Mathews Family Law Services, More About Us

Divorce Lawyers in Melbourne

Mathews Family Law and Mediation Services were established more than fourteen years ago as a boutique family law firm. Our offices are located in the inner Melbourne suburb of Toorak.

Our team of lawyers is experts in Family Law and Family Law Mediation. We have extensive experience and knowledge that allow us to provide an integrated approach to the complex range of issues faced by our clients. We are in a unique position whereby our family dispute resolution practitioners (FDRP) and mediators have also accredited family law experts; this ensures we bring a higher level of expertise to all our mediations.

Unlike many other family law firms, Mathews Family Law has a genuine commitment to alternative dispute resolution. This commitment is evident in the diverse range of dispute resolution options and services we offer that clients are unlikely to find anywhere else

Top Divorce Lawyers in Australia

We are passionate and dedicated to providing the best possible Family Law service in Melbourne. We have worked hard to gain expertise in all areas of family law, including complex international parenting and financial matters.

We can guide you through a wide range of issues related to legal separation in Australia. This commitment ensures we are at the forefront of family law developments in Melbourne. Vanessa Mathews was one of the first accredited family law specialists also to become accredited as an FDRP and Mediator. The Mathews Family Law team continues to provide professional development services for accountants, financial advisors and mental health professionals. We are vigorously committed to continuing to provide community service for a wide range of new initiatives. We provide all the personal service you expect of a boutique law firm with all the experience and knowledge you expect to find in a larger firm.

A firm with a strategic vision and the leadership to effect change in culture, strategy and business growth.

Mathews Family Law’s vision has always been to provide affordable access to the highest quality family law services and essential legal information. We have embraced the use of technology to support this goal. By using online platforms, Mathews Family Law can reach a much wider audience (including overseas), vastly improving the efficiency of our internal processes which results in a decrease in costs to our clients.

Via our website and Facebook page, we offer an extensive library of free explanatory videos, Facebook live recordings, downloadable e-books, radio interviews and blog articles. A valuable resource for those seeking detailed information on the public’s most frequently searched topics.

In 2011, MFL pioneered online divorce applications with and has since developed its web-based family law pathway. This process allows clients to enter their details online and obtain a personalized preliminary report, free of charge. Should the client engage the firm, this background information is used to prepare for the initial meeting with the client’s data automatically populated into various documents.

Other recent IT enhancements include interactive online forms, options to attend meetings, mediation and FDR via webcast, online payment portals and handy calculators.

All our clients benefit from clear, fully itemized invoices and trust statements with every interim invoice along with pre-payment of disbursements.

Although a boutique law firm, Mathews Family Law can offer the full breadth of family law services that all clients desire. Our clients are not left having to consult across multiple organizations to get the outcome they desire. Our services include the full range of family law dispute resolution services; such as negotiation, mediation, FDR and litigation.

MFL can also provide a secondary consultation role with institutional clients and allied professionals; this includes Relationships Australia, CatholicCare and CPAs/IPAs.

MFL is continually seeking to improve its services and enhance its performance. The firm’s principal, Vanessa Mathews, regularly consults with external experts to review the firm’s strategy, structure and operations and never shies away from creating new processes and adopting change.

Mathews Family Law Accreditations and Associations.

  • Accredited by the Law Institute of Victoria
  • Members of the Law Institute of Victoria, Family Law Section
  • Members of the Law Council of Australia, Family Law Specialization Advisory Committee
  • Members of Relationships Australian Family Lawyers Panel
  • Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers

FDRPs and Mediators at Mathews Family Law are:

  • Accredited by the Attorney General of Australia
  • Accredited by the National Mediation Accreditation system
  • Members of the Australian Institute of Family Law Arbitrators and Mediators
  • Members of the Resolution Institute
  • Members of the Relationships Australia ‘Access Resolve’ Property Mediation Program

Divorce Law in Australia

Divorce law in Victoria is the same as in other states in Australia (except Western Australia). The Family Law Act (1975) applies to all Australian states and territories except Western Australia. A judge deciding on a parenting or financial matter will follow the same rules, procedures and legislation to make their decision. The unification of laws across all the states (except Western Australia) means that Family Court orders obtained in one part of Australia will be enforceable anywhere else in Australia. The child support legislation also applies in Melbourne & across Australia. Intervention orders are also recognized and enforceable across state and territory borders.

Under Australian Law, you can apply for divorce after separating for at least one year. The Family Law Act (1976) instigated the ‘no-fault’ system of divorce in Australia. The only condition required is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The facts about who is responsible for the breakdown of the marriage are not relevant. If dependent children under the age of eighteen are involved, a divorce will only be granted by the court if proper arrangements have been made for their welfare. If you have any queries about divorce law in Australia, get in touch with us.

Some Common Family Law Myths

That the mother is favored in parenting matters:

There is no presumption that a mother or father is a ‘better’ parent. The child’s ‘best interests are the paramount consideration.

That same-sex parents are treated differently from opposite-sex parenting matters.

There is no sexuality-based presumption or laws that are applied to same-sex parents. Again, the child’s ‘best interests is the paramount consideration.

