In these uncertain times Mathews Family Law continues to be available to provide you with family law advice and support
Mathews Family Law & Mediation Specialists have created many detailed articles answering the most common questions people have in relation to their rights and Australian Family Law.
Divorce is painful for everyone concerned, especially children. During this challenging period, children need love, support and contact with both parents.
Creating certainty about the future is crucial for children when their parents separate. Parents coming to a mutual agreement about parenting arrangements can help to provide clarity and certainty.
When parents agree
Following separation, parents may agree on a parenting arrangement that works for them and the children. The agreement should focus on providing for the needs of the children and may include financial arrangements.
A parenting arrangement can be agreed orally, in writing or put into a formal court order known as ‘consent orders’ (which requires an application to the court but does not require a court appearance).
When parents don’t agree
If parents can’t agree on parenting arrangements, they can apply to the court for a parenting order. Usually (except in the case of family violence and other specific circumstances), parents are not permitted to apply for a parenting court order until they have first attempted family dispute resolution (mediation).
The court’s primary concern will be to protect the children from psychological or physical harm. The court will address this before deciding about parenting arrangements.
The Australian Government has published a book to help develop parenting plans. This resource can help prepare clear, practical parenting arrangements that are focused on what’s best for the children.
What to consider when creating a parenting agreement?
When making parenting arrangements, parents may consider a range of issues including:
While a routine may be best for your children overall, flexibility is likely to be an essential ingredient of a parenting agreement.
Relocating with children
If you are thinking of relocating with your children at a distance that would dramatically affect the time they spend with the other parent, you will need to come to an agreement with the other parent. If agreement is not reached, an application to the family law courts seeking permission to relocate the children will be required.
The proposed relocation destination may involve moving intrastate, interstate or overseas. Consider how the relocation will affect the children’s relationship with the other parent and ask yourself the question ‘Would the move be in the children’s best interests?’ – the court will ask the same question.
Consider what is best for your children’s short-term and long-term wellbeing.
Work out what concerns need to be addressed in your parenting arrangement.
Decide whether you want the parenting agreement to be an informal oral or written agreement, a parenting plan signed and dated by both parents or a court order obtained by consent or by order of the court (judge made order).
Contact an accredited family law specialist or family dispute resolution practitioner to obtain the advice that you need to resolve your post-separation parenting issues.
Vanessa Mathews is a Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers (IAFL).
Vanessa joins with the IAFL in welcoming the following four major developments in recognition of
LGBT rights in the Asia Pacific region, as summarised by the IAFL:
‘In September 2018, the Supreme Court of India unanimously ruled to decriminalise
homosexual sex in a landmark judgment for gay rights in that country, the world’s most
populous democracy. The Indian Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a 160-yearold law banning homosexual activity, stating that the provision of the criminal code amounted to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and was illegal.
In December 2018, in a landmark decision, the Singapore High Court allowed the
adoption of a child of a gay male couple born with a surrogate by the child’s own
biological gay parent on the basis of the need to promote the welfare of the child and
regard it as paramount despite other public policy.
On 17 May 2019 Taiwan’s parliament became the first in Asia to legalise same-sex
marriage, after the Taiwanese Constitutional Court in 2017 ruled that the constitutional
right to equality and freedom of marriage guaranteed same-sex couples the right to
marry under the Taiwanese constitution.
Most recently on 6 June 2019, the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal unanimously
granted a same sex-couple who had validly married in New Zealand, the same right to
employment and tax benefits that an opposite-sex married couple has under Hong
Kong law. The Court held that it is circular logic to justify the restriction of these
benefits to opposite-sex married couples simply because heterosexual marriage is the
only form of marriage recognised in Hong Kong law. It uses the fact that the couple has
a different sexual orientation from others as the very justification to deny them equality,
despite their analogous position.
The IAFL is an international organisation of over 820 practising lawyers from 58
countries who are recognised by their peers as the most experienced and skilled family
law specialists in their respective countries. The IAFL reaffirms our support of efforts
towards ensuring human dignity within all relationships, full equality of the LGBTI
community and in issues concerning marriage, families, parenting and ending domestic
violence throughout the world.
While these legal changes are all different in their reach, they will improve the rights of
LGBTI people in each of these jurisdictions. The IAFL especially welcomes these
measures in the Asia Pacific region, where issues of criminalisation of and discrimination
against LGBTI people continue to be of concern in some jurisdictions. We call on all
governments in our region to review their laws in relation to LGBTI people and their
The International Academy of Family Lawyers, of which Vanessa Mathews is a Fellow, has published a global survey of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender laws (LGBT laws), the results of which can be found here https://www.iafl.com/media/5336/2019-iafl-lgbt-survey.pdf.
The IAFL LGBT Committee stated ‘Laws affecting LGBT people vary greatly by country or jurisdiction. There are now 28 jurisdictions that accept same sex marriage, however gay sex remains illegal in many jurisdictions with the death penalty still applying in 14.
The International Academy of Family Lawyers (“IAFL”) supports all efforts towards full equality of the LGBT
community throughout the world and the end to rules that unfairly discriminate against such individuals and, in
many countries, criminalize countless couples because of the ones they love. There remains a lot of work to be done.
The work done by some fellows of the IAFL is having a real impact and changing for the better the lives of LGBT
people. The LGBT Committee of the IAFL commissioned this survey to capitalize on the knowledge and expertise of
some members for the benefit of the IAFL as a whole and the LGBT community.
