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Bitcoins and Divorce Property Settlements

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I recently had my first encounter with ‘Bitcoins’, a new and modern form of currency that, like savings, are included in the matrimonial asset pool.

‘Bitcoin’ is a form of digital currency.

‘Bitcoin’ can be used for the payment of goods and services.

In this particular case, the value of the ‘bitcoins’ had significantly increased and was considered by the parties to have been an excellent investment. Much of the ‘bitcoin’ market is speculative, and the value of ‘bitcoins’ is therefore very much subject to fluctuation.

The ‘bitcoin’ investment was valued according to the current market value and included in the assets of the marriage to be divided between the parties.

Whether it ‘is bitcoin’, an e-commerce business or an ‘app’ in the development phase, the team at Mathews Family Law & Mediation Specialists, Australia Divorce, is able to provide you with expert legal advice about your property settlement entitlements.

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Divorce Process in Australia

Divorce is the legal word for the termination of a marriage. In Australia, there is no need for there to be “fault” in order for the divorce to be permitted. So even if only one partner wants out of the marriage, the court will grant a divorce order. But there is still a legal process involved that generally takes up to a year to complete.

Issues related to Divorce Process in Australia are covered in Part VI of  The Family Law Act, 1975 (link to the law). The law says that a divorce order is based on “the ground that the marriage has broken down irretrievably”.

Step One: Separation

Before one or both partners may file for divorce in Australia, they must be separated for a period of one year and a day. This is in order to show that the ground for divorce – the breakdown of the marriage – really exists. While no fault must be shown, the law considers divorce a serious matter. By requiring this long period of separation, a couple is required to think very carefully about their decision to terminate their marriage. A court may ask for proof of the separation during the hearing (to be discussed further).

It is important that one partner officially notify the other that he or she wishes to separate. This can be done verbally but a written notification is even better and can be used in court in the event that questions arise about the date of separation or whether it happened at all.

Step Two: Completing an Application for Divorce

One or both partners must fill out a standard Application for Divorce. This form may be found on the Family Law Courts website.  It requires a good deal of information, including personal details about each partner, financial information, questions about a property, and details about your children (if you have any) and custody arrangement if they are under 18 years of age.

While this application can be completed without a lawyer (other than the affidavit in Part G), it’s useful to consult with a lawyer to be sure that you’ve completed the application properly and accurately.

Step Three: Submitting the Divorce Application for Divorce

You must file the Application for Divorce in three copies – an original and two copies, along with a copy of your marriage certificate and any other accompanying documents (see below). This packet can be filed at the nearest family law registry or online at www.comcourts.gov.au.

There is a fee for submitting an Application for Divorce. As of January 1, 2013, the fee is $800 but it is also possible to obtain a reduced fee.

Once everything is filed and paid for, you’ll receive a file number and a time and date for your hearing.

Step Four: Serving Your Spouse

If you filed your Application for Divorce together with your spouse, then nobody needs to have the application delivered to them.

If you are submitting the Application for Divorce alone, you need to serve your spouse with a copy of the application, the “Marriage, Families and Separation” brochure and any other documents you filed with the court (except the marriage certificate).

The Divorce Service Kit details how these documents are to be served on the other spouse. Consult with a lawyer before taking any legal action to be sure that you understand all of the implications of your actions and that delivery is done correctly.

Step Five:  The Hearing

You are not always required to attend the hearing.

If there are no children under the age of 18, neither you nor your spouse needs to attend the hearing.

If this is a sole application (not joint with your spouse) AND there is a child under 18, you must attend the hearing.

If this is a joint application, regardless of the age of the children, neither of you needs to attend the hearing.

Step Six: The Hearing

The hearing allows the judge to ask any questions regarding the Application for Divorce Process in Australia. If the judge decides on more information, he or she may schedule an additional hearing. If the judge is satisfied with the application, a divorce order is granted at the conclusion of the hearing. The order becomes final only one month later.

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How to Choose a Divorce Lawyer

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Choosing a divorce lawyer should be like making any other big Should be divorce process like when you buy a house or choose a school for your children. Educate yourself, ask around, ask questions, and research on the internet.

Learn about the divorce laws first. This is important for two reasons. One, it will give you an idea of what’s involved, which in turn gives you a better sense of control. The second reason is that it means you’re better informed, so when you start looking for a lawyer, you’ll better understand what he or she is talking about.

Do your research. 

Ask friends and family, call your local law society, ask others who have been through a divorce, and search the internet. Build up a list of names, including lawyers people recommended not to use.

Figure out what kind of lawyer you need. 

Ask yourself what kind of person you want to work with. Are you looking for an aggressive fighter who will get you everything you want and win the battle or do you want someone who can get results with a more gentle approach? Do you need someone who will explain everything to you each step of the way or do you prefer to let go and leave the whole burden to the lawyer?

Narrow down your list.

Do some background checking on the names you received. Look them up on the internet. If he or she wrote any articles or papers, read them. This will give you a sense of who this person is and their knowledge of the field. Ask other people who used the lawyer. A few bad recommendations should tell you not to hire this person.

Choose a family lawyer.

Family law is a very specialized area. Your brother’s best friend might be an amazing criminal lawyer, but that’s not too helpful when you have a parenting dispute with your former spouse.

Start with a phone call

You can learn a lot just from that first call. How long does it take for the lawyer to call you back? How does the lawyer treat you on the phone? Use this opportunity to ask about fees. You might discover immediately that their price is too high for you. If you decide you do want to meet them, find out if they charge for an initial meeting. Most lawyers do charge for a first consultation.

Interview before you hire.

Set up appointments with the lawyers who sound right. Look at this as a job interview – where you are the employer. How are you treated during the interview? Is the lawyer answering calls or checking emails? Is he slandering other lawyers, or worse, other clients? Do you feel you can confide in this person? Sometimes a first read is not correct, but sometimes it’s good to go with your gut feeling. You know what works for you.

Consulting with other experts

Family law requires knowledge in other fields, such as business, wills, estates, etc. Does the lawyer have other professionals to consult with? You want your lawyer to give you a full picture of the situation and the possible outcomes. Broader knowledge may be required.

When you choose, get it in writing

An agreement should include what the lawyer’s work will include and his or her fees. Does he work hourly or by the case? What about additional fees or changes in circumstances? Emergencies?