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Family Law Library

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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.


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Child Support after Divorce

Under Australian family law, child support following a divorce is governed under the Child Support (Assessment) Act of 1989. Child Support Agency is the institution responsible for evaluating how much child support should be paid and also for collecting it from the parent. This agency falls under the control of the Department of Human Services. The Child Support Agency performs functions such as evaluation upon receiving an application from the parent who has custody of children. A specific formula is being used to determine the amount of child support that the other parent is liable to pay.

The formula takes into account a number of factors such as the annual income of both the parents, the age of the child and the costs that may be reasonably expected in taking care of the child. In order to arrive at a more equitable assessment, the formula also takes into consideration how much time the mother and father spends with the child. To further prevent overburdening either parent, the formula also considers whether the parent is already liable to pay child support as a result of an earlier divorce. The formula is also available on the website of the Child Support Agency and can be used by the parents independently.

In few special circumstances, however the law permits some deviation from the prescribed formula. One such situation might involve either parent incurring substantial expense in traveling over to spend time with the child. In cases where the actual financial resources of the parent differ from their declared income, the difference may also be taken into account to arrive at a fairer assessment.

In most cases, the child support payments are made to the Child Support Agency every month, from where they are then forwarded to the parent in custody of the child.

 

Dealing with Special Circumstances in Australian Divorce Law

The Australian family law is unique in a way that it does not require the divorce applicants to prove the fault of any partner. This is called a no fault divorce. All that is required is that the partners have been separated for a period of 12 months and that there are no chances of their getting back together. It is also not necessary for a joint divorce application to be filed. Australian family law allows either partner or both jointly to file an application for divorce.

The court needs to be certain that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and that there is no hope for reconciliation at all. This requirement is particularly acute if the partners have been married for a period under two years. To ensure that the partners are not getting a divorce in haste, the court requires a certificate signed by a counseling agency to be filed with the divorce papers. This certificate attests that the partners have sought counseling as a means to seek reconciliation before applying for divorce. Similarly, if either spouse cannot be traced, the applicant can pursue the divorce application as long as they demonstrate that they have made efforts to locate the untraceable spouse.

Usually, the divorce proceedings do not take much time if there are no minor children involved. However, if the custody of children under 18 is an issue, then the applicants need to demonstrate that they have made adequate arrangements for the care of their children after the divorce. More so, unless a joint application is made by both partners, the applicant needs to be present at the hearing if there are children under 18 involved.

If either partner wishes to oppose an application of divorce filed by the spouse, he or she may file a response to the divorce application or a response to the jurisdiction if they feel that the divorce has not been filed in the right jurisdiction.

 

My spouses refuses to have anything to do with the divorce. They won’t even look at the papers, let alone sign them. What can I do?

As long as you were separated for 12 months and a day – even under one roof – you are eligible for divorce, whether your husband wants the divorce or not.  You can fill out the divorce application by yourself, completing all of the information about him.   If you don’t know some of the answers, just write in “not known” on the form.

What if we lived together some of the 12 months but not all of them?

Sometimes there are variations of separations.  Perhaps you separated under one roof for three months and then one of you moved out for another 9 months.   If you lived under one roof for any part of the 12 months required prior to filing for divorce, you need to file an affidavit along with your divorce application.  An affidavit is a statement made by you or another person, serving as your testimony about particular issues.

In your affidavit, you need to show that you and your spouse separated even though you were under one roof (see above) and you need to explain why you remained living in the same house.   You also need to explain what the living arrangement were for any of your children who were under 18 during the separation and what government agencies you told about your separation.

What do we need to do to be separated under one roof?

Pretty much what you would have done if one of you had moved out.  But now you may be required to prove that you are leading “separate lives”.  Social Security law breaks down the relationship into five categories when determining whether or not there was separation under one roof.

(1) The financial aspects of the relationship.  Have you separated out your finances?  Do you hold different bank accounts?  Is there a property settlement or did you seek legal advice about dividing your property?

(2) Nature of the household.   This factor considers the physical separation within the house, making you and your spouse independent of one another.   Are you living in separate rooms?  Have you stopped eating together?  Do you no longer help each other with laundry, cleaning, cooking and shopping?

