Family Law

Family Lawyers Perth

Home   Services  |  Family Law

The breakdown of a relationship can be a stressful and confusing experience for you and your family.

Cullen Macleod’s Family Law Team will provide you with empathetic and professional advice to empower you to make the right decisions for your future. While separation can be a difficult process emotionally, it is also an opportunity for a new beginning and a fresh start.

Our aim is to secure amicable and cost-effective outcomes for our clients, without the need for litigation in the Family Court of Western Australia if at all possible. In situations where a negotiated agreement is not achievable, or in cases involving urgency or family violence, we will guide and support you through the litigation process. We refer to the Family Court as a “Court of last resort,” as we encourage our clients to consider all other available avenues for settlement, before Court proceedings are started.

We can tailor our level of involvement in your matter to meet your particular needs. We can assist:

  • at a “one off” meeting to provide initial advice prior to, or following, separation. At these meetings, we provide legal and practical advice regarding your property settlement entitlements and / or parenting arrangements, as well as information you need about options for dispute resolution;
  • with advice and representation prior to and during mediation. If you have already started a mediation process, we can provide legal advice outside of that process to ensure that you are aware of your options and entitlements as you negotiate on your own behalf. If the mediation is “lawyer-assisted,” we can attend with you and negotiate on your behalf. Once an agreement is reached, we can prepare the documents required to formalise that agreement;
  • with advice and representation when proceedings have started, or need to be started, in the Family Court. While we consider ourselves “resolution specialists” rather than “litigation specialists,” all of the solicitors in our team have extensive litigation experience; or
  • by helping in the background as required. If you want to run your own Family Court proceedings, we can provide advice, support and guidance when you need it, as well as prepare and review Court documents.

Services

Cullen Macleod’s Family Law Team can help you with:

Divorce

Divorce is the formal legal recognition by the Family Court that your marriage has ended. A divorce order essentially “breaks” the marriage contract.

We can assist you in making or responding to applications for divorce and ensure that all necessary steps in relation to the divorce are taken in the correct order. Most of our clients complete their divorce application online, and we can provide as much assistance or advice as you require.

Property Settlement

You only have one chance to complete your property settlement, so ensuring you get the right advice is crucial.

We will advise you on your legal entitlements and discuss the range of resolution options available to you, including negotiation, mediation, arbitration, or, if necessary, litigation.

Once an agreement is achieved, we can advise you on best way to formalise that agreement and ensure your rights are protected.

Parenting & Child Welfare

Negotiating parenting arrangements after separation can be an emotional and stressful experience, and can raise a number of (often complex) questions, such as:

  • Where will the children live?;
  • How will the children divide their time between parents (and possibly extended family such as grandparents)?;
  • Who is going to pay for the school fees and extra-curricular activities?;
  • If the children live with one parent most of the time, when will they spend time or communicate with the other parent and other close family members?;
  • Whether the parents will make decisions affecting their children together or individually?
  • Who will children spend special days with, including birthdays, Father’s and Mother’s Day, Christmas and Easter?;
  • How will decisions be made in relation to issues such as schooling, health and medical, religious and cultural matters; and
  • Where the child will live if one of the parents wants to move a significant distance from where they currently live (relocation)?;

In our experience, reaching an agreement outside of Court helps to preserve the parenting relationship that separated parties continue to share in the years after their matter has ended. This in turn has significant immediate and long-term benefits for their children. We acknowledge and understand the emotions that come with separation and we assist our clients to maintain a child-focused approach to their case, to ensure they achieve the best possible outcome for their children.

In cases involving urgency, child-welfare concerns or family violence, mediation or negotiation may not be appropriate. If litigation is necessary, we will guide you through the Family Court process. In most cases, an agreement is reached at some stage in that process, without the need for a contested trial.

Child Support

The financial support of children can create difficulties for many people after the breakdown of their relationship. In most cases, child support will be determined by the Department of Human Services (formally the Child Support Agency) once a parent makes an application for a child support assessment.

