As a leading Toowoomba family law practitioner Brooke Pugh provides her clients with a determined but compassionate approach to family law, separation and divorce issues. She is one of only a few Queensland Law Society Acrredited Specialists offering family law, separation and divorce services in Toowoomba.
Built on more than 16 years experience in legal practice and a commitment to practising exclusively on family law matters Brooke’s reputation for protecting her client’s interests and pursuing the best possible result for them is unmatched.
Whether you’re thinking about a separation or divorce or you need family law advice around child maintenance, a property settlement or other issue Brooke Pugh provides the caring, specialist advice you need.
Brooke’s team of family lawyers at Condon Charles offers Toowoomba and Darling Downs residents access to the best possible family law services.
If you are experiencing any problems with family life there are many ways you are supported in Queensland through the Family Law Act. This includes everything from dividing your property after a break up from your spouse to arranging parenting for your children and working out maintenance for you and your children.
Dividing property can come in many forms including both assets and liabilities. Both of these are considered when a relationship breaks down and there is no chance of reconciliation even if mediation is arranged between you and your partner. The Family Law Act decides what the court intends to consider when it comes to dividing property. If money is owed, this will be factored into any final settlement, just as any property that is owned individually and assets held in a family company or trust.
Once decisions are made about property division following the breakdown of a relationship there is no turning back for you and your family, so it is important to get legal advice before you sign any documents. If you are in a de facto relationship, but it broke down after March 1st 2009, you are eligible to apply for and negotiate spousal maintenance and a property settlement Family Law Act. If for some reason you separated before 2009 and you never finalised a property settlement, you will need to see a lawyer to discuss your situation.
Once you have reached a agreement you should get a court order or what is referred to as a consent order so that those who are party to the agreement follow it. Informal agreements don’t always work and may delay the time it takes to rebuild a relationship that has failed which may have left you in a state of unhappiness and turmoil. The sooner you and your family can get back on your feet the better.
Depending on the extent of the assets involved, it is better to discuss the property distribution with your chosen lawyer who, if necessary, can help you with negotiations and will ensure that both you and your ex spouse are happy with the agreement before it is signed, which limits your ability to alter at a later date.
If you find that between you and your ex partner you are unable to reach an agreement you will need to file an application with the court for a property order detailing precisely how any property has to be divided. The court does require that you follow pre-action procedures before you can file an application with the court.
Property comes in many forms and whether you have contributed to the ownership of any of your assets or not may not be a deciding factor when dividing the property between yourself and your ex-partner. Amongst other things children are considered as well before any property division is finalised. Even if you owe money on an asset you may not necessarily be responsible for any remaining debt. This will depend on what your financial situation is at the time of the separation.
• Your family home
• Any money, whether its cash or held in a bank account
• Any investments held in banks or other financial institutions
• Insurance policies such as life insurance
• Any prior inheritances
• Shares in companies
• Accumulated superannuation
• Family owned cars, jewellery and furniture
• Any liabilities such as credit card debt, bank overdrafts, car loans and mortgages.
If you have been unable to reach an agreement with your ex-partner, the Family Law Act requires that a specific four step process is followed to determine the final property distribution.
Step 1 involves identifying all the property’s value that has been a part of the relationship or marriage. This may include anything that was in you or your ex-partner’s possession before and after the beginning of the marriage or relationship. Debts can be included too.
Step 2 will consider the financial contribution of both you and your partner as individuals in the relationship such as salaries, savings, presents, property owned prior to the relationship, the value of any property improvement, inheritances and the contributions made as a parent and homemaker.
Step 3 considers a number of other factors such potential future earnings, health status and age of those involved, financial support and care of any children, any responsibilities held in looking after any other people and the length of the relationship. The law does not consider who terminated the relationship.
Step 4 is the final stage and is when the court decides how to divide the property in a fair way.
You should discuss the matter of the division of your property with a lawyer if negotiations are just about to begin, you have got to the point that you are willing to sign an agreement, you are unable to forge an agreement with your ex-partner, you are at the point of opting for trying to reach an agreement by taking part in a family dispute resolution or you are about to apply to the court for property orders.
Our lawyers at Condon can offer legal advice on financial and property agreements. However, we cannot make decisions on the precise amount each person will receive in a settlement. That jurisdiction lies with the court.
Setting aside the financial side of a broken relationship is the consideration given to the care of the children. If an agreement cannot be reached through a family dispute resolution a parenting order may be necessary to ensure children are appropriately cared for when a relationship ceases to exist. There are several people who may be involved in a parenting order, including the child’s or children’s parents which can include same-sex parents, the children’s grandparents and any other relatives who are concerned about a child’s welfare can file an application for a parenting order if it’s in the best interests of the child or children.
The Family Law Act 1975 considers certain factors that the court must consider when making orders about children. You should look at the Act and in particular Section 60B which provides an explanation of what is considered to be the best interests of the children and Section 65C which describes who is entitled to file an application for a parenting order. Case law is also used when establishing a parenting order and that is the decisions made by judges in other cases that are similar to yours.
