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The challenges of trying to solve your own legal problems without expert advice

Watts McCray Lawyers

Marriage or relationship breakdown is a stressful and uncertain time.

Emotions run high and you might not be thinking clearly. Sorting issues between you and your former partner without legal advice and without legally formalising your agreement is risky. This includes parenting and property matters. It’s all too easy to make mistakes that can lead to more stress and uncertainty.

This column explores some important matters relating to parenting and property agreements.

Do I have to attend mediation for parenting matters?

Yes, you do have to attend mediation. The current law encourages parents to attend private mediation to try to sort out parenting issues between themselves. You can’t start Court proceedings until you’ve attended mediation and made a genuine effort to resolve issues out of Court.

If the mediation is successful and you reach agreement about parenting arrangements, you should make sure these are summarised in writing so both parents (or parties) can sign a parenting plan. This can be done by the mediator, by a lawyer or by the parties themselves.

Is the parenting plan binding on both parties?

A parenting plan doesn’t bind the parties in the same way as Court orders. It’s best to obtain legal advice about having formal Court orders made, that record the agreement you’ve reached. Parenting orders are legally biding and enforceable. Penalties apply if you don’t comply with them.

Do I need to formally document the agreement I have with my partner in relation to property?

It is best to formally document an agreement you reach with your former partner about the division of your property and other financial matters. Your lawyer can advise and assist you to make an application to the Family Court for Orders for orders to be made by consent. This is relatively simple and the Registrar will consider your application out of court.

If the Registrar makes the orders, they’re final and binding and sever the financial relationship between the parties. They have the same force and effect as orders made following a contested court trial. They can only be set aside in exceptional circumstances, for example, if one party has committed a fraud or was under extreme pressure or duress.

Are there any alternatives to Court orders?

Another way to finalise a property agreement between separated parties is to use a binding financial agreement. This is a private contract or Deed entered into between the parties. Again, this agreement can only be set aside in exceptional circumstances, but it’s critical that you get legal advice before entering into such an agreement.

What risks do I need to look out for?

With easy access to the Internet at your fingertips, it is tempting to look to Google for a solution to all your problems, including legal ones. The risks of doing so are high because the agreement you reach with your former partner won’t have the finality and legal effect of Court orders or of a binding financial agreement.

If you have any questions about this new proposed law, or want to better understand what it means for you as a victim of domestic violence, call Watts McCray to speak to one of our experienced family law lawyers.

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This expert column was prepared by Debra Parker, Watts McCray Lawyers Canberra.

This is a sponsored post. You can read our Sponsored Post Policy here.

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Watts McCray Lawyers

Watts McCray is a leading firm of family and relationship lawyers. We have the largest number of accredited family law specialists in Australia and are backed by years of experience. Our lawyers have the skills to provide you with sound, practical advice about issues such as relationship changes and separation, property and financial matters, parenting arrangements after separation, child support and divorce. Watts McCray can also provide you with legal help if you want to resolve matters without having to go through Court. We can help with negotiation, mediation, collaboration and arbitration services as well as the traditional Court litigation process. We can also help with your estate planning and wills. Call us on (02) 6257 6347 for more information and for tailored services to meet your specific legal needs. More about the Author

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