Breakdown of relationships is a very difficult time for all concerned. However, it is a reality that as part of this process a number of legal issues must be dealt with. It is important to seek proper advice at this time to ensure these matters can be resolved efficiently and effectively with a minimum of added emotional stress.
Upon the breakdown of a relationship there are 5 main issues that need to be considered:
Children’s matters – living arrangements, access and decision making in the future. If there are children of a relationship, the reality is that the parents are going to have involvement with the children and each other well into the future. The parents must overcome or put aside any differences they have with each other to properly engage with each other in relation to the children. A properly drafted Children’s Order can clearly define the terms of that engagement and go a long way to minimising the prospect of disagreement in the future and ensure that the parent’s rights in respect of the children are properly protected.
Property matters – division of the matrimonial asset pool between the parties so as to bring their financial interaction to an end;
Spousal maintenance – as part of the property division, the need for one spouse party to be financially maintained by the other will be a relevant factor and must be considered.
Child Support – going forward, the issue of one party to pay child support to the other will be assessed by the Child Support Agency. Usually this is an administrative process by which a departmental officer will make an assessment of the parties entitlements and liabilities under the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989. Normally, the parties rights and obligations under this act cannot be contracted out of. However, by complying with the provisions of that Act it is possible to enter into binding Child Support Agreements.
Divorce – if the parties are married then it will be necessary to bring that marriage to an end by applying to the Court for a divorce. In most circumstances the parties must be separated for at least one year before an application can be made. It is often the case that property and children’s issues need to be addressed in the meantime so this is often the final step in the process of finalising the legal aspects of the marital breakdown.
If proper advice is sought in a timely manner, family law matters need not be long, drawn out ordeals. If all parties are reasonable then these matters can be resolved quickly and efficiently for the benefit of all involved.
If, however, either party is not able to be reasoned with, or is actively interfering with the process by hiding assets, failing to co-operate with access to children then it is important to take quick effective steps to curtail their ability to do so.