In Australia all separating couples, are subject to a family law system that is both “bifurcated” and private.
We can read about Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s divorce and separation process in the media, and learn that in California Angelina and Brad are subject to a “bifurcated” legal system. But you will not usually learn details about local celebrities’ divorce settlements.
The fact of a separation or divorce and general details can be published but that is because it is not about family court litigation or “proceedings”.
Section 121 of the Australian Family Law Act makes it an offence to publish details of separating couples’ court cases.
Sometimes when media outlets have sought permission, the Court grants leave for the publication of details concerning a case, or the Court itself directs publication when pseudonyms rather than the real names of the parties are used. On other occasions, real names are necessary, for example, if there is a missing child.
The embargo on publication means not only can details about a family law case NOT be published in the media but also NOT on social media.
A bifurcated divorce in California means “they are legally divorced, but are yet to decide on child custody and financial arrangements”.
In Australia, the Family Law Act provides that a person can apply to the court (or negotiate a settlement without going to court) as soon as they separate, but can only apply for a divorce after 12 months has run.
That is how a bifurcated system operates, where the processes are separated into separate branches or parts. In Australia there are three parts to the system, including a separate child support system.
Services Australia Child Support decides financial obligations for children after separation, separately from Family Court property settlement and spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance (rarely used in the 21st Century) is usually resolved at the same time as property settlement. Spousal maintenance can be obtained and very rarely, after property settlement.
Divorce (the right to remarry without committing bigamy) often follows later, after the hard work of financial settlement and arrangements for the children has been done.
This complicated system is private, to protect the individuals and families involved.
People can take steps and make decisions or seek legal process to assist them, using those parts of the system that they need at that time. But there are pitfalls that require experience and expertise in family law to negotiate.
The confidentiality of the system means that general public knowledge of family law in Australia is limited, scattered and often ill informed.
Our team at Bowen Buchbinder Vilensky has the skills to assist our clients to negotiate this complex system as best suits them.