The individual submissions in this survey are the work of fellows of the IAFL who have kindly donated their time and
expertise to answer the same questions as set out below. Each of the contributor’s names and contact details are
The LGBT Committee intends that this should be a living resource. We are asking those who have already kindly
donated their time to keep us informed as laws change in their jurisdictions. We have detailed submissions from 46
jurisdictions, however, there remains a good number of jurisdictions not covered where the IAFL has fellows. If your
jurisdiction is not covered and you feel able to complete a survey, please get in touch with the IAFL.’
Congratulations to the IAFL LGBT committee members for preparing such a comprehensive review of comparative laws.
Separation and divorce hurts. There’s no getting around that fact.
Without special care and attention, children can be the unintended victims of separation and divorce. For them, their parent’s separation can open a floodgate of emotions, which, for children of any age can be difficult to process and express.
Many of the parents we speak with of course to want to minimise the impact of their divorce on their children, but do not always know what signs to look for. So how can you identify the signs that your child may be being adversely affected by your separation and divorce?
Although every child is unique, there are some clear signs to look out for:
Your child could be sad and cry a lot. It might be more difficult than usual to comfort them. They might cry for no reason or react disproportionately to that which to you seem to be minor issues.
The things they cry over may have nothing to do with the separation and divorce however due to difficulty in understanding and accepting the changes to their family, their ability to deal with other issues may be diminished and they can become easily upset.
You or your former partner might find that your children don’t want to leave your side, or that they want to stay with the other parent and resist going with the other parent.
Separation anxiety for children is common when parents separate. Their anxiety is a result of the significant changes they are experiencing and staying close to one or both parents is their way of managing.
When parents separate, it may cause the children to feel uncertain, insecure, worried or anxious. The complex emotions they feel and their inability to express their feelings may be ‘acted out’, such as angry verbal or physical outbursts or uncooperative behaviour. Helping your children to express those complex emotions can help to release the anger and improve their wellbeing and anxiety.
The stress of parents separating can result in children withdrawing into themselves and refusing to engage in activities they have enjoyed in the past. Some children stop hanging out with their friends, preferring to spend all their time in their room, keeping a distance from their family and doing things by themselves.
When children are tackling a stressful situation at home, it can directly impact on their performance at school. The stress at home takes so much of their attention and energy and they may have difficulty focusing in class.
At home, they may be anxious and distracted, unable to focus on homework, negatively affecting their academic performance.
The dip in academic performance can result in further anxiety for the child; they feel terrible about falling behind, compounding the situation with another stressful situation. If your child is struggling at school after separation, it is a good idea to inform the school about the situation at home.
Separated parents feel responsible for their child’s suffering. Parents must remain united in their commitment to ensuring that any adverse impact on their children is kept to a minimum, and, if any are identified they are immediately met with an appropriate united response. Conflict between parents will certainly exacerbate the impact on the children, potentially dramatically.
If you detect a dramatic change in your children’s behaviour and emotions, and your efforts to support them aren’t helping, please seek urgent help. Early intervention can help both you and your children to get the support required to see you through this difficult time.
Recommended Post: Family Violence and Children at Risk
If your former partner chooses to dispute the date you separated, you may be required to prove when the separation happened. You may be in a position where you live with your former partner temporarily while you make other arrangements. In this event, you will want proof of the date on which separation occurred. One way to prove you have separated from your partner is to have it confirmed in dated written format, ideally signed by both you and your former partner. If a written and dated document will be difficult to acquire, then a text message to your former partner can often suffice.
Proof of Separation
If a precise date of separation isn’t known because it was a gradual process that happened over some time, it may be required for the Family Court to determine when the separation occurred. In this circumstance, the Family Court will look at factors such as:
What are some of the first steps you can take following separation?
Take the next step, contact Mathews Family Law
The next step is to book a free 15-minute telephone consultation with an accredited family law specialist at Mathews Family Law and receive specific advice about your situation.
Book a free consultation online today.
Separation is never easy, especially when children are involved. There are always lots of issues that need to be addressed. You may need to organise new financial arrangements, possibly arrange new accommodation and transport. Then there is the difficult job of informing friends and family, which can affect your long-standing friendships. When children are involved a great deal of care needs to be taken to ensure their lives and wellbeing get impacted as little as possible.
Even if you are not married, separation can still be complicated and involve legal paperwork. When children, child support, maintenance and property are affected by separation, legal advice and formal documents of agreements reach is likely to be of assistance.
Disputes and Resolutions
Following separation, there may be disagreement about the management of parenting and financial issues. Family Dispute Resolution mediation, supported by your own legal advice, soon after separation may be of assistance and help to avoid disagreements becoming entrenched.
Family violence is a major reason for relationship breakdown. If you are experiencing family violence, please contact your local police who can provide immediate assistance and / or family violence support service who can support you to understand your situation and help you to formulate options for moving forward. Legal advice about parenting, child support, maintenance and property settlement issues may be of assistance at this time.
Talk with a Mathews Family Law & Mediation Specialist
Just as no two experiences of relationship breakdown will be the same, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to the resolution of issues arising from the breakdown of a relationship – what works for one person may not necessarily be the right solution for you.
Mathews Family Law is one of the most experienced family law firms in Melbourne with the knowledge to guide you through the most challenging of experiences.
If you are contemplating separation or divorce, book in an obligation free 15-minute consultation with one of our accredited specialist family lawyers to understand your rights and options.
Contact us today for a free consultation.
By 2016 the marriage rate in Australia had declined from 9.3 marriages per 1,000 residents to 4.9 in 2016.
The divorce rate has also been in steady decline since its height in 1976 (for obvious reasons) to 1.9 in 2016.
I wonder if the reasons for the declines set out in this American study – that who gets divorced is a function of who gets married – are applicable to the Australian social context?
Vanessa Mathews was asked whether she believed the Ashley Madison scandal would result in a ‘surge’ in divorces?
Click on the link to read the article