.
Several documents must be filed with the Family Court of Australia registry once you’re reached an agreement. First, you need to request the Court make orders in line with your agreed terms. This is called an Application for Consent Orders. The terms of your agreement must also be set out in the Minutes of Consent. Fees are payable when filing these documents.
Can Grandparents See Their Grandchildren Legally?
When family relationships break down and there are children involved, things can get messy. Sometimes, people who are often forgotten in the scramble to make parenting plans are grandparents. Sometimes grandparents can lose access to their grandchildren, and that isn’t fair. However, if you are a grandparent in that situation, there are things you can do. The best family lawyers in Sydney can advise you on the best way to maintain access to your grandchildren.
The Court doesn’t look at the rights of the grandparents to see their grandchildren, but rather whether seeing them is in the best interests of the children. If there is a parenting plan or consent orders in place, your access can be included. Both parents must agree to have grandparents in the planning. What a court will consider when making decisions around contact between you and your grandchildren include:
- The child’s views or wishes about spending time with you. The child’s maturity will be taken into account to ensure it is such that they understand what they are saying.
- How much time you’ve spent with your grandchild up to this point. The Court will be more inclined to support existing relationships, especially if you’ve historically spent considerable time with your grandchild and such a relationship provides stability through the family breakdown.
- The type of relationship you and your grandchild currently enjoy.
- Whether facilitating time between you and your grandchildren is practical.
The family law court may also determine that your grandchildren should live with you full time in extreme situations. In some circumstances, you could become the primary caregiver or be granted sole parental responsibility for the child. Such a decision would need demonstrated evidence that it would be in the best interest of the child. Decisions involving sole parental responsibility often occur in cases where there is a history of drug use, family violence or child abuse. Financial assistance is available through the Department of Human Services. Making an application to the Court can be costly and lengthy, particularly when the matter isn’t urgent. In addition, it can be emotionally draining, especially if the Court decides that the child shouldn’t spend time with you. Pursuing litigation can further strain relations that are already tense between you and your grandchild’s parents.
Domestic violence is a very broad area, covering a lot of ground. However, if you recognise any of the following behaviours, you may be experiencing domestic violence. A good family law firm can help.
Psychological abuse includes behaviour or comments that undermine a person’s sense of self, putdowns or name-calling, sulking, intimidation, threatening to withhold funds, disconnecting the phone, taking the car, lying to friends and family about someone, threatening to or attempting to commit suicide, taking the children away and threatening to report someone to welfare agencies unless they comply with demands.
Verbal abuse includes:
- Constant putdowns.
- Making threatening or harassing calls.
- Saying things to frighten someone and using children to risk someone else.
Physical abuse is easier to recognise. It includes actual or threatened bodily harm, injuring or threatening someone with weapons/objects, damaging property, threatening to hurt you or your children, denying nutrition, warmth, sleep or medical care and driving recklessly with you or the children in the car.
Social abuse is controlling what you wear, who you see and where you go. The perpetrator may keep you from contacting family and friends, stop you from leaving the house or going to church or praying; they may make all the big decisions and check up on you excessively, listening to your telephone calls, checking the odometer reading on your car, constantly checking your whereabouts.
If someone forces you to participate in sexual activity or contact that is unwanted, it is sexual abuse.
Examples of financial abuse include someone denying you access to your money and accounts and making you give your credit and bank cards to them so they can control your financial affairs and income. In addition, if someone prevents you from maintaining or seeking employment, it makes you ask for necessities that are also financial abuse.
Damaging your property, abusing family pets or taking or breaking possessions that are important to you comes under the heading of property damage. It is also a form of domestic violence.
Stalking, or behaviour intended to intimidate, harass or torment, is another form of domestic abuse. This type of behaviour might include repetitive telephone calls, signing into your social media accounts, sending emails, faxes or letters, moving your belongings around, harming your pets, sending you flowers or chocolates, again and again, following you or spying on you.
If someone uses technology to monitor or monitor you, either directly or indirectly, this is a form of domestic abuse. It can include the use of tracking devices and posting personal information about you on websites.
The best family lawyers will recommend that you draw up a will to make sure that the person or entity you nominate receives your assets in the event of your death. This is particularly important if you separate from your partner or spouse.
A good family lawyer will recommend that you review your will periodically to keep it up to date with your current wishes about your assets. Family lawyers will also suggest you take steps to protect your assets by reviewing your power of attorney. A power of attorney is someone you authorise to act on your behalf when managing your assets and making legal decisions.
Reviewing your superannuation is also a family law matter that needs to be carried out from time to time. When reviewing your superannuation and any life insurance policy you may have, your family lawyers will advise you to remove any authority previously appointed to your former spouse to act on your behalf. You should include your medicare and health insurance policy in these revisions, especially if children are involved.
What To Look For In Your Family Lawyers
When choosing a family law firm, you want to ensure that they offer the legal services you need so you are assured of receiving sound expert advice and can expect the best outcome. Ask yourself these questions:
- Can I expect them to call me back within 24 hours?
- Will they give me an accurate estimate of the cost before beginning the case?
- Do they offer consultations after hours, or do I need to keep taking time off work?
- What if I can’t make it into the office? Will they come to me?
- Can my children attend my appointments?
- Can I speak with someone in my native tongue?
- I don’t understand legal jargon. Will they speak to me so that I fully understand what they are saying?
1. Do de facto couples, and married couples share the same rights?
Answer: Any person in a de facto relationship separating after March 1, 2009, has the same rights as any married couple in a property settlement, etc. The Family Law Act, 1975 govern these rights. Therefore, the length of the de facto relationship is an essential factor in terms of family law matters.
2. Do we need to see family lawyers if we’ve reached our agreement?
Answer: The short answer is no. You don’t need to see a lawyer if you believe you can rely on your former partner to abide by the agreement you’ve come to in the long term. There are many reasons, however, that you should seek the advice of accredited family law specialists. A family law firm can provide you with expert legal advice regarding family law settlements and other areas of family law.
3. What does it cost to see a specialist family law team?
Answer: The cost of consulting a professional family law team depends on your family law matter. Most family law firms offer an initial consultation free of charge, at which they will usually supply you with a figure they estimate your fees to be. In the same way that each family is different, with different situations, there is no ‘one size fits all regarding the costs associated with taking a family law matter to the family lawyers.
4. How long will my family law matter take to resolve?
Answer: Again, there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to how long your case might be when going through the family court of Australia. So many variables impact the time. However, your family lawyers should be able to give you a rough idea after they have discussed the issues with you and familiarised themselves with your circumstances.