The Lighthouse Project

Perth Family Lawyers are excited to introduce you to the Lighthouse Project – the new family violence and risk screening initiative.

The Lighthouse Project will allow the Family Court to screen for risk and focus on public health and improved outcomes for families involved in the family law system.

The Commonwealth Government announced that it will provide funding for a risk screening and triage pilot in the Adelaide, Brisbane and Parramatta registries of the Courts. The pilot is currently being implemented under the Lighthouse Project.

If the pilot is successful, Perth Family Lawyers expect that the screening process will be introduced in the Family Court of Western Australia in the future.

The Court is preparing to officially commence this new screening process later this year, however a final date will be largely dependent on legislative amendments which will ensure that the information generated and obtained during the family safety risk screening process is both confidential and inadmissible.

About the Project

The Lighthouse Project will deliver numerous benefits to litigants and practitioners, including:

  • Better risk screening and early identification of at-risk clients.
  • Tailored court processes and support to those litigants experiencing family violence.
  • Easier access to justice.
  • Improved outcomes for litigants with more information available to the Court from the first stages.
  • Improved case management decisions leading to a reduction in the number of adjournments and court events required.
  • Opportunities to settle early using alternative dispute resolution for suitable matter.

How does the Lighthouse Project work?

  • Screening: When an Application or Response for parenting only orders is filed with the Court, parties will be asked to complete a questionnaire via a confidential and secure platform known as Family DOORS Triage. This has been developed specifically for the Courts and can be completed from any device, PC, mobile or tablet. Responses to the questionnaire are confidential and are only used to assist for risk screening and to identify suitable case management to improve the safety and wellbeing for children and families.
  • Triage: A dedicated, specialised team will assess and direct cases into the most appropriate case management pathway based on the level of risk. The team is comprised of highly skilled registrars, family counsellors, and support staff with detailed knowledge in family violence and family safety risks. The team will triage matters and identify parties who may require additional support and safety measures.
  • Evatt List: A specialist court list developed and designed to assist families who have been identified as being at high risk of family violence and other safety concerns. The Evatt List focuses on early information gathering and intervention, through a judge-led support team. The team has specialised training and is experienced in working with families where high risk safety issues have been identified.

Our solicitors at Perth Family Lawyers appreciate the importance of this initiative as it provides protection to vulnerable parties and children in family law proceedings.  The Lighthouse Project will play a central role in the Courts’ responses to cases which may involve family violence and determining the urgency and resources provided to such cases. It will significantly improve the safety of litigants who may have experienced family violence and children who may have experienced associated risks such as child abuse.

If you are experiencing family violence, we urge you to contact our offices as soon as possible to book an appointment with one of our dedicated family law solicitors. Perth Family Lawyers can provide you with professional legal advice and guide you through your next steps. Call (08) 9325 8675 today or obtain further information on our website www.perthfamilylawyers.com

Do you have your Christmas parenting arrangements resolved? Time limits apply

As Christmas is approaching in what feels like the shortest but also longest year of the decade, it is now a crucial time to consider your current and future parenting arrangements. 

Christmas can be a special time of year for families and it is important that memories are not marred by conflict between parents who have not resolved the time that each parent will spend with the children during the Christmas period.

Please take note that the last date for filing any application in the Family Court of Western Australia with respect to your Christmas parenting arrangements is Friday, 6 November 2020.

Any Applications that are filed after this date, are not guaranteed to be processed and heard before Christmas.  This could result in no arrangements being in place for your children at Christmas.  This can cause considerable emotional distress to parents and children and can cause irreparable damage to your co-parenting relationship with the other parent. 

Being refused time with your children around Christmas time is particularly difficult to cope with emotionally as parents.  Subject to any risk issues, arrangements should be considered well in advance and agreement reached (and documented) to avoid arguments during what should be a special time of year.

We strongly encourage you to schedule an appointment with one of our dedicated family law solicitors with regards to your parenting arrangements at Christmas.  Call us on (08) 9325 8675 as soon as possible, in order to secure an appointment and file any necessary applications before the upcoming cut-off date. 

There are also lots more articles on our website at www.perthfamilylawyers.com giving you access to a wealth of information regarding family law matters in general.

Perth Family Lawyers wish you a happy and healthy rest of your year and are readily available to assist you in ensuring you are supported during this stressful time.

