Too Bad To Stay, Too Good To Leave

The media has been reporting that couples have found the Covid-19 impact hard on their relationships.  Others might have found that there has been an improvement in some ways, because they have endured unexpected challenges together.   In Western Australia at least, we seem to be coming out the other side.

Pandemic or no pandemic, you might be unsure about whether your relationship is “good enough”. 

As family lawyers, we often see clients who did not see separation coming.  When that happens without any warning, that can be most devastating.

Other clients come for legal advice before they have separated, when they are still living “under the same roof”. In those circumstances we can help at the front end and give advice that can potentially benefit everyone involved, while our first duty is to our client.

Separating does not increase what you have to share between you.  In fact, assets can be depleted because costs which were previously shared such as mortgage payments or rent and utility bills, are now payable for two residences. However, if you can reach an “amicable” settlement you will spend the money that has to be spent to sort things out and no more.

Only you can decide if you should stay in a relationship.  Despite what is said sometimes in the media about people not regarding their marriage vows with the seriousness that they were taken in the past, our experience is that none of our clients have come to consider ending their relationship lightly. 

Usually by the time a client decides to see a lawyer they have spent time beforehand deciding that this is what they must do. 

A useful book that is readily available that a person unsure about their relationship might find useful to read (and there are others) is Too Good to Leave Too Bad to Stay by Mira Kirstenbaum.  It was published some years ago and is a little dated but many people say they have found the approach that it provides to be useful.  Reading a “self-help” book can be invaluable, but it is not a substitute for professional help about relationships.

If you are ready to take the step but still unsure, getting professional advice, concerning your relationship and also legal advice, is likely to be very much in your interests.   

At Bowen Buchbinder Vilensky a first appointment without any obligation to proceed further costs $440 including GST. 

PLEASE CONTACT

If you would like advice in this area please contact Rhonda Griffiths at [email protected] 

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Separation Under One Roof

Thanks in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Western Australian economy is expected to experience a recession in the 2021 financial year.

With increased unemployment rates, and house prices falling over the last 5 years,[1] there will likely be an increasing number of newly separated couples who will have little choice financially but to remain “separated under one roof”, at least for a time.

 

Why Does the Date of Separation Matter?

The date of separation between a couple can be relevant for several reasons. 

For de facto couples, it can be the difference between the Family Court of Western Australia having, or not having, jurisdiction to make orders for property adjustment and maintenance.  For the Court to have such jurisdiction, it is generally a requirement that the de facto relationship has existed for 2 years.[2] 

It is also relevant to the limitation period for de facto couples, who generally must commence proceedings in the Family Court within 2 years after their relationship ends.[3]

For married couples, a divorce can only be granted where the marriage has irretrievably broken down.  To show that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, the parties must have separated and lived separately and apart for a continuous period of at least 12 months, immediately before filing the application for divorce.[4]

 

Separation Under One Roof

Section 49 of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), which applies to married couples, provides as follows:

  • The parties to a marriage may be held to have separated notwithstanding that the cohabitation was brought to an end by the action or conduct of only one of the parties.
  • The parties to a marriage may be held to have separated and to have lived separately and apart notwithstanding that they have continued to reside in the same residence or that either party has rendered some household services to the other.

 

Are We Separated?

Whether there has been a separation under one roof will be a question of fact which is decided on the facts of each case.  As with many areas of law, it is not black and white, and the circumstances of each individual relationship will be considered.

For separation to occur between a married couple, one or both spouses must form an intention to sever and not resume the marital relationship, and act on that intention.[5]

The body of case law involving separation under one roof indicates that a comparison of the state of the relationship before and after the alleged separation may be required.[6]  The following factors may be relevant (to both married and de facto couples) in such an analysis:

  1. Whether one or both of the parties communicated to each other that they considered themselves to be separated.
  2. Whether the parties have continued to share a bedroom, and the extent to which any sexual relationship has been maintained.
  3. Any change in the financial relationship between the parties, for example the closure of joint bank accounts.
  4. How and when the separation was communicated to friends and family of the parties, and whether the parties have continued to hold themselves out to be a couple.
  5. A reduction in shared activities.
  6. The extent to which the parties have continued to perform domestic chores for the benefit of the other, such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry.
  7. The reason why the parties have remained residing under the same roof (e.g. financial pressures).
  8. Whether any government departments, such as Centrelink, have been informed about the separation.

