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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 www.divorce-online.com.au. 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.

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Divorce divorce

Why is the divorce rate declining?

divorce process australia

By 2016 the marriage rate in Australia had declined from 9.3 marriages per 1,000 residents to 4.9 in 2016.

The divorce rate has also been in steady decline since its height in 1976 (for obvious reasons) to 1.9 in 2016.

I wonder if the reasons for the declines set out in this American study – that who gets divorced is a function of who gets married – are applicable to the Australian social context?

https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/09/millennials-divorce-baby-boomers/571282/

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Articles Case Studies Property and Superannuation

A Curly Case for the Commissioner of Taxation

family law firm
 

A CURLY CASE FOR THE COMMISSIONER OF TAXATION

CAO & TRONG AND ANOR [2018] FAMILY COURT OF AUSTRALIA

There is no escaping the Family Court and the Commissioner …

The wife filed an application for a final property settlement, including an order that:

1. The husband indemnify her ‘against any liability present or contingent including tax … in respect of E Pty Ltd’; and
2. The husband be responsible ‘for all income tax assessed on income received or deemed to have been received by the husband’.

In the period 2005 -2012, the husband incurred a tax liability of $5,519,200 (unpaid).

The Commissioner of Taxation sought leave to intervene in the property settlement proceedings and an order that the court first makes provision for the payment of tax liabilities to the Commissioner prior to any property distribution to the parties.

Before the matter could be determined by the court, the parties effectively withdrew their respective applications for final property settlement orders.

The wife advised the Commissioner that there was therefore now no basis for it to intervene.

The Commissioner was successful in its application for an order that the court does have the jurisdiction and power to determine a claim against a creditor pursuant to section 79 property settlement proceedings – even if the parties have withdrawn their applications.

The case was run by the Commissioner of Taxation as a ‘test case’ and confirmed that even when the parties themselves no longer seek the assistance of the court to achieve a final property settlement, if the Commissioner has already intervened in those proceedings, the court has jurisdiction to make a final order in its favor – and the liabilities owed to it enforced as an order of the Family Court.

In other words – there’s no avoiding the Commissioner – no matter what agreement the parties themselves might ‘agree on, there’s no way around their obligations to it.

I hope that the year is treating you well – even though it is flying by.

We continue to offer a free 15-minute telephone consultation to your clients in need of family law advice – they can call me on 9804 7991 or email enquiries@mflaw.com.au to book a time.

And remember, we’re always happy to help you out with your own ‘curly cases’.

Stay in touch,

Vanessa and the Team at Mathews Family Law & Mediation Specialists

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Do I have to Attend FDR Mediation

Exceptions to Compulsory Family Dispute Resolution

In 2006 it became mandatory for all couples to attend family dispute resolution prior to filing an application with the court to determine custody. One of the aims of this legislation was to encourage parents to reach an agreement about parenting on their own terms, without the interference of the courts. After family dispute resolution is attempted, the practitioner involved in the process issues one of four types of certificates:

Family Dispute Resolution
  1. A person did not attend family dispute resolution with another party because of the other party’s refusal or failure to do so;
  2. A person did not attend family dispute resolution because the practitioner considered that it would not be appropriate to conduct such resolution (having regard to matters prescribed by the regulations);
  3. A person did attend family dispute resolution and all attendees made a genuine effort to resolve the issue or issues;
  4. A person did attend family dispute resolution but the person or another party did not make a genuine effort to resolve the issue or issues

The court will consider these certificates prior to making a ruling in the case, and can also consider the certificates when assessing whether to order costs to be paid by a party.

Does that mean that you absolutely have to attend family dispute resolution and get one of these certificates before you can file a custody action?

Not exactly.

While the legislators voiced a clear preference for settling child-related matters through family dispute resolution, they also recognized six classes of cases in which family dispute resolution should not be required.

If parties are applying for a consent order, then they have already reached an agreement on how to handle child-related issues. Therefore, ordering the parties to attend family dispute resolution prior to filing an application for the consent order would be futile.

2. Violence and Abuse

Where the court finds reasonable grounds exist that demonstrate that there has been abuse or family violence, or that a risk of such exists, no compulsory family dispute resolution is required. The court will not force parties to attempt to achieve a resolution to their child-related issues if there is any history or threat of violence.

3. Contravention of Previous Order

A party can make an application to the court regarding a “particular” child-related issue, without attending dispute resolution, if there is already an order in place addressing said issue. For instance, if there is already an order in place setting forth a custodial schedule for the child, and one party is not abiding by the order, the complying party may apply directly to the court to seek enforcement of the order. If there is already an order in place, there is no need to utilize dispute resolution services to try and reach an agreement.

4. Application is Urgent

Sometimes a parent will have to make an urgent application to the court about a child-related issue. An example of this would be if a parent intended to relocate and take the child with them, in a situation like that the parties would need to have the issue addressed by the judge as soon as possible, spending time at family dispute resolution would simply slow the process down.

5. Incapacity

If a party lacks the capacity, physically or otherwise to attend family dispute resolution, the court will not enforce their attendance. For instance, if a party is unable to participate effectively because they live in another country, an application regarding a child-related issue could be made directly to the court even if no family dispute resolution has taken place. The rationale for this exception is that compelling attendance would be largely inconvenient; a party could make sacrifices to travel and attend dispute resolution only to not reach an agreement and have to subsequently travel again for litigation.

6. Other Circumstances

The final exception category is a catchall. If there is another reason set forth in the regulations that would allow parties to bypass family dispute resolution, that reason will suffice and allow parties to bypass compulsory dispute resolution.

The bottom line is unless your situation qualifies for one of these enumerated exceptions, you should be prepared to attend family dispute resolution prior to making an application to the court to determine custody or other child-related issues.

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Superannuation

Superannuation in Property Division

When a couple separates or divorces, or a de facto relationship[i] ends, a property must be divided. The property includes all of the assets – houses, cars, jewelry, furniture – and all of the liabilities, like loans and mortgages.  Superannuation – the money individuals set aside to have when they retire – is now also included in those assets that need to be divided fairly between a couple, whether married, de facto heterosexual or de facto same sex.  In the past, superannuation was considered a financial resource, similar to salary or other income. Today, however, most couples weigh superannuation funds as if they are marital assets or property.

Part VIIIB of the Family Law Act, 1975 (FLA) covers issues dealing with superannuation and families. The law requires that the superannuation benefits due to one spouse or de facto partner must be divided with the other spouse or partner. But there are several difficulties with dividing superannuation. Firstly, if a couple divorces before retirement, the superannuation funds are not yet available. So while a couple may divide up their property at the age of 45, they may not see funds from superannuation for another 20 or 30 years.  Other problems…..

The law recognizes these problems and offers three ways a divorcing couple can divide superannuation interests.

  1. “Split”.  The first method is to split the interest into two accounts or benefits. This can be done either by a payment split when the superannuation becomes due (say, at retirement) or through an interesting split, which means each partner receives a superannuation interest. With an interesting split, the partner receiving the new benefit can keep the money in the original account until it comes due, or open an entirely new account. Nobody receives an actual cash payment – the money remains in a superannuation fund.  Tax issues must be calculated before the payment or interest is split.
  2. “Flag”.  The second approach to dividing superannuation is to flag the benefit for a later date. In this scenario, the couple marks the benefit and the trustee of the superannuation fund is not allowed to touch it until the “flag” is lifted, either by agreement of the parties or with a court order.  The couple can then decide what happens to the fund only later after the person who owns the superannuation account retires.
  3. Leave it alone.  In this case, couples consider superannuation a financial resource.