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 SupportChild 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?
- 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.
Parenting ArrangementsIt 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.
Consent OrdersIf 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.
Domestic ViolenceDomestic 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.
Estate PlanningThe 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 LawyersWhen 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?