 

What Next

If you consider yourself to be separated under one roof and require legal advice as to divorce, property settlement or parenting matters, please contact Bowen Buchbinder Vilensky for an initial consultation.

 

Disclaimer:  This article is intended to provide general information only and does not constitute legal advice. The article is in summary form and we recommend you seek legal advice or other professional advice as to whether and or how the information is applicable to your circumstances.

[1] https://reiwa.com.au/uploadedfiles/public/content/the_wa_market/house-prices-2013-web.pdf

[2] Family Court Act 1997 s 205Z(1)(a)

[3] Family Court Act 1997 s 205ZB(1)

[4] Family Law Act 1975 s 48(2). See also s 50(1).

[5] Pavey & Pavey (1976) FLC ¶90-051, citing Todd & Todd (1976) FLC ¶90-008.

[6] Todd & Todd (1976) FLC ¶90-008

PLEASE CONTACT

If you would like advice in this area please contact Kori O’Meehan at [email protected] 

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My property and income have been affected by COVID-19, will this impact my Family Law matter?

Disclaimer:  This series of articles is intended to provide general information only and does not constitute legal advice. The article is in summary form and we recommend you seek legal advice or other professional advice as to whether and or how the information in applicable to your circumstances. The information in this article was current at the time of publication, however it may no longer be applicable.

 

Family Law COVID-19 FAQ’s: Part Three

 

Many industries, investments, and businesses have been negatively affected by COVID.

If your financial circumstances have significantly changed this will impact your matter.

When reaching a financial property settlement, the law requires consideration of each parties’ future needs and earning capacity.

If you are temporarily unable to work or your business is not as profitable as it once was due to COVID this may not necessarily affect your earning capacity in the future. However, it may affect your future needs if your investments, assets, or savings have been depleted as a result and will in any event impact your financial property settlement.

Can I access support and maintenance in light of COVID-19?

Other than receiving increased support through changes to your anticipated property settlement you may also have relief available to you by way of spousal maintenance or child support orders.

If you were not previously receiving any spousal maintenance or child support, but now have reduced income as a result of COVID, where your partner does not have reduced income you may be able to seek support. If you were receiving maintenance or support but it is no longer enough due to your reduced income, it may be possible to vary your maintenance or support terms, depending on the circumstances of the other party.

In the alternative, if you were already paying spousal maintenance or child support but your own income has now been reduced, you will likely be able to vary the terms of the agreement to reflect your current circumstances.

If you cannot vary terms or seek support by agreement you may need to make an application to the Court.

Family law is a complex area which requires consideration of relevant time limits, needs, and financial circumstances of each party and therefore it is always recommended that you obtain legal advice before making an application to the Court.

Please contact us at [email protected] if you have any queries in relation to the above answers or if you wish to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on your family law matter further.

Disclaimer:  This article is intended to provide general information only and does not constitute legal advice. The article is in summary form and we recommend you seek legal advice or other professional advice as to whether and or how the information in applicable to your circumstances. The information in this article was current at the time of publication, however it may no longer be applicable.

Is my child in breach of social distancing requirements at the other parent’s home?

Disclaimer:  This series of articles is intended to provide general information only and does not constitute legal advice. The article is in summary form and we recommend you seek legal advice or other professional advice as to whether and or how the information in applicable to your circumstances. The information in this article was current at the time of publication, however it may no longer be applicable.

 

Family Law COVID-19 FAQ’s: Part Two

 

Many parents have parenting plans, orders, or arrangements in place which require their child to move between their house and their partner’s house. Children moving between their respective households will not be in breach of the COVID directions.

Some parents have expressed concerns that when their child is at the other parent’s house there are more than the allowed number of people at the premises.

In relation to such gatherings the current Emergency Management Act 2005 (WA) Section 71 And 72a Closure And Restriction (Limit The Spread) Directions (No 3) defines as prohibited  a gathering of more than twenty (20) persons in a single undivided indoor space or a single undivided outdoor space that is a public place at the same time.

However, the Directions go on to list a number of exceptions which include a gathering in an indoor space or an outdoor space where everyone in the gathering is a member of the same household.

A household is further defined as two or more persons who usually reside at the same place, irrespective of whether those persons are related to each other and includes by way of the specific example that a child who usually moves between the child’s father’s home and the child’s mother’s home on a week-about basis is part of the father’s household when the child is living with the father and is part of the mother’s household when the child is living with the mother.

