Separation from a partner can be an incredibly difficult and stressful time. It’s never easy when a relationship comes to an end and can often leave people feeling a bit lost and unsure of what comes next. In addition to the emotional toll it takes, there are also the financial and legal implications that need to be considered following a separation.

Reaching an agreement with your former partner about financial and parenting matters – such as property settlements and child support is an important part of this process and can help you both to move on with your lives. Once an agreement has been reached, you can obtain a ‘Consent Order’ via the Family Court of Australia.

Here we look at the process for obtaining a Consent Order, what to do if you and your partner cannot reach an agreement and other family law matters you might need to consider after a separation.

What is a Consent Order?

A Consent Order is a written agreement that is approved by the Court. A Consent Order can cover parenting arrangements for children as well as financial arrangements such as property and maintenance. In order to finalise a Consent Order, the Court must be satisfied that the agreement in place is just and equitable, and also in the “best interests” of any child/ren involved in the relationship.

How do I apply for a Consent Order?

It is possible to apply for a Consent Order directly through the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court of Australia. However, without proper legal advice from a qualified family lawyer, you run the risk of the court rejecting your application for consent orders, as well as potentially missing important aspects of the proposed parenting/property arrangements.

Our experienced Sydney family lawyers can help you prepare the Consent Order and answer any questions you may have about the separation process including property settlement matters, parenting arrangements and any other family law matters you may need help with.

It’s also important to note that there is a time limit on making an application for a Consent Order for property settlement or parenting/child support matters. The application must be made within:

  • one year from the date of divorce for married couples.
  • two years from the date of separation for de facto couples.

What if my partner and I cannot reach an agreement?

If you and your former partner are struggling to come to an agreement about property or family/parenting matters, there is help available. As always, it’s best to consult an experienced family lawyer who can provide tailored advice on how to best resolve legal disputes and make sure that you come to an agreement that is fair and equitable. It is important to know your rights and responsibilities under the law as it can often be a confusing process.

Your family lawyer can also suggest other avenues that may be helpful to you and your former partner to help you resolve disputes. These can include:

  • Mediation – this process involves face-to-face discussions between you and your former spouse or de facto partner, usually with your family lawyers present. A jointly appointed mediator is also present and assists both parties to find common ground in order to reach an agreement that everyone is happy with.
  • Arbitration – this usually involves a third-party (an “Arbitrator”) who meets with you and your former spouse or de facto partner (and usually your legal representatives) to consider the evidence and arguments in dispute. The Arbitrator, who is usually a senior barrister or a former Judge, makes an informed decision to resolve the dispute. The decision is called an award and is legally binding once it is registered with the court.
  • Collaborative law – this is another avenue in which to explore where you and your former spouse or de facto partner agree to not go to Court to resolve parenting matters. Instead, both you and your former spouse or de facto partner, together with your family lawyers, have face-to-face meetings to reach an agreement. These “round table” discussions include (where appropriate) accountants, financial planners and counsellors.

If you’re ready to get legal help or have any questions about the process you need to follow after a separation, particularly where Consent Orders are concerned, give one of our friendly Sydney family lawyers a call on (02) 9262 4003 for a free, no-obligation initial consultation, or submit an online enquiry.

The content of this article is intended as a general guide to the subject matter. For specific legal advice about your individual circumstances, please contact our experienced lawyers.

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