Parents also have the ability to enter into a formal or informal private agreement about how child support payments will be made. These agreements offer a high degree of flexibility and can cover costs that may be outside the scope of usual child support assessment, including fixed or ongoing expenses such as school fees, health insurance or extra-curricular activities.

They also enable parents to agree a periodic child support amount that is different to their child support assessment.

Because they are private, it is usually essential for both parties to obtain independent legal advice about the agreements, before they sign. We have extensive experience in preparing and advising on private child support agreements.

Binding Financial Agreements

A Binding Financial Agreement (sometimes referred to as a BFA or ‘pre-nuptial agreement’), can be made by de facto and married couples at any time before, during or after separation.

Financial Agreements are becoming an increasingly popular method of asset protection and estate planning. They are the best (and only) means of defining how joint and separate property will be divided between parties during the relationship, or before a separation occurs.

They are commonly used by couples entering into a second marriage, those who have an interest in a business, or with children from an earlier relationship, to protect their personal property and their children’s inheritance.

The effect of entering into a Financial Agreement is generally to prevent either party from later making an application for property settlement in the Family Court. Because Financial Agreements are not reviewed by the Family Court, both parties must obtain independent legal advice about the effect of the Agreement on their rights, and the advantages and disadvantages, at the time the Agreement is made, of entering into it.

The consequences of signing a Financial Agreement are significant. Proper preparation of the Agreement and comprehensive legal advice are essential to protect the agreement against any future challenge.

Our Family Law Team has significant experience in the preparation of Financial Agreements (both simple and complex) and the provision of advice in relation to Agreements prepared by other solicitors.

Spousal Maintenance

Spousal maintenance is (usually) a periodic payment to a former partner who is unable to adequately support themselves after separation, where the other spouse has the capacity to pay. Spousal maintenance is a payment separate to child support. Often, spousal maintenance is paid until such time as a final agreement as to property settlement can be reached.

In some cases, it is appropriate for maintenance to be paid for a defined period after settlement, or for a lump sum payment to be made as part of an overall property settlement. Maintenance orders will only be made if the other party has the capacity to make payments.

We can advise you about your claim for spousal maintenance or advise you in response to a claim that has been made against you.

Enforcement & Contravention Applications

If you have Court Orders and the other party is not following them, we can advise you about making an Enforcement or Contravention Application in the Family Court. The Court can enforce an order, make a person comply with the order, or vary an order to make sure it can be complied with it in the future. In extreme cases, the Court can impose serious penalties for non-compliance.

Mediation

Mediation is an important tool to use following a separation. We have extensive networks with a broad range of different mediators, all of whom have different strengths and approaches. This means we can tailor the mediation process to meet your particular needs.

In most parenting disputes, parents must attend Family Dispute Resolution before making an application to the Family Court of Western Australia. Parents can utilise government funded Dispute Resolution services at Relationships Australia or Anglicare, or can elect to engage a mediator privately. When both parties participate in the process, mediation can be a highly effective way of resolving a dispute entirely, or at the very least, narrowing the issues in dispute, before Court action is taken.

If both parties are legally represented in a property settlement matter, in most instances they will be strongly encouraged to attend a Mediation-Style Conference, either before starting proceedings in the Family Court, or after the first hearing of the Application.

A Mediation-Style Conference is a half or full-day mediation attended by the parties, their lawyers and a qualified Mediation Chairperson. All participants should prepare for the mediation to maximise the prospects of a successful outcome.

Mediation-Style Conferences can be a highly effective means of reaching a settlement (in relation to property settlement and / or parenting) outside of Court.

Surrogacy Agreements

Surrogacy is an arrangement where a woman (the surrogate) carries child that is not her biological child, for the intended parents of the child. Once the child is born, an application is made to the Family Court to obtain a declaration that the intended parents are the legal parents of the child. In Australia, surrogacy must be altruistic, and not for financial gain.