This means that your child will be considered part of both their parents’ households and will be exempt to the twenty (20) people gathering limit while at either parents’ house.  That is, the usual occupants of that family member’s household.  Although in theory twenty people might be gathered, most Western Australian households’ have many less than 20. 

What can I do if my usual drop off or pick up location is closed?

We understand that there are many different directions and restrictions in place which make it difficult to strictly comply with parenting plans, orders, or arrangements in the current situation.

A common example of this is when the agreed pickup and drop off location, or the location where time is to be spent, is closed.

We recommend, if it is possible, communicating with the other parent in the simplest manner, by text or email and attempting to find a solution which keeps in view the best interests of the child.

If any agreement is reached, even if it is temporary, ensure that it is in writing.

This is a very difficult time for everyone, and it is important to understand that people will have different experiences, concerns, and responses with respect to COVID. Even when acting sensibly or in the best interests of a child an agreement may not be reached, where this occurs further guidance or legal advice should be sought.

 

Travel Bans

Originally WA had in place a strict regional travel ban which meant that people were generally not able to enter a regional area from another regional area or move between regions.

From 18 May 2020 the regional travel restrictions have been eased to provide for travel within the following expanded regions:

  • Perth, Peel Region, the South West, and the Great Southern region;
  • the Mid West region, Gascoyne, and Pilbara;
  • the gold fields and Esperance region; and
  • the Kimberly.

Persons still must not move between the expanded regions, only within them.

The regional travel bans have always provided a variety of exemptions for travel between regions. The exemptions include traveling between regions if it is necessary for the person to do so for the purpose of fulfilling their obligations under a parenting plan, parenting order of a court or other parenting arrangements.

This means that where your parenting plan, order, or arrangements requires travel between regions it should continue as normal.

We recommend you keep a copy of your parenting plan, order, or arrangements with you when traveling between regions or alternatively apply for a G2G PASS. The G2G PASS is an app which allows you to apply for approval to travel regionals for your approved purpose in advance.

The WA state border remains closed and travel is not permitted into WA unless an exemption is granted.

If your parenting plan, order, or arrangements require travel interstate and this is no longer possible due to the impact of COVID (such as travel restrictions, or no availability of flights, or directions put into place by other States or Territories) you must still attempt to comply as much as reasonably possible.

We recommend having a conversation with your child’s other parent and attempting to reach an agreement, if possible. This could include increased video calls in lieu of time spent or make up time to be arranged once the restrictions have eased.

You should be careful to use your best efforts and not use COVID-19 as justification for reducing your child’s time with the other parent.

If your relationship with the other parent is strained, we recommend you obtain the assistance of lawyers to assist you in reaching an agreement and ensuring parenting plans, orders, or arrangements are complied with as much as reasonably possible

Family Law COVID-19 FAQ’s: Part One

Disclaimer:  This series of articles is intended to provide general information only and does not constitute legal advice. The article is in summary form and we recommend you seek legal advice or other professional advice as to whether and or how the information in applicable to your circumstances. The information in this article was current at the time of publication, however it may no longer be applicable.

The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on 11 March 2020.

On 15 March 2020, the Minister for Emergency Services declared a state of emergency in respect of the pandemic caused by COVID-19 pursuant to section 56 of the Emergency Management Act 2005 (WA).

On 23 March 2020, the Minister for Health declared a public health state of emergency in respect of COVID-19 pursuant to section 167 of the Public Health Act 2016 (WA).

Since a state of emergency has applied in WA there have been a variety of directions put into place by the government to prevent, control or abate the serious public health risk presented by COVID-19.

This is resulted in significant queries arising among Family Law clients. We have aimed to address some of these frequently asked questions here.

Will my Family Law matter still progress?

Most family law matters are able to progress as they usually would due to the fact that the Court and most law firms are continuing to operate as normal, subject to appropriate social distancing guidelines and government regulations.

Bowen Buchbinder Vilensky is open for business and our employees are fully accessible via email and telephone. We remain available to assist our clients and can arrange meetings via phone or digital meeting technology. If necessary, our offices can also be made available at the current time for critical face to face meetings.

Is the Family Court of Western Australia Still Open?

The Family Court of Western Australia remains open and continues to perform its duties.

While the Court is open, it is encouraged that only the necessary legal practitioners, parties, and support people attend Court. Further, anyone who has flu-like symptoms or has travelled overseas in the last 14 days must not enter the Court premises.