When should I see a Family lawyer?

Family law is different to other areas of law due to its very personal nature. Family law disputes unfortunately can end up in Court.  Court proceedings can be extremely stressful and costly with uncertainty as to the outcome. 

We recommend that you consult with an experienced solicitor at Perth Family Lawyers at any stage for advice.  You can seek advice if you are considering separation or whilst you and your partner may be living separately under the same roof.  If you are contemplating a separation, or are concerned that your partner may be, it is essential you receive the right advice and the right time to protect your and your children’s interests. Lawyers are bound by strict rules of confidentiality, so you do not have to worry about your partner (or anyone else for that matter) finding out about that you have spoken with Perth Family Lawyers.

With regards to the care of your children, we have a wealth of knowledge and experience and can provide you with appropriate legal advice at any stage.  We can also direct you to numerous services that can also assist you navigating parenting issues during a family breakdown including public services including Relationships Australia or Family Relationship Centres, or private providers. 

The Child Support Agency handles child support issues, on behalf of the parent entitled to receive child support.  If the other parent is failing to comply with his or her child support obligations, or you are experiencing difficulties or are confused about child support, we urge you to come and discuss your options with Perth Family Lawyers

For financial issues at separation including spousal maintenance and property settlement, we always recommend that your fist step should be to see a solicitor at Perth Family Lawyers, to ensure you are aware of all your rights and responsibilities.  We can help you achieve the best possible outcome and take the stress off your shoulders by acting on your behalf. If you are intending to speak with your partner yourself or wish to try mediation – it is an excellent idea to find out in advance from experienced independent family lawyers what your options are.  We can give you the right advice at the right time about immediate issues, such as whether you should access money from a joint account, whether you should remain in, or leave the family home, or whether you should continue paying liabilities including mortgage repayments depending on your particular circumstances.

We can be as much or as little involved in your family law matters as you want us to be. We can provide you with one-off or ad-hoc advice, or we can handle the case for your entirely.  We can go to court for you and prepare your documents, and we can communicate with your former partner for you. For many of our clients dealing with the emotional aspects of separation is difficult enough without also trying to negotiate with their former partner regarding parenting or financial issues.  Some clients also do not have the confidence to engage in communication directly with their former partner for a variety of reasons. 

Our solicitors and all members of our team have years of experience in dealing with complex family law issues and are aware that those issues are often very emotional and deeply personal. We recommend that you arrange a meeting with Perth Family Lawyers even if you are just thinking about separating. It is always better to have an idea of what your options are, as it is well known that uncertainty creates anxiety, and anxiety is the last thing that you need when making important decisions which can impact not only yours, but your children’s lives too.

Call us on (08) 9325 8675 to book an appointment today.

Amica

Perth Family Lawyers advise that on 30 June 2020, the Commonwealth Attorney General announced a new online service. This is called “Amica”.

In announcing this service, the Honourable Christian Porter MP, commented the following. This service will be “suitable to couples whose relationship is relatively amicable”. He went on to say that the purpose of it is to “enable users to negotiate and communicate online with their former partner at their time and their own space.”

.

Parenting Matters

Amica can assist couples to reach agreement for parenting arrangements in a user-friendly manner. Amica helps parents to negotiate their parenting arrangements and to record them.

The arrangements that you make for your children following your separation are called parenting arrangements. As children grow and their needs change, parents may have to update and amend these parenting arrangements.

Amica can also assist you with discussing parenting arrangements for children of a relationship who are under the age of 18. This includes biological children, including those conceived with the assistance of IVF and adopted children.

.

Property and Financial Matters

Amica can make suggestions regarding property division between the parties based on information which is entered by the parties. This is done using artificial intelligence, which considers legal principles and then applies them to real life circumstances.

If you and your partner agree with the division as proposed by Amica, you can then arrange between yourselves how would you like to divide your asset pool.

.

This can only work, however, if your financial or/and parenting matters are not complex and you and your partner are amicable. If that is not the case, we suggest that you see one of our devoted family lawyers and discuss your matters with us. Perth Family Lawyers will be able to provide you with professional legal advice and advise you accordingly, can negotiate your financial and/or parenting issues on your behalf, or prepare any necessary court documents for filing with the Family Court or Magistrates Court.