The children will live 50/50 with each parent

There is no ‘one size fits all’ parenting presumption. The child’s ‘best interests are the paramount consideration.

The asset pool will be divided 50/50.

There is no ‘50/50’ asset division presumption. The asset pool will be divided according to the particular circumstances of each case, including the various contributions made by each of the parties and their future needs.

I have to be divorced before I can apply for a property settlement.

No, you may apply for a property settlement any time after separation and before the divorce (and up to 12 months after divorce).

Pre-marriage agreements are not worth the paper they’re written on

‘Pre-nups’ are enforceable provided they have been prepared in accordance with the strict legislative requirements.

I don’t live with my partner full time so we are not in a de facto relationship

The amount of time you live with your partner is not the only criteria the court will consider when determining if a de facto relationship existed. A de facto relationship may be found to have existed where the parties lived with each other on a part-time basis only.

Experienced Divorce Lawyers in Melbourne Who Take Their Corporate Social Responsibility Seriously

Mathews Family Law firmly believes in its corporate social responsibility. We also believe that corporate social responsibility is best demonstrated via actions rather than words. The firm’s Principal, Vanessa Mathews, has a Degree in Social Work from Melbourne University. She is passionate about providing low-cost and pro-bono access to information and justice. Ensuring every demographic in the community is well supported and has access to expert Family Law advice.

MFL maintains four content-rich websites, with informative videos, a Family Law Library of articles and videos, online calculators, chat and applications processes, all provided free of charge. Regular Facebook Live videos, e-newsletters and other social media posts also disseminate valuable information at no cost, and through channels that are easy to access by the wider public.

We also have several other measures that provide affordable access to the firm’s services – free initial telephone consultations, reduced fixed-fee initial consultations, fixed-price services and a choice of unbundled or full-service delivery options.

MFL is involved in the LIV Referral Service and provides education to other professionals. We actively work to create a strong Family Law community, with representatives participating in the following organizations: Relationships Australia Family Lawyers Panel; LIV Specialist Committee; International Academy of Family Lawyers.

Award Winning Melbourne Family Lawyers

Mathews Family Law is a multi-award-winning family law firm operating out of the Melbourne inner suburb of Toorak. Some of the recent awards won by the firm include:

  • Winner – Boutique Family Law Firm of the year in Australia, Global Law Experts
  • Winner – Family Law Mediator of the year in Australia, Global Law Experts
  • Finalist – Law Institute of Victoria ‘Boutique Law Firm of the Year Award’
  • Recommended – Family Law Firm, Doyles Guide
  • Recommended – Family Law Mediator, Doyles Guide
  • Leading – Parenting Lawyer, Doyles Guide
  • Number One – Family Law Firm on ‘Three Best Rated’

If you are looking for Melbourne’s best family lawyers look no further than Mathews Family Law, Book a Free consultation today to start the process.


Inheritances and Family Law

Family Law

Generally speaking, inheritances are not excluded or otherwise quarantined from the asset pool to be divided between separating parties, and will not automatically be allocated back to the party who received them.

Some of the relevant factors the Court takes into account are as follows:

Timing and length of a relationship

For example, an inheritance received very early in a long relationship might not result in a significantly higher contributions assessment to the party who received it, because the other party might have made other contributions over the years which offset the effect of the inheritance.

An inheritance received late in the relationship or after separation in a short relationship, is more likely to result in a higher contribution assessment to the party who received it.

Amount received

The amount received – and compared with the asset pool to divide – will affect the Court’s ultimate decision.

For example, a smaller amount (say $20,000 inheritance in a pool of $1.5m) is less likely to result in contributions being assessed in favor of the party who received it than a larger amount (say $1m in a pool of $1.5m).

How it was applied

If the money was used for family holidays or otherwise spent and is no longer represented in the asset pool, it will carry less weight when assessing contributions than if it was used to purchase real estate or shares and those assets still exist at the time the Court is making a determination. It may also be relevant if the funds have been kept separate and not otherwise mingled with the parties’ assets.

Financial circumstances of the parties at the time the Court makes a decision

In a pool of $1m, where one party receives a post-separation inheritance of $500,000, it might not be just and equitable for one party to receive half of the net assets ($500,000) and the other to receive the other half plus the whole inheritance ($500,000 plus $500,000). The Court will consider the whole financial situation.

Inheritances received after separation

If one party receives an inheritance after separation but before property settlement has been agreed and formalized, the inheritance will be taken into account in the property settlement as the Court must consider all of the current financial circumstances at the time the determination is being made.

This is one of the reasons why it is recommended that separating parties finalize and formalize their property settlement as soon as possible.

This does not necessarily mean that the other party will receive a portion of the inheritance. The Court might determine that the other party made no contribution to the inheritance, but it will be taken into account and adjustments might be made in favor of the other party who does not receive the inheritance.

Future inheritances

A future inheritance will usually only be taken into account if the death of the testator is imminent.

As the inheritance has not yet been received, the Court could not include it in the asset pool but can take it into account in assessing the respective future needs of the parties.

How can an inheritance be protected against claims by the other party?

Parties to a marriage or de facto relationship can protect future inheritances by entering into a Binding Financial Agreement which sets out how any inheritance would be dealt with in the event of separation.

