Family Lawyers

Sydney Divorce Lawyers with expertise across all areas of family law

Family Lawyers Sydney

We offer prompt, confidential and cost-effective family law advice, options and solutions.

Family law issues are often emotional and stressful for you, your family and those closest to you.  

Our family law solicitors have experience and skills that have been developed over many decades. Reassuringly, our expertise comes with compassion and understanding. We’ll help you sort out the legalities so you can focus on putting your life back together in a safe, practical and emotional way.

Our firm has a reputation for navigating the family law system with skill and care, consistently getting the right outcomes for each unique situation.

With experience across all areas of family law, our lawyers capably resolve matters in the most appropriate and effective way – whether that’s by negotiation, mediation, arbitration, collaboration or litigation.

Family Law Advice and Services

Our advice and services are delivered with professionalism, integrity and care – whether your family law matter is highly complex or you come to us with a pre-agreed arrangement and you require us to formalise those arrangements. 

We listen carefully and gain a thorough understanding of your family situation and priorities, so we can offer clear advice, options, strategies and recommendations.

Enriching RelationshipsDe facto RelationshipsSettlement Agreements
MarriageChild SupportInternational Family Law
SeparationParenting and ChildrenNew Relationships
DivorceSpousal Maintenance 
Money and PropertyFamily Courts and Processes 

Australia’s Family Law System

Australia’s modern family law system aims to help people resolve their family relationship issues, including breakdowns in those relationships.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia has registries throughout Australia with specialist family law judges and staff at each Registry. While the Court is there to help resolve the most difficult or complex legal family disputes, the system encourages people to agree on family law matters outside of Court where possible and by engaging with various dispute resolution processes. 

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia oficially began operating as one Court on the 1st of September, 2021. For an overview of how the newly merged court will operate, check out our article here

The Family Law Act 1975

The Family Law Act 1975 is the governing law for family law matters in Australia.

This Act, that was first introduced in 1975, continues to address the needs of families experiencing crisis or the breakdown of their family unit, whilst protecting the rights of children.

 The Act:

  1. Sets out the rights, duties and obligations of parties to relationships, including in their capacity as parents.

  2. Heavily considers the best interests of the children and the various considerations that ought to be given to ensure the welfare of children, particularly when determining parenting issues.

  3. Outlines the process and various considerations necessary when determining the division of property following the breakdown of a relationship.

  4. Provides an avenue for enforcing those rights and obligations and deals with the dissolution of marriage and de-facto relationships.

It is noted that while the Family Law Act is a Commonwealth Act, things operate a little differently in Western Australia.

In Western Australia, there are two separate pieces of governing legislation. Married couples wanting to divorce and to divide property and make suitable arrangements for children are governed by the Family Law Act 1975, whereas de-facto relationships are governed by the Family Court Act 1997.

Earlier Family Laws

Before 1975, each state and territory had its own legislation and systems when dealing with family law matters.

Back then, it was also more difficult to apply for a divorce. Marriage was considered to be a contract and when a spouse made an application for divorce, they were required to show proof that the relationship breakdown was due to the “fault” of the other party.

Acceptable causes of fault included adultery, habitual drunkenness or insanity, and evidence would need to be supplied in Court proceedings. It was common for divorce applications to be opposed, and the applicant would hire a private investigator or lawyers to gather evidence to support their case.

This fault system resulted in Orders being made for compensation, damages against the party who was “at fault” or a more favourable property settlement for the spouse that was not “at fault”.

Today, while you or your former spouse may have plenty of grievances with each other, the system is not based around fault.

Instead, to get a divorce you now simply need to prove that your marriage has broken down irretrievably and meet a specific set of legislative requirements, none of which requires evidence about the reasons behind the breakdown of the relationship or whose fault it was.

Similarly the reason behind the breakdown of the relationship, whether a marriage or de-facto relationship, will not impact on your property settlement or parenting matters, unless there is a particular risk caused to the child by one party’s conduct or they have wasted away significant funds from the asset pool.

This change, brought about by the Family Law Act 1975, helps to reduce stress and hostility while encouraging alternative dispute resolution methods.

Family Law FAQs

Divorce

No. Australia’s “no fault” system means you only need to prove that your marriage has broken down irretrievably and that you meet some legislative requirements.

Parenting

Generally, no.

The only time an affair might possibly be relevant in family law parenting matters (or even child protection or welfare matters) is if the parent who had or is having an affair has been grossly neglecting their children because of the affair or exposing them to inappropriate conduct or harm.

For example, it might be relevant where one parent has brought a person into the children’s lives in a way that is detrimental to the emotional or psychological wellbeing of the children.