Call our office on (08) 9325 8675 or visit our website www.perthfamilylawyers.com.

Has my phone been hacked?

It is not unusual that, if you hear strange sounds, clicks or static noise during your telephone conversations, you may be concerned your phone is being tapped. At Perth Family Lawyers, we are hearing more and more often that our clients are worried about their privacy being compromised and telephones ‘bugged’ by their current or former partners. It is a genuine concern and we are able to provide professional legal help and guidance if you believe that someone is listening to your phone or has hacked other electronic devices.

There are some things that may indicate that your phone calls have been listened to. If you recognise some of the signs discussed below, we recommend that you consider getting your smart device checked. We also recommend that you contact a lawyer and seek legal advice as to what would be the best next steps in order to protect your privacy. Perth Family Lawyers can assist with this and provide you with genuine advice about your next steps.

1. Unusual background noise

Strange background noise, such as high-pitched humming or a pulsating static sound while you are on a telephone call may suggest that your phone is, in fact, tapped. If this occurs only on a rare occasion, it is probably just a glitch, however if you notice it is happening more often, and especially if it happens several times in one minute, your phone may be tapped.

2. Reduced battery life

If you notice that your phone’s battery life is all of the sudden a lot shorter than it used to be or that your battery feels warm in your hands while the phone is being used, a tapping software might be running in the background and consuming your battery power. If you suspect this may be the case, you can use your phone’s settings to obtain detailed information as to what is shortening your phone battery’s life. If your battery is being drained by the apps you are using every day, then everything should be okay, however if you do not use those apps often, then you may have a reason to contact Perth Family Lawyers to obtain some legal advice and arrange to have your phone checked for spyware.

3. Suspicious activity

When a phone is hacked, it can start turning on or off on its own or begin installing apps without command, you may receive a text message containing jumbled letters or numbers from unknown senders, or there may be odd pop-up ads appearing more than usual. These can all indicate that your phone is compromised.  A major sign that your phone is being tapped is if your private data stored on your phone is being leaked online, such as emails, pictures, notes etc. If this happens, please call our office at Perth Family Lawyers immediately.

4. Electronic interference

Some spyware uses frequencies that are near the FM radio band and TV broadcast frequencies. If your radio emits a high-pitched sound when it is set on mono and dialled to the far end of the band, your phone might be interfered with. This is also the same with your TV – if it has an antenna and produces sounds when you bring your phone in its vicinity, then it may have been interfered with.

5. Unusually high phone bill

An unusual spike in text or data usage can also indicate something odd may be happening with your phone. It may be that you just downloaded a new app that uses a lot of date, of that your children used your phone while not connected to Wi-Fi, however if that did not occur, there may be another cause for your data consumption and we recommend you contact Perth Family Lawyers for advice.

6. Third-party apps

You should only download apps from than the App Store or Google Play Store, as third-party apps downloaded unsafely are a potential source for malware and spyware.  You should be careful if a recently downloaded application is requesting permission to access your call history, address book and/or contact list.

As noted above, the listed signs do not necessarily mean that your phone has been compromised, especially if only some of them have occurred. However, if you are going through a relationship breakdown or have recently separated and you think your partner or ex-partner may be attempting to track your movements or hack your devices, this is unacceptable behaviour classified as family violence.  Our team of experienced family lawyers at Perth Family Lawyers are here to provide you with advice and discuss your concerns to ensure you are protected as best as possible. Call Perth Family Lawyers on (08) 9325 8675 to arrange a meeting with one of our solicitors today

How can parties arrange child support matters?

At Perth Family Lawyers, we recognise that there are 3 ways in which parties can arrange child support matters. They are:

  1. via a child support assessment;
  2. via a child support agreement; and
  3. via an informal agreement.

A Child Support Assessment

The Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 enables parents to apply to the Child Support Registrar to have an administrative assessment put into place, between the parties, based on information available to the Registrar. 

When the application is made the Registrar calculates the relevant amount of support that should be paid in accordance with a prescribed formula. This takes into account the number of children, both parents’ income and a number of other factors.

Once issued, the amount payable under the administrative assessment is enforceable by the Child Support Registrar against the liable parent.