The front counter services at the Court have been temporarily suspended, however registry services are still offered. Documents can be lodged remotely via the Court Portal, post, email, or alternatively in person at the Court’s secure drop box.

All listed hearings and conferences will continue if practicable and will be conducted by telephone.

As there are a number of practical issues in running a Trial via telephone or video-link and in light of other COVID restrictions the a number of  listed Trials are being vacated. The Court does have capacity to conduct some trials electronically where suitable. Relevant factors to consider include the number of parties and witnesses, the location of the parties and witnesses, the ability of parties and witnesses to attend personally or by way of video or telephone, anticipated evidence, urgency of the matters to be determined at Trial, and whether the Trial will remain procedurally fair and adequate to enable a proper determination of the matters in issue.

Coronavirus – A note from the Directors

Given the spread of the coronavirus (“Covid-19” ) and the public health emergency that it has
created, like many other organisations, Bowen Buchbinder Vilensky (BBV) is taking active steps to
help ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of our people and clients.

To support the health and wellbeing of our people, clients and the community around us, our
professional and support staff are currently working remotely from home.

While we are working remotely, to the fullest extent possible it will be business as usual in terms of
our professional services and our client service. We are still ready, willing and able to take on new
clients. While we cannot meet you in person, we are still able to conduct consultations with video
conferencing technology. Our current platform of choice is Zoom.

We have taken steps to ensure we have the training, technology, and support in place to assist our
staff working from home for an extended period.

Our office at Level 14, 251 Adelaide Terrace, Perth is currently closed. However, please continue to
call us on (08) 9325 9644 and you will be directed to whichever member of our team you wish to
speak to in the usual way.

These are indeed challenging and uncertain times but for us at BBV it is business as usual, and we
will be doing our best to continue to provide our range of legal services.

Which marriage counts when you want a divorce?

A void marriage is of no effect in law.  It is not a marriage at all, whether or not the decree declaring it void has been pronounced.[1]

It is not uncommon for a couple to have two marriage-like ceremonies, especially where one spouse has family interstate or overseas.

So, which one counts when you want a divorce?

Section 113 of the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth) (the Marriage Act) creates a general prohibition on persons who are already legally married to each other, marrying each other again.  There are some exceptions, for example where there is doubt about the validity of the first marriage. 

While section 113 creates a prohibition against marrying someone you are already married to, it does not expressly say anything about the validity (or otherwise) of a marriage conducted in contravention of the section, or what the consequences are for those who breach the section. 

Section 23B(1) of the Marriage Act provides a list of circumstances in which a marriage will be void, paraphrased below:

  • either of the parties is, at the time of the marriage, lawfully married to some other person;
  • the parties are within a prohibited relationship (familial relationships);
  • by reason of section 48 (formal requirements for marriages solemnised in Australia) the marriage is not a valid marriage;
  • the consent of either of the parties is not a real consent because:
  • it was obtained by duress or fraud;
  • that party is mistaken as to the identity of the other party or as to the nature of the ceremony performed; or
  • that party did not understand the nature and effect of the marriage ceremony; or
  • either of the parties is not of marriageable age;

and not otherwise.

The grounds listed in section 23B of the Marriage Act purport to be exhaustive, and they do not include a marriage to someone who is already your spouse.  

Fortunately, this does not mean that parties who have engaged in 2 marriage ceremonies need to be granted 2 divorce orders. As a general rule, if the first marriage is valid, then the second marriage is not.

In Kapadia and Kapadia,[2] Kay J relied on the power under section 113(1) of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (Family Law Act) to declare a second marriage (to the same person) invalid.[3]  In the more recent decision of Nelson & Nelson,[4] Hannam J found that on the basis of “common sense and logic”, any such marriage between spouses must be void, notwithstanding the apparently exclusive nature of the words at the conclusion of section 23B(1) of the Marriage Act.[5]

Interestingly, there does appear to be a distinction (largely without a difference) between a void marriage and an invalid marriage.  A decree of nullity may be granted by the Family Court of Australia in the case of a void marriage only.[6]  The Family Court also has a separate power to make a declaration that a marriage is invalid.[7]

The cases cited above involved second marriage ceremonies conducted in Australia.  The validity of a second marriage may depend on whether one (or both) of the marriage ceremonies were conducted overseas.

