I want to change my child’s surname, where do I start?

There are many reasons why a person may want to change their child’s surname, whether this be for personal, religious or cultural reasons.  The team here at Perth Family Lawyers can assist you with achieving this.

Whilst it seems like a simple process, changing a Child’s name can be difficult, and we highly recommend that you seek appropriate legal advice from an experienced family lawyer who is familiar with change of name applications.

If both parents agree with changing a child’s surname and the child was born in WA, the process is relatively straightforward, and the parents can jointly sign an application form called “Application to register a change of name (child under 18 years” and submit it to the Western Australian Registry of Birth Deaths and Marriages.  You can review the form by clicking on the link: https://www.wa.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-07/BDM401-register-a-change-of-name-child-under-18.pdf

If your child was born overseas but is an Australian citizen or a permanent resident and has lived in WA continuously for the 12 months preceding the application, you can apply by completing the form referred to above if both parents agree.

When there is only one parent included in the Child’s Birth Certificate, that parent can similarly apply to change their child’s name by completing the application form.

The process of name changes in the Family Court of Western Australia

If both parents are named on the child’s birth certificate and there is no agreement about changing the child’s name, we recommend you attend our offices for an appointment from an experienced family lawyer to obtain advice, as an application may need to be filed in the Family Court of Western Australia.  Our understanding and friendly team will support you through this process and any application that may need to be made in the Family Court of Western Australia.

The Family Court will take into consideration many factors when deciding whether it is in the best interest of the Child to allow a name change. Some of these are include:

  • The primary reasons for the name change;
  • The effects, both long and short term, of the name change;
  • Identity or cultural issues that may occur if the name changes, or if the name stays the same;
  • Issues that the Child may encounter because of the name change;
  • Whether any relationships are effected if the name changes, or if the name stays the same;
  • The involvement of the parent opposing the name change;
  • The suitability of the proposed variation to the child’s name; or
  • Whether the Child’s extended family, stepfamily or blended family has any impact on the decision.

We cannot stress enough the importance of seeking appropriate legal advice from a Family Lawyer in relation to a name change for your Child if there is a dispute between you and the other parent.  Our team at Perth Family Lawyers can assist you to make the decision that best suits your family and has your Child’s best interest at heart.

What information can I share about my family law matter?

With the rise of social media, relaying information to family and friends online about your private affairs has become commonplace.  Whilst this is the case, you should be aware that doing so about your Family Court proceedings could land you in hot water.

Section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975 (“the Act”) provides as follows:

  1. A person who publishes in a newspaper or periodical publication, by radio broadcast or television or by other electronic means, or otherwise disseminates to the public or to a section of the public by any means, any account of any proceedings, or of any part of any proceedings, under this Act that identifies:
    • a party to the proceedings;
    • a person who is related to, or associated with, a party to the proceedings or is, or is alleged to be, in any other way concerned in the matter to which the proceedings relate; or
    • a witness in the proceedings;

commits an offence punishable, upon conviction by imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year.

Whilst the chance of circulating information about your family law matter in a newspaper, publication, radio or television is unlikely, doing so by electronic means is certainly not.

The Act defines electronic means as any form of data, text or images, and even voice recordings. Therefore, any information which is shared via text messages, photographs via MMS, voicemail, the internet, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media sites for example, may result in a breach of Section 121 of the Act, and depending on the severity of the breach, could result in a term of imprisonment.

The Act does not only restrain the publication of information or transmission of information by electronic means, merely discussing or providing a copy of your Court documents to friends or family, or any person who is not subject to the proceedings may also lead to a breach of the Act.

For more information about your rights and responsibilities with respect to your family law matter, call Perth Family Lawyers on (08) 9325 8675 or email us at admin@perthfamilylawyers.com

FVRO’s – Same sex and Gender Identification

In the event that a person in a relationship is the subject of family violence or perceives that in the future they may be subjected to family violence, that person may seek to obtain a family violence restraining order (FVRO) from the Magistrates Court protecting themselves from the perpetrator of domestic violence.  

A person only needs to demonstrate that they are in a family relationship and as such is either currently or previously married or are or were in a defacto relationship.

The legislation does not specify what the gender of the parties must be nor does the law discriminate as to what gender a person identifies as.  Therefore, if you are in a same sex relationship and subject to any form of domestic violence or have the fear that in the future you may be subjected to family violence you are able to apply to the Magistrates Court for a (FVRO) for your own protection.