If parties have separated and there is a possibility that one party will receive an inheritance in the future, it is recommended that they finalize their property settlement as soon as possible, and before the death of the testator.

Specialist Family Law advice regarding family law property is essential. Let your client know about our free initial telephone consultation service by calling Vanessa Mathews on 9804 7991 to book an appointment with one of our specialist solicitors.

We’re operating as usual at Mathews Family Law. If you have any questions or concerns about how COVID-19 may impact your client’s position in relation to their family law matter, call Vanessa Mathews on 9804 7991 or email [email protected].

Children De Facto Relationships

Children of a de facto relationship

The laws relating to property settlement at the end of a de facto relationship have recently changed. For relationships that have broken down since 1 March 2009, the Family Court now deals with all of the legal aspects of the separation, including any:

Child Support Agreement,

Parenting Plan or

Parenting Order.

Child Support

Child Support can be sought via the Child Support Agency or a Child Support Agreement.

Parenting Orders. may be sought in the Local Court, the Federal Circuit Court or the Family Court. The principles that apply to the children of marriages also apply to the children of de facto relationships.

Family Violence Intervention Orders (IVO) & Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (ADVO)

Penalties for breaching an AVO

Family Law Specialist

It is a criminal offense to knowingly breach an interim or final Apprehended Violence Order. The maximum penalty on conviction is a $5,500 fine or two years imprisonment or both. Where the breach itself is an act of violence and the defendant is at least 18 years of age, the defendant will likely be sentenced to a gaol term.    

Financial Agreements Prenuptials

Is it possible to have a binding pre-nuptial or pre-relationship agreement?

Australian Family Lawyers

The Family Law Act provides for binding financial agreements to be made between parties to a marriage, a de facto relationship, or a same-sex couple. These agreements can be made before, during or after the end of the marriage or relationship. Parties entering into a relationship agree on what will happen in the event that they separate. Parties entering into a second relationship or with substantial assets often like the protection of a financial agreement.

Complex Divorce Divorce

How To Own Reconciliation And Resumption Of Cohabitation

Division Family Law

Reconciliation and resumption of cohabitation can have a monumental effect on your divorce proceedings. A reconciliation will affect your date of separation, which in turn can affect property division and other aspects of your case. The impact of reconciliation combined with the attitude that the courts generally prefer parties to reconcile has resulted in some special rules with regard to reconciliation and resumption of cohabitation.

First, with regard to reconciliation, if the court determines that based on the evidence or attitude of the parties, a reasonable possibility of reconciliation exists, the court has the power to suspend the proceedings. This adjournment is designed to allow the parties the time and opportunity to consider reconciliation. However, if either party wishes to resume court proceedings, the court is compelled to grant this request.

Moving back in together, more specifically, resumption of cohabitation can also have a huge impact on your divorce proceedings. If your resume cohabiting, and then later agree to separate again, the period of time you had previously been separated may not apply when trying to meet the twelve-month separation requirement for divorce.

Now you may be wondering – what exactly equates to a resumption of cohabitation? The answer is that both parties must intend to resume cohabiting, act on that intention, and also be living on substantially the same terms as they were prior to the separation. An agreement to move back in together that never comes to fruition does not meet this standard. Also, simply moving in under the same roof but not resuming other aspects of the marital relationship will not equate to a resumption of cohabitation.

If you are considering moving back in with your ex, you should be aware of the special rules regarding the resumption of cohabitation. As we mentioned earlier, the court has a preference for parties to make amends, and they would prefer parties at least attempt reconciliation if there is a chance it might work rather than be too afraid to try because of the impact that reconciliation can have on the divorce proceedings. For this very reason, the court allows parties to move back in together for one period of time up to three months without there being any prejudice to their application for the divorce process in Australia.

Practically speaking, if you resume cohabiting and then separate again within three months, you may use the period of time you were previously separated in calculating the twelve-month requirement. On the other hand, if your resumption of cohabitation lasts for three months or longer, you will have to separate for a further twelve months before you can file for divorce.

Property Disputes Property Settlements

What is a “Pre-Action Procedure”?

The courts in Australia are the last resort for settling a property dispute between spouses.  Even if you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement, you need to show the court that you’ve tried to reach an agreement through some type of alternative dispute resolution.  This is called a “pre-action procedure”.

Pre-action procedures are also aimed at determining which disputes can be settled out of court and which really require the court’s intervention.  While you might not be able to come to an agreement about everything, you might agree on some issues (who gets the house) and only have to bring a small number of disputes to the court (how is the debt divided).

There are several steps to the pre-action procedure:

  1. Inviting the other side to participate in dispute resolution, such as family counseling, mediation or arbitration.
  2. Agreeing on a type of dispute resolution service.
  3. Attending the dispute resolution and making a genuine effort to resolve the problem.
  4. Give written notice to the other side if no agreement can be reached (or the other side refuses to attend the meeting) of your intention to file with the court.
  5. Replying to the written notice if you are on the receiving end.

Consult with an experienced Family lawyer about the rules and requirements in pre-action procedures to ensure that you meet all of your obligations.