Part VA of the Marriage Act operates to recognise, in Australia, marriages solemnised overseas (which are recognised as valid marriages under the local law).  There are some exceptions, such as when either party to the marriage was married to some other person at the time of marriage, or when either party was not of marriageable age in Australia.  Already being married to the person you are marrying, is not included as one of those exceptions.

In the case of Lieu & Antcliff,[8] the bride and groom were already lawfully married to each other (having been married in a registry office in Melbourne some years prior) when they renewed their vows and engaged in a marriage ceremony in Fiji (Fijian marriage).   

The couple separated shortly after the Fijian marriage.  They were granted a divorce order in respect of their first marriage in Melbourne without difficulty.  However, they were initially not granted a divorce order in respect of the Fijian marriage because of concerns as to its validity.

The Wife subsequently applied to the Family Court of Australia seeking orders for, in the alternative:

  • a decree of nullity in respect of the Fijian marriage;
  • a declaration of invalidity in respect of the Fijian marriage; or
  • if the Fijian marriage was valid, a divorce order in respect of the Fijian marriage.

The Wife filed evidence from a Fijian lawyer who deposed that it was not an offence under Fijian law to marry a spouse. The lawyer further deposed that the Fijian marriage was valid under Fijian law, notwithstanding that the parties were already married to each other.

It followed then, under Part VA of the Marriage Act, that the Fijian marriage was recognised in Australia, notwithstanding that it was a marriage between two people who were already spouses.

If you have been through two marriage ceremonies with your spouse, and want a divorce, then you should carefully consider the circumstances of each ceremony, and seek legal advice before applying for a divorce.

The contents of this article are for reference and discussion purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action based on this publication.  

[1] Zua v Huang [2015] FamCA 873 at [15].

[2] (1991) FLC 92-245.

[3] See also Anouihl & Temke [2017] FamCA 325.

[4] [2016] FamCA 516.

[5] See also Zau & Huang [2015] FamCA 873.

[6] Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), s 51.

[7] Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), s 113(1).

[8] [2016] FamCA 942.

PLEASE CONTACT

If you would like advice in this area please contact Kori O’Meehan at [email protected] 

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State Taxes on Property Transactions – for Loved Up Couples and Those That Are Not So Loved Up

State tax on real estate transfers used to be called stamp duty- as the documents would be stamped.

Since 2008 state land transfer tax is called Duty under the Duties Act (WA).

What happens where an interest in property is transferred during a marriage or de-facto relationship by one of the parties to the marriage to the other party?

However, duty concessions can support happy families.  When, sadly, the relationship has ended and the couple is splitting up, duty relief may also be available.

PART 1: When the couple are settled and happy in their relationship

Duty that would otherwise be charged on land transactions where a couple has established a home together, is exempted by Section 97 of the Duties Act 2008 (WA).

For couples who are living together in a home that belongs to one of them, there is a saving if, after two years during which they live together in the home, the owner of the home wants to transfer half their interest to the other person, in that normal transfer duty is waived.

This law applies to all couples in de facto relationships.

The definition of a de facto relationship is Section 9 of the Duties Act that states that a de facto partner of 2 years means “a person who is living in a de facto relationship with the person and has lived on that basis with the person for at least 2 years”.

In the formal language of the Act:

Duty is not chargeable on a transfer or an agreement for the transfer of property that would otherwise ordinarily be subject to stamp duty where the person who is transferring the property is married to the one they are transferring the property to or are de facto partners of two years and the dutiable property (Section 97 (b) ) is a lot on which a residence is erected which, when the liability for duty on the transaction arises, was used solely or dominantly as the ordinary place of residence of the persons referred to in paragraph (a) (the married couple or de facto couple).

The waiver of duty otherwise normally payable, is only available if the person transferring the property is the sole owner of the property and where the result of the transaction will be that the dutiable property is owned by the parties as joint tenants or tenants in common in equal shares.

Instead of the usual duty the nominal amount only is paid, presently $20.  There will still be lodgement fees payable at Landgate and other expenses such are production fees if there is a mortgage.

So if the home is owned by George and Mary, (ie George’s ex partner) the stamp duty exemption doesn’t apply if Mary’s interest is going to Shane, George’s new partner, because George doesn’t own it outright, only half.

But if George is the sole owner of the property (perhaps after Mary has transferred it to him after their relationship breakdown, see below) then he can transfer half the property to Shane without there being the usual rate of stamp duty payable.

