AMICA – Can A.I Replace Family Lawyers?

Amica is a new initiative supported by the Australian Government. It is designed to assist couples to resolve their parenting and/or financial issues following separation. It is a great initiative for couples who can “get along” as they come apart.  For others, it is less helpful.

According to the website, Amica:

  • provides separating couples with a user-friendly platform to work out and record parenting arrangements that work for their family.
  • uses artificial intelligence to make suggestions about dividing money and property (considering legal principles) based on the information that is entered by the parties.

The website claims that Amica “should suit most separating couples”.  These are some of the situations listed where Amica is not going to be suitable:

  • There is a Family Violence Restraining Order in place between the parties.
  • A limitation period will expire in the next 3 months.
  • There is a genuine dispute about the validity of the relationship.
  • One of the parties to a relationship or marriage is on a visa or seeking a visa which is dependent on their relationship with their partner.
  • There are any existing court orders in place about parenting arrangements for any children of the relationship.
  • There are ongoing cases or allegations in any court involving family law, child support, family violence or child welfare that involve either parent, or a child of the relationship.
  • One of the parties wishes to relocate with a child of the relationship.
  • Either party wishes to divide superannuation.
  • There are any genuine disputes over what is included in the property pool.
  • Any property of the relationship has been disposed of (such as sold or transferred) without consent of both parties.
  • There are caveats or charges lodged over any property in the property pool.
  • Assets in the property pool are held in a company or trust.
  • One party is a director of a company that forms part of the property pool.
  • Where either party owns or partly owns property or other assets overseas.
  • The property pool includes property which is also owned by a third party.
  • Either party currently has bankruptcy proceedings against them, or if either party was bankrupt during the relationship, or if either party is an undischarged bankrupt.

While Amica appears to be a great initiative, it is not the end of family lawyers by AI.  Amica does not give legal advice. In our experience, it is very rare to encounter a matter which does not involve at least one of the complicating factors listed above, making Amica unsuitable for most separating couples.

Importantly, even if a separating couple can reach agreement using Amica, it is not legally binding. All information exchanged between parties is done so on a “without prejudice” basis, meaning the information disclosed via Amica cannot be used in Court proceedings.  

Here at Bowen Buchbinder Vilensky, we encourage our clients to reach an amicable resolution to their family law issue, whether it be divorce, parenting arrangements or property division.

To book an initial consultation with one of our experienced family lawyers, please get in touch. Alternatively, to get started online now, visit the BBV Legal Online System where you can enter your relationship details and receive information that is free, instant, personalised and helpful.

Family Law: A Complex And Private Legal System

lawyer with couple at desk

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.