To create a legally recognised surrogacy, before the pregnancy, the intended parents and their surrogate must enter into a Surrogacy Agreement. We can assist with preparation of that Agreement and / or provision of the requisite legal advice.

Following the birth of a child, we can assist intended parents with the application to the Family Court for the declaration as to parentage.

Adoption

Adoption is the legal process by which a child ceases to be the legal child of his or her birth parents and becomes instead the child of the adoptive parents, as if born to them.

We can help you with the process of adoption, which is relatively straightforward.

Guardianship & Administration Matters

The State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) can appoint a guardian in respect of an adult who is:

  • incapable of looking after his or her own health and safety;
    unable to make reasonable judgements in respect of matters relating to his or her own person; and
    in need of oversight, care or control in the interests of his or her health and safety or for the protection of others.
  • the SAT can also appoint an administrator to make financial and legal decisions in the best interests someone not capable of making those decisions for themselves.

There is no requirement that the person’s incapacity has resulted from any disability, although in many cases, we assist clients to make these applications on behalf of their disabled adult children, or on behalf of their elderly parents who may have suffered a stroke or may have developed dementia. While not strictly coming within the realm of “family law” we commonly assist our family law clients to make these applications, with input as required from members or our other practice teams.

Why use Cullen Macleod's Family Law Team?

Our Family Law Team also has access to the knowledge and experience of Cullen Macleod’s other specialist teams, including commercial law and litigation, property law, wills and estates, and settlements. Our teams are an invaluable resource that enable us assist with a range of ancillary issues that can, and frequently do, arise in the course of a family law matter, including:

  • preparing your Will, enduring power of attorney, enduring power of guardianship, and advanced health directive;
  • advising you with respect to your succession planning requirements in a business or farming endeavour;
  • advising you in relation to claims against deceased estates and representing you in inheritance litigation;
  • representation in the State Administrative Tribunal in relation to applications for guardianship and/or administration;
  • personal guarantees;
  • advice in relation to property, such as developments, sub-division, caveats and encumbrances on the title of property;
  • advice in relation to matters that relate to companies, such as directors’ duties, litigation, insolvency and statutory demands; and
  • advice in relation to other matters such as bankruptcy, employment law and liquor licensing.
cullen_macleod_rebecca_bunney_family_law

Rebecca Bunney

Head of Practice – Family Law

Rebecca specialises in family law and is dedicated to assisting clients with all of their family law needs.

Rebecca’s diverse experience and knowledge across practice areas gives her the edge in negotiating better outcomes for her clients.

cullen_macleod_alison_brooks_family_law

Alison Brooks

Senior Associate – Family Law

Alison was admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of Victoria in 2006, and subsequently worked in a variety of areas of practice including commercial litigation and family law.

In 2009, Alison relocated back to Western Australia and commenced working exclusively in family law.

cullen_macleod_hayley_dodson_family_law

Hayley Dodson

Senior Associate  – Family Law

Hayley practises exclusively in family law with a focus on property disputes and child-welfare matters. This includes relocation, child abduction and Hague Convention proceedings.

 

cullen_macleod_katrina_kerl_family_law

Katrina Kerl

Senior Associate – Family Law

Katrina has experience assisting client’s achieve favourable negotiated agreements and mediated resolutions in both financial and parenting matters.

In 2018, Katrina was recognised by Doyle’s Guide as a Family Law Rising Star for Western Australia.

Costs

We provide accurate, upfront and ongoing estimates of fees for all work to be performed in your case. We will work with you to find the best way to quickly and efficiently resolve your matter in the most cost-effective way.

We maintain a strong association with a range of other experienced professionals commonly involved in family law matters, such as barristers, tax specialists, financial planners and forensic accountants. We ensure you understand the costs associated with engaging third party specialists, prior to doing so.

Need more information?

If you would like any more information on family law matters please contact our Head of Practice – Family Law, Rebecca Bunney.

Rebecca’s direct number is 08 9389 3919 and her email address is rbunney@cullenmacleod.com.au.