Section 133 sets out what evidence can be produced to establish that a couple is married or living in a de facto relationship.  It provides that a statutory declaration can relied upon to prove the relationship.

PART 2: When all is not good in paradise: a marriage like relationship ends

When a couple separates and they want to transfer property they own together between them, provided they obtain court orders or enter into a formal agreement arising from their relationship breakdown, under the relevant family law legislation, Section 129 of the Duties Act provides an exemption from duty that would otherwise be payable.

If George and Mary owned their home jointly, either of them can buy the other out and not have to pay stamp duty on the transaction.

To be entitled to the exemption the agreement reached about transferring the property needs to be part of the couples’ matrimonial settlement.  In a settlement all the assets and liabilities a couple has needs to be taken into account and considered.

Section 113 provides that duty is not chargeable on a dutiable transaction to the extent that it is affected by a matrimonial instrument mentioned in Section 129 (b) or (c) or a de facto relationship instrument mentioned in Section 130 (a).

Section 129 provides that a reference to a matrimonial instrument is to any of the following instruments to the extent that it does with matrimonial property:

(a)  A maintenance agreement registered under the Family Law Act……

(b)  A financial agreement made under the Family Law Act..

(c)  A splitting agreement;

(d) An order of the Court under the Family Law.

Section 130 relates to de facto relationship instruments and refers to the Family Court Act Section 205T or an order of the Court made under that Act or the law of the Commonwealth or another State that substantially corresponds with Family Court Act Part 5A.

Section 131 provides that transactions effected by or in accordance with matrimonial instrument or de facto relationship instruments are subject to nominal duty if the parties are separated or divorced from one another and the property is to be transferred to (Section 131 No. 1 (d) )

(i)         either or both of parties to the marriage;  or

(ii)        a child or children of either of the parties to the marriage; or

(iii)       a trustee of such a child or children; or

(v)        the trustee of a superannuation fund.

The similar provision applies for de factos except that a superannuation fund is not referred to, there being no provision in Western Australia for superannuation splitting in favour of de factos.

What Does This Mean For Me?

A couple still in their relationship can take advantage of exemptions to transfer their home from one owner’s name into their joint names.  They can obtain that relief with the assistance of a settlement agent or lawyer to prepare the land transfer and assist with preparation of the statutory declaration required to be produced to the State Revenue Office.

A couple separating and wanting to take advantage of the stamp duty concessions will require legal assistance to obtain the court orders or formal agreement required to be produced to the State Revenue office to obtain an exemption on a transfer of property between them.

The individuals in a separating couple should be separately advised about their entitlements.  Advice obtained that enables access to duty relief may be cost effective in that the costs of preparation of the court documents and or agreement can be partly at least defrayed by the duty savings obtained on the property transfer.

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The Cost of Separation – Certainty of Mind and Certainty of Legal Fees

Along with the disruption and uncertainty surrounding a marriage breakdown separating couples have to also consider whether or not they need to engage a lawyer.

Although there are many services available for couples, in particular through the Family Relationship Centre system, in most cases it becomes very obvious that both parties need to have some legal advice.

The Process of Separation
There is always one party who knows they are going to be leaving the relationship before the other. That often causes great distress when a party realises that the other one has ceased contributing to their relationship and is out the door, or wants you to leave.

The law does not give any pathway for separation. Parties enter a relationship voluntarily and entirely without any government intervention. It is entirely their personal decision.

It is always advisable for legal advice to be obtained before the physical separation, particularly if there are children involved.

While separation is a personal decision, it may have immediate legal consequences. So the first service that lawyers can offer a person when they separate is to give them initial advice.

Mediation
Mediation can be held before Court proceedings commence. If a mediation is successful, in that the parties come to an agreement about the matters in dispute, a couple can avoid Court altogether. The couples must however prepare and lodge a Form 11 Application for Consent Orders with the Court.

Mediation can also take place during Court proceedings as part of the Court’s programming of cases to ensure that, before a case is programmed towards a trial, the parties have had the opportunity of considering an agreement.

Issuing Court Proceedings
If the mediation processes have failed or there is something urgent that needs to be attended to, Court documents will be required to set out properly what your case is about with the kind of information that the Court requires (that will not necessarily be what you would like to talk to the Court about).