In the majority of cases it is a requirement to take part in family dispute resolution before an application for a parenting order can be made. Sometimes the court decides on a temporary or interim order while awaiting further evidence that would lead to a final decision.
Interim orders may take place in a situation where a decision has to be made urgently concerning the care of the children. This could include when there is a distinct possibility a child could be taken out of the country. You can ask that your case be treated urgently as long as you provide a good reason. This should be done in an affidavit.
A registrar will list your case with the Child Responsive Programme, which means a number of meetings will take place between you and a family consultant. This person acts as a mediator and helps you and your ex-partner to decide what the best arrangements are for your children. The family consultant hands a Parenting Questionnaire to you for completion which includes your situation and what arrangements you would be happy with.
If a suitable agreement is reached at this meeting, this will be used as a basis for a more formal legal order at a later date. At this stage an interim order may be requested. If there is any doubt about the arrangements for a parenting order a family consultant may be asked to make an independent contribution to the court. Your children may be bought in to express their opinions too.
Sometimes an independent children’s lawyer is requested if a parenting dispute is too difficult to solve. The judge could ask to speak with your children with an independent children’s lawyer present.
Whatever decisions that are finally made each of the parties’ involved may be expected to pay his or her costs. If one of the party’s has failed to obey a court order he or she may be required to pay additional court costs. If you feel you are being asked to contribute more than your fair share of costs you should contact a family lawyer who can try to reach a compromise on your behalf.
Child support is the amount of money paid by one of a child’s parent to the other which is in place to help the parent pay the costs of the parenting role. If the parents can reach an amicable agreement they can get it legally enforced in relation to the amount of the payments, how often the payments should be made and how the money is to be paid.
Basically, child support agreements come in two types, one of which is the limited agreement, while the second is a binding agreement. As they can be enforced legally the decision has to be accepted without a doubt. If you wish to change the agreement at a later date you may have to file an application to the Federal Court Circuit. You can make a child support agreement if both parents agree and then it can be enforced legally. A child support agreement is presented in writing where the amount, method of payment and frequency of payments is included. Child support agreements make sure the child receives a proper level of financial support from their parents.
Child support agreements come in two types; one is the limited agreement, which is written and includes the amount, the frequency and how it is to be paid. There has to be present an administrative assessment. The value of the support approved must be at least equal to or more than this assessment. It can be changed if another limited agreement is agreed or if both the parents say they agree in writing.
This is signed by the two parents and is presented in a written form containing the amount to be paid, how often and how the payments will be paid. A binding agreement differs from a limited agreement in that an assessment for child support has not been made. It can also be drawn up for any amount by agreement with the parents. It does not have to be the same as the amount suggested by an administrative assessment. In fact it could be less than that amount.
A binding agreement goes through a series of stages, the first is that each parent has to seek legal advice in relation to the benefits and drawbacks of taking up this type of agreement. Each lawyer is required to put his or her signature to a certificate indicating that the parent has been given the appropriate advice. Both certificates must be affixed to the agreement.
It is possible to end such an agreement if both parents request it in writing or if another binding agreement has been signed or if a court order says so.
Child support is generally paid out until the child reaches 18. Sometimes child support can be stopped earlier such as
• if the child benefiting from child support is classified as being self sufficient;
• if the child decides to get married or has entered a defacto relationship that resembles marriage;
• If someone adopts the child;
• if the child dies.
A formula is used to calculate child support and the amount is dependent on a number of factors including
• How many children there are to support
• How age of the children
•The amount of money you may need to help support yourself
• The two parents’ incomes
• The % of care each of the parent gives to the children
The expected economic value of child support that has to be paid may alter if the time spent by a parent with the child alters. However, even if you don’t spend any time with your child you may still be expected to pay some child support.
The DHS, when making a child support calculation, will consider the presence of other dependent children who are not in the same relationship.
A dependent child who is considered relevant includes:
• A biological child
• An adopted child
• A child who was born due to the use of artificial conception
• A child who was born due to a surrogacy agreement
• A child that the Family Law Act 1975 says you have a duty to provide for
• A child support assessment may change if there is any change in your situation and this includes
• your child is now 18 and is continuing in education
• you decide to return to your relationship with the other parent
• you have changed the amount of care you are providing
• you now have a further child with a different partner
• you have had your child legally adopted
• your child gets married and is now living in a relationship as if married
• a child or parent dies who had been included as part of a child support assessment dies.
• Disagreements occur in relation to the assessment for child support.
If you do not agree with the assessment for child support you can request that changes are made but you may need legal advice to help you to succeed.
There are other circumstances when you may need legal help from a family lawyer and that includes when there is uncertainty who the biological parent is of your child. This means a DNA test may need to be undertaken. If one parent is living abroad or if you as the main carer are concerned about the child support you are receiving you may need legal representation to clarify where you stand.
If you think that you are paying too much in child support you should contact an experienced family law lawyer who will investigate your concerns and help to resolve any concerns you have.