Property

Where couples have separated as a result of an affair, it may be relevant if:

  • the affair has resulted in a new relationship post-separation and where the new partner would be considered a financial resource to that party and so the Court would take the new relationship into account in property settlements.

  • The affair resulted in a significant amount of relationship assets or funds being spent or alternatively wasted by one party and to the exclusion of or without the consent of the other party.

Contributions are the things, in percentage terms, that you and former spouse or de facto partner have put into the asset pool of the relationship.

Contributions can be made before or during a marriage or commencement of a de facto relationship or after the date of separation, and include:

  • homemaker and parenting contributions;
  • direct or indirect financial contributions, including wages, gifts and inheritances; and
  • other non-financial contributions, including improvements made to property or investments.

To learn more, see our articles on contributions:

This issue can be complex, and it’s hard to provide a definitive answer, as it depends on the length of the relationship, the amount of money that was injected into the relationship, and how this money was treated during the course of the relationship.

It could be said, that in shorter relationships the court may take an asset by asset approach. This means that whatever either party brought into the relationship they take out (subject to, for instance, whether there are children of the relationship and the impact the children may have on the ability of one party to seek and maintain).

In longer relationships, the court will likely take a more global approach. This means all the assets are put into the total asset pool and included in the division, even assets brought into the relationship at the beginning and acquired without the assistance of the other party.

The court will then weigh up a myriad of contribution factors to determine what each party contributed to this net asset pool. These factors include financial contributions, non-financial contributions to improvement of property or in a person’s capacity as a home maker or parent.

For family law advice tailored to your circumstances, contact our family law firm, Ivy Law Group, on 02 9262 4003.

Yes. If family violence has occurred in your relationship, this may have an impact on your overall property settlement matters.

Section 75(2)(o) of the  Family Law Act 1975 states that a Court can take into account any other factor that it regards as relevant to the division of property, including “negative contributions” in relation to serious family violence.

If you want to run a negative contributions argument, either in Court or during negotiations, we highly recommend that you obtain legal advice as it is a complex area of family law, highly dependant on the level of family violence experienced and the resulting consequences of the violence.

For family law advice tailored to your circumstances, contact the family law lawyers at Ivy Law Group on 02 9262 4003.

From 1 September 2021, there is only one court that hears Family Law matters in Australia (with the exception of the state of Western Australia where the Family Court of Western Australia is the relevant Court) and this is the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA) established by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Act 2021.

The FCFCOA has two divisions:

  • Division 1: which will hear Family Law matters only.
  • Division 2: which will hear Family and general Federal Law matters.

Division 2 will be the single point of entry for all matters. However, the Court does have in place a National Assessment Team, and who may, upon filing, immediately triage a matter and transfer the matter into division 1.

Matters likely to be transferred include complex property matters, matters of extreme risk of harm, or otherwise matters whereby Division 1 of the Court holds exclusive jurisdiction i.e., Hague Convention matters.

If you have a matter that has been in the Court system prior to September 2021, then in circumstances where your matter was previously in the:

  1. Family Court of Australia it will continue into Division 1 of the FCFCOA;
  2. Federal Circuit Court of Australia it will remain in Division 2 of the FCFCOA.     

For an overview of these changes, see our article on this topic here

Yes. Both married couples and de facto couples  (including same-sex couples) have the same rights under the Family Law Act 1975. However, different time limitations apply.

Western Australia deals with married couples and de facto couples (including same sex couples)  under separate legislation.

Yes, there are strict time limitations when commencing family law proceedings in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

The time limits that you should be aware of are:

Application for Divorce

12 months from the date of separation (married couples only).

Divorce Order

Becomes final one month and one day after the Court grants Divorce at the Court hearing.

Response to Divorce (Australia)

Application must be filed within 28 days from the date of service.

Response to Divorce (overseas)

Application must be filed within 42 days from the date of service.

Special Service

As soon as practicable, but no longer than 12 months from the date of filing.

Property Settlement

An application for property settlement must be filed:

 

·       De facto couples: within two years from the date of separation in a de facto relationship, or

 

·       Married couples:  within 12 months from the date upon which your divorce order becomes final.

Spouse Maintenance  

An application for spousal maintenance must be filed:

 

·       De facto couples: within two years from the date of separation in a de facto relationship, or

 

·     Married couples:  within 12 months from the date upon which your divorce order becomes final.

Parenting Matters      

Proceedings can be commenced at any time. If final Orders have been made in parenting matters, then proceedings can only be recommenced if there is a significant change in the circumstances.

Application for Leave

If you fail to commence proceedings within the time limitations, then you must apply to the Court for permission to commence proceedings out of time. To do so, you will have to provide an explanation to the Court about why you failed to commence the proceedings within the required time and show that the failure of the Court to make an Order granting you leave to file when you are ‘out of time’ would cause you hardship.

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