Court documents have been prepared to make it possible for people to fill in the forms themselves without legal support. However, most people find the forms daunting and unfamiliar.

There is no substitute for having a competent family lawyer assist with the preparation of your Court documents. That process will also identify the orders you want the Court to make and will enable you to be advised and tutored about what to expect in your Court case and how you can assist in your case.

Once The Court Documents Have Been Lodged, What Happens Next?
Once Court documents have been filed in the Court, parties face considerable delays before their case finally comes to trial. Many cases, especially those involving children, require assistance from the Court in the early stages of the proceedings in settling urgent interim issues.

Once parties have obtained some interim orders and assistance from the Court often a case does not have to progress past that point and in many instances mediation at this stage will be successful.

Where financial matters are involved parties have to take steps to establish valuation of assets and to consider what the issues in their case are that may require accounting and legal assistance.

Readiness Hearing and Trial
A readiness hearing is a date the Court allocates by which time parties need to have prepared their trial documents, issued all necessary subpoenas, and generally be ready for a trial. A great deal of work needs to be done at this time and a Fixed Fee can be offered for this stage of the proceedings and for the trial.

The majority of cases filed in the Family Court end by agreement before a trial actually commences.

Costs of Getting Legal Advice
Many lawyers provide Family Law services on a time cost basis, meaning that when you engage them, they will work for you from the beginning of your matter until the end, sending usually monthly accounts, charging you for every 6 minutes of time spent on your matter. This includes every email, telephone call, letter and meetings. Lawyers are obliged to advise clients you at regular points in the service period what is the estimate of the legal costs of the service will be. However, this is not a quote and does not bind the lawyer if the services turn out to cost more than the estimate given by the Lawyer.

At Bowen Buchbinder Vilensky we provide Fixed Price services. This involves an assessment of what work is required at various stages of your matter and providing a fixed fee for that service. The fixed fee is agreed to in advance before any work commences which provides certainty and peace of mind.

 

PLEASE CONTACT

Contact Rhonda Griffiths at [email protected] if you wish to discuss this matter or your estate planning objectives further.

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Owning Properties in Different Countries – Heirs and Places

In today’s globalised world, an increasing number of people own real estate in more than one country at any one time.

As a result, there has been an increase in the number of people who have both an Australian Will and a Will in a foreign country to dispose of real estate owned by them. The intention (subject to the manner in which the Wills are drafted) is usually for the foreign Will to dispose of real estate in that foreign country and for the Australian Will to dispose of all other assets of that person.

However, if you first make an Australian Will that only deals with your assets in Australia, and later make a second foreign Will that states that it revokes all previous Wills and deals solely with your real estate in that other country, what is the status of your Australian Will? Has your Australian Will been revoked by the later foreign Will?

This interesting predicament has been considered by the Australian Courts, which have set out principles to reduce the uncertainty that this creates and have determined that the question of whether a later Will revokes an earlier Will ultimately depends on the intention of the Will-maker: did he or she intend to revoke the earlier Will?

In Australia, in so far as real estate is concerned, such issues are generally referred to the law of the place where that real estate is situated (the legal principle of ‘lex situs’).

It has also been recognised since the 19th century that a general revocation clause in a Will (e.g., ‘I hereby revoke all Wills heretofore made by me and declare this to be my last Will’) is not sufficient of itself to revoke a prior Will if the Court is satisfied that the Will-maker did not intend by the later Will to revoke the earlier Will.

In determining the intention of the Will-maker, the Courts will look at a variety of factors, including:

  • whether the Australian Will deals only with your Australian estate;
  • whether the foreign Will deals only with your real estate in the foreign country;
  • whether the later Will is sufficient by its terms to cause a revocation of the earlier Will (which is a question of interpretation of the foreign Will by the Courts);
  • whether the foreign Will was ever intended to affect the Australian Will (which is to be determined as a matter of evidence according to Australian probate law);
  • whether the foreign Will was made in the language of that country and not in English; and
  • the terms of both Wills and the circumstances of their execution and signing.

The practical significance of this is that, if you own assets in Australia and also own foreign real estate, it is imperative that you obtain competent estate planning advice so as to avoid the risk that, at a later time, either your Australian or your foreign Will is deemed to have been revoked, when your intention and estate planning objectives may be clearly otherwise.

PLEASE CONTACT

Contact us at bbv@bbvlegal.com.au if you wish to discuss this matter or your estate planning objectives further.

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