The amount payable under the assessment is reviewable, which provides for one or both of the parties to seek a reassessment should circumstances change. For example, in the event a parent’s income increases or decreases significantly, or if there is a change in parenting arrangements. If you have any questions about child support assessments, then please contact Perth Family Lawyers.

A Child Support Agreement

The second way parents can arrange their child support affairs is by agreement. There are two types of agreement, namely:

  1. a Binding Child Support Agreement (“BCSA”); and
  2. a Limited Child Support Agreement (“LCSA”). 

A Binding Child Support Agreement (“BCSA”)

A BCSA replaces any assessment which has been made – although there is no requirement for there to be an assessment in place prior to entering into the agreement. The BCSA is unable to be changed in the absence of a further agreement, or unless the Court sets the agreement aside. This type of agreement is enforceable. Periodic payments usually being enforced by the Child Support Registrar and other types of payments (such as school fees) are also enforceable by the Court. Both parties must obtain independent legal advice in relation to the advantages and disadvantages of signing the BCSA before it will be accepted by the Child Support Registrar.

It should be noted, that seeking to set the agreement aside is both expensive and not guaranteed. This is because this is a matter of discretion for the Court. As such, a BCSA is the most secure way of permanently “locking” child support arrangements in place, however can be costly.  

A Limited Child Support Agreement (“LCSA”)

A limited child support agreement replaces the assessment, noting that there must be an administrative assessment already in place by the time the agreement is submitted to the Child Support Registrar. For the agreement to be accepted by the Child Support Registrar the agreement must be for at least the annual rate of child support that would otherwise be payable under the administrative assessment. Limited agreements can also be terminated by either party after 3 years by one party giving notice to the Child Support Registrar in writing.

Again, if you have any questions about any of this content, or you want to find out some more information, please contact Perth Family Lawyers.

Informal Agreement

If parties are largely agreeable and no assessment has been issued, they can simply enter into an informal arrangement based on mutual trust. Such agreements are unenforceable and can often cause issues in the event there is no documentary evidence setting out the payments made by the payee.

If you require any advice with respect to Child Support arrangements then contact one of our solicitors at Perth Family Lawyers on (08) 9325 8675, today.

At what age can my child decide who they want to live with?

At Perth Family Lawyers our solicitors are often asked by clients “at what age can their children decide which parent they wish to live with?”.  There is no clear-cut answer to this question. The legislation, the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), does not prescribe a particular age which gives children autonomy to make decisions with regards to where they want to live and how much time they want to spend with the other parent.

When the Family Court is asked to determine which parent a child is to live with, the Judicial Officer must consider 16 different factors and take each into account as applicable. Your child’s wishes (or views) are just one of these considerations and generally not the most important one. The weight given to any views expressed by your Child will also be dependent on a particular child’s maturity or level of understanding. The Court is primarily required to consider the benefits of the child having a meaningful relationship with both parents and the need to protect the child from harm.

Sometimes clients provide instructions that they feel the other parent is attempting to ‘bribe’ a child to persuade them to want to live with them by showering them with gifts, or not imposing normal parental boundaries (for example, allowing them privileges the other parent won’t – such as giving them a mobile phone at a young age, or allowing them to have extensive screen time, or a late bedtime).  Our advice is to continue parenting your children as normal.  During a family breakdown, what your children require most is stability and consistency, and the same boundaries to which they are accustomed. 

The court will weigh different factors when deciding the child’s best interest as to their place of residence, such as:

  1. The child’s level of maturity;
  2. The child’s insight;
  3. The child’s understanding of the situation;
  4. Whether the child’s wishes are well informed;
  5. Whether the child has been influenced by their parents when deciding where to live, etc.

In certain situations, the Court will order an independent assessment be undertaken and provided to the Court in relation to the family and the child.  This can involve either a Family Consultant or a Single Expert Witness being appointed, to meet with your child and the parents, and provide a report to the Family Court as to the child’s understanding of the circumstances (considering the above listed factors) and recommendations.

In some cases, the court will appoint an Independent Children’s Lawyers for the purpose of providing an independent view as to the child’s best interests. What is in a child’s best interests, however, can sometimes be at odds with what their wishes may be.

Our solicitors provide genuine legal advice and Perth Family Lawyers can assist you with deciding what would be the best path for you to choose in the event that you believe that your child is being influenced by the other parent to live with them.