(3) Social Aspects of the Relationship.  This has to do with how you are viewed by others.  Do you no longer go out together – to functions, parties, holidays – as a couple?  Have you told other people that you are no longer together?  Do one or both of you have a relationship with someone else?

(4) Absence of a sexual relationship.

(5) Nature of the Commitment.  This factor considers whether the level of commitment between the partners has changed.  Have you stopped discussing joint plans for the future?  Would you help the other person in a time of crisis?

A court may consider any or all of these factors when deciding whether or not the separation requirement was fulfilled.

My spouse and I want to divorce but neither of us can afford to move out. Are we still separated according to the law?

Many people find themselves in the same situation.  You’re still receiving the same income but suddenly you need to pay for two homes.  The law in Australia recognizes this problem and allows for something called “separation under one roof”.  This means you are still living in the same house but are no longer together as a married couple.

How do I apply for nullity?

You can apply for nullity by filing an Initiating Application.   This is a standard form that can be found on the family court website.   It requires detailed information about the parties involved and the reasons for the request.  In addition to this Initiating Application, you must submit an affidavit that includes the facts you are using to claim the marriage should be nullified as well as details of the marriage ceremony.

While you can fill out the forms on your own, it’s best to seek legal advice prior to submitting any documentation to the courts to insure that you have done all of the work in accordance with the rules of the courts and that you have a proper claim for nullification.

What is a nullity? Can I have my marriage nullified instead of going through divorce?

Nullity is an invalidation of the marriage.  While divorce takes a marriage and terminates it, nullification basically erases the marriage, as if it never existed.   But you can’t pick between nullity and divorce.

The Marriage Act, 1961 (give link to the law) lists the reasons for a marriage to be voided (Section 23):

(1) Bigamy: One or both partners were already married at the time or;

(2)Prohibited relationship: (ie brother and sister) or;

(3)Underage: One or both partners were under age (18 at the time of the marriage) and did not receive the approvals required by law or;

(4)One or both parties were:

  1. forced into the marriage under duress or fraud or;
  2. mistaken regarding the identity of the person they were marrying or the nature of the ceremony or;
  3. mentally incapable of understanding the nature of the marriage ceremony or the effect of the ceremony.

If there is both a request for a nullity and a request for a divorce, the court will not grant the divorce unless it has first dismissed the nullity request.

Who is allowed to divorce in Australia?

There are three requirements for divorcing in Australia:

  • You are an Australian citizen by birth or descent (one or both parents are Australian) or Australian citizenship was granted to you OR;
  • You must consider Australia your home and currently be living in Australia and intend to live in Australia indefinitely, OR;
  • You ordinarily live in Australia and have lived in Australia for 12 months immediately before filing for divorce (even if you took short holidays or business trips overseas).

How to File an Online Divorce Application Form

Many people find it more convenient to fill out electronic forms compared to a hard copy. The Australian family law accepts divorce applications that are submitted electronically. Applicants can fill out a form for filing for divorce online and submit it through the electronic portal along with the fee and the necessary accompanying documents.

The online submission process has been made easier to facilitate the applicants. For the most part, the online form has exactly the same questions as the hard copy. However, it is more convenient to fill out due to some special features. One such feature is the validation feature. This feature notifies the applicant if he or she has skipped any question before moving on to the next page. This minimizes the risks of filing an incomplete form.

Secondly, the online form only presents questions that are relevant to the applicant. This saves a lot of time that would otherwise have been spent in going over every question on the form. The online form also provides pointers i.e. information to help the applicant provide complete and accurate responses.

The applicant can easily save the completed divorce application in the form of a PDF file on computer. The applicant can then submit the form electronically through the web portal of the Commonwealth Courts. Some of the necessary document can also be filed electronically. At the same time, the form is also saved automatically on a separate database from where it is automatically deleted after two months.

No separate charges are applied on filing the divorce application electronically. Only the standard prescribed fee for filing an application for divorce needs to be paid by the applicant. All efforts have been taken to make the process of filling out and submitting the online application smooth and hassle-free. However, the family law registry is open to provide a complete divorce kit that answers any particular queries and problems experienced by the applicants.