If your child is expressing a wish to vary their living arrangements, we strongly recommend you immediately obtain independent legal advice from one of our experienced family lawyers who can genuinely guide you to the right decisions to be made.  You should not act unilaterally and retain a child in breach of a longstanding parenting arrangement without first seeking advice.  Acting unilaterally regarding parenting matters can have a devastating long-term impact on your case before the Family Court. 

We urge you to seek legal advice from an experienced family lawyer as soon as possible. We are here to provide you with professional and efficient family law advice, and to negotiate your parenting arrangements on your behalf, or we can go to Court to represent you in the Family Court proceedings if needed.  

Balancing the child’s best interests with your own wishes can be challenging for some parents, and parenting matters require a level of experience and sensitivity to ensure your post-separation parenting relationship with the other parent is prioritised for your children’s sake.  The last thing any child needs is their parents being in entrenched conflict with each other.

If you have concerns with regards to your child’s living arrangements or know someone who does, call us at Perth Family Lawyers for genuine legal advice on (08) 9325 8675, today. 

Victims of violence can now apply for restraining orders online

Perth Family Lawyers have been informed that as of May 2020, victims of family and domestic violence can apply for restraining order online, rather than having to attend the Magistrates Court in person. New laws enabling this have been passed by the Government as a response to an increased risk of domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic and isolation that the pandemic has brought with it. 

Further, new laws were passed creating a separate offence for breaching of a family violence restraining order and increased the penalty from $6,000 to $10,000, and two years’ imprisonment.

Any people, that are the victims of family violence (which is not gender specific at all) can now apply for the restraining orders online.  Our dedicated family law solicitors at Perth Family Lawyers can assist you to apply for a restraining order and answer your questions with regards to same including the appropriate order to be sought.

After the application is lodged, the Magistrates Court will provide the applicant with a time and date of the hearing during which an interim order may be sought. In the event, however, that due to COVID-19 pandemic people cannot attend the court, they can contact the Magistrates Court to make an application to the Court to request orders to appear by alternative means. Again, Perth Family Lawyers may make such application on your behalf and lodge all other necessary documents for you. If a Magistrate grants an order and it is thereafter served upon the respondent, the applicant can be informed electronically, including via a text message, or via their lawyer at Perth Family Lawyers.

The online process is a step forward for Western Australia in access to justice and will help victims of violence by making it less stressful to seek protection. Our dedicated solicitors at Perth Family Lawyers can further ease the process for you by providing legal advice, and by guiding you through every step along the way. We recognise the importance of making the process as least traumatic as possible.

In the event that you are experiencing family or domestic violence, or know someone who is, don’t hesitate to contact us, we are just one call away. Our team can be contacted on (08) 9325 8675, or by visiting our website www.perthfamilylawyers.com

Child Safety Online

What our Lawyers say about online safety for your children

In the modern world we live in, young children are online before we know it. Connected toys, touch screens, different programs to watch on streaming services, video calling with family and friends, are just some of the ways children to use internet. Being online has many benefits for young children, including opportunities to explore their creativity, improve their language skills, solve problems, think critically and build relationships. However there are risks if young children use connected devices without supervision or for extended periods of time.   

Parenting children when you are separated can be overwhelming, particularly if you and your former partner are not on the same page, or are hypercritical of each other.  At Perth Family Lawyers, our solicitors have been involved in cases, when children being left to their own devices online has been the cause of contact being ceased, or children being retained, if they are exposed to inappropriate content.  Accordingly, we recommend to our clients that they protect themselves against allegations that they are not supervising their children during their periods of care by doing the following:


1. Be safe

Set up devices safely and ensure they are only used in communal areas as kids need to be protected from exposure to content that is not appropriate for their age. Don’t forget that your children could easily be contacted online by strangers or people who pose a risk. Identify who ‘safe people’ are, like family and close friends. Make sure your child knows what their ‘personal information’ is. This includes their full name, date of birth, address, contact information and photos that identify them. Explain that personal information should not be shared with anyone they don’t know.


2. Be Kind

Encourage children to be kind and respectful online. You can explain that being kind online helps to ensure that everyone has a good time. Talk to pre-schoolers about the risks of cyberbullying as they get older and let them know you are there if someone is ever mean to them online.


3. Teach your children to ask for help

Let your children know they should always ask for help from a trusted adult, being a parent, grandparent or their educator. They should ask for help if they are contacted by anyone online, if they encounter a pop-up, if they are unsure about anything, or if they see or hear something that makes them feel uncomfortable, scared or upset. Teach your children to ask permission before they watch a new program, play a new game, explore a new website or download anything onto a device.


4. Make good choices

Get involved and take the time to sit with your children and watch their favourite program or play their favourite game together. Ask many questions – Why do they like it? Why do they want to watch or play it? How often do they watch it? Decide which activities will be ‘explored together’, ‘supervised’ and ‘independent’. All new applications, games and content should be ‘explored together’.


5. Balance screen time

‘Tech tantrums’, are outbursts when you stop your children’s screen time. It is normal behaviour for children to not want to stop a fun activity, whether it is online or not.  We suggest you use a timer — and decide on the right amount of time and use a timer or a screen time monitor that blocks access. This can be helpful with very young children as they see the device is ‘turning off’, rather than you removing the device from them.

  • Help your children transition to another activity — in the last five minutes of your child’s screen time, sit with them and engage with what they were doing. Suggest some other interesting activity which would make their screen time sound boring!
  • Agree on device-free times — agree with your family about when everyone should put their devices down. Depending on your routine, for example this may be during lunch or dinner, or in the evening, or whenever works for everyone.  It is critical that families spend time together ‘device-free’.
  • Turn off all devices an hour before bedtime — research shows it is important to turn devices off at least an hour before bedtime to ensure your child has the best quality sleep.  We know how vital it is for our kids to get a good night’s sleep to ensure they are healthy, mentally and physically.


If you have experienced issues with securing time with your children, or you are concerned about your children in the care of the other parent, we recommend you obtain independent family law advice from our skilled and dedicated family lawyers at Perth Family Lawyers.  We have significant experience in dealing with parenting disputes and have many tools in our kit to assist you to get the best outcome for your children.

Family Dispute Resolution

It is compulsory in Australia for people who have separated to attempt Family Dispute Resolution (“FDR”) before applying to a family court for orders in relation to parenting matters. There are some exemptions to that compulsory requirement, however, including:

  • Where issues are required to be dealt with on an urgent basis, such as a concern that the other party may attempt to leave the Country with a child of your relationship;
  • Where family violence or child abuse is a factor;
  • When you are formalising an agreement through ‘consent orders’;
  • When a person is unable to participate effectively (for example, due to incapacity or geographical location); or
  • When a person has contravened and shown a serious disregard for a court order made in the last 12 months.

FDR is defined in the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), specifically at section 10F as “any non-judicial process where an independent FDR practitioner helps people affected, or likely to be affected, by separation or divorce, to resolve some or all of their disputes with each other”. In more basic terms, FDR is a special type of mediation used to help separating families come to their own agreements. To assist in reaching an agreement, an FDR Practitioner will help you consider different options, while encouraging you to focus on the needs of your children as well.

During the FDR process, the mediator will do an individual session with yourself and your ex-partner, before scheduling a joint session. You don’t need a solicitor to attend with you at FDR, however we strongly suggest you obtain legal advice from a solicitor experienced in Family Law prior to attending, so you are well aware of your rights and responsibilities.

We at Perth Family Lawyers regularly work with FDR practitioners more extensively as FDR develops, often being engaged by a party after they have completed FDR to assist in formalising their agreement through ‘consent orders’.

In light of the current situation with COVID-19, many Family Dispute Resolution services are offering mediations and intake sessions via video or telephone conference. Perth Family Lawyers are set up and ready to go with the latest technology to assist you during an FDR via telephone or video link, with services running as smoothly as ever.

FDR can be useful in helping you reach an agreement which will ultimately save you money, and time. Family Dispute Resolution also gives you control over your own matter and any agreement reached, rather than leaving it in the hands of a Court to decide. Our Family Law Solicitors at Perth Family Lawyers have significant experience in representing clients at FDR but understand that sometimes going to court might be the only way to sort things out, and are skilled litigators when that course is required.

Perth Family Lawyers are here to help and assist, whatever stage your matter is at. Please call us today, on (08) 9325 8675 or visit our website on www.perthfamilylawyers.com to schedule an appointment with one of our skilled solicitors.

1 2 3 5