Here at Perth Family Lawyers, we have extensive experience in all areas of FVRO’s, no matter what your personal relationship circumstances may be.   Our services include preparing an application, to providing advice whether you are the person protected or person bound by an FVRO, together with any court representation that may be required.

We recommend that you contact us to book an initial appointment with one of our lawyers to discuss your matter.  Please call our office on 9325 8675.  We are conveniently located close to the Perth Magistrates Court; however our lawyers regularly attend all suburban and regional Magistrate courts representing our clients in FVRO matters.

What is a Conduct Agreement Order?

If you have been served with a Family Violence Restraining Order, there are ways to resolve the matter without having to attend a Final Hearing.

Having to attend a final hearing with regards to a Family Violence Restraining Order (“FVRO”) in the Magistrates Court can be both financially and emotionally stressful, not just for the Applicant but for the Respondent as well.

One of the ways a FVRO can be settled, without a final hearing, is for the Respondent (or the Person who is bound by the FVRO) to consent to a Conduct Agreement Order (“CAO”). A CAO is consented to by the Respondent on what is known as a “without admission” basis. This means the Respondent is not admitting there is any necessity for the CAO, nor are they admitting to having engaged in any family violence, but simply consenting to be bound by a CAO.

A Conduct Agreement Order will often include the same restraints, and require the Respondent to be bound to the same terms as the FVRO, however negotiations can occur between the parties (via their respective solicitors) as to the terms of the CAO. Consenting to a CAO will avoid the need to have a final hearing, and it will also mean there are no findings made by a Court about Family Violence.

You can, however, be charged with a breach (i.e. a criminal charge) of a Conduct Agreement in the same way you would be charged if it was a final FVRO.

All of our solicitors at Perth Family Lawyers have significant experience in dealing with Family Violence Restraining Order matter, and can advise you further about Conduct Agreement Orders.

We recommend that you arrange a meeting with Perth Family Lawyers as soon as possible if you have any queries about Family Violence Restraining Orders.

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

Mediation and Family Dispute Resolution

There are amazing services available in our community to assist separated couples to navigate the difficult issues that need to be resolved following a separation.

Whilst this is the case, at Perth Family Lawyers, our experience is that prior to attending mediation or family dispute resolution, it is critical that you obtain independent legal advice regarding your rights and responsibilities so that you can maximise the benefit of attending at such services.

In preparing for attending at a mediation service, it is important that you have turned your mind to various issues. For example, if you are attending mediation with a view to discussing and resolving parenting issues, it is of significant benefit to have received legal advice regarding what the Court will consider in determining the parenting arrangements having regard to the best interest of your children. In that respect, independent legal advice can provide you with the knowledge that the parenting arrangements you are considering are the best option for your children.

We have met with clients on occasion who have been completely misguided regarding what Orders the Court would make in a parenting case. By way of example, parents of very young infants who incorrectly believe that the Court would order an equal shared care arrangement between a warring, separated couple in circumstances where one of the parents has historically been the child’s primary carer.

For mediation services to assist separated couples to resolve the financial matters, it is important that you have advice regarding disclosure issues, valuation issues, and the relevant factors that the Court will consider in determining a fair and equitable division of the asset pool.

We go above and beyond

Additionally, at Perth Family Lawyers, we aim to offer exceptional service to our valued clients. Accordingly, if we are aware you have scheduled a mediation or a family dispute resolution session, we will ensure you can access legal advice throughout by ensuring a solicitor is available by phone for you to obtain immediate clarity and advice, should the need arise.

Call us now to arrange an appointment to discuss your family law needs, so we can support you whilst you work through the processes involved.

COVID-19 Vaccination

On Friday, 12 March 2021, the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia issued a media release concerning the expansion of the COVID-19 list, in order to provide for a broader range of circumstances.

The Courts recognised that vaccination of children may become an issue of dispute between separated parents and may require priority attention. In addition, families may be experiencing relatively sudden changes to their financial position as government support measures change.

Click on the link below to see the media release

http://www.federalcircuitcourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fccweb/reports-and-publications/media-releases/2021/mr120321

Perth Family Lawyers understand that parents may not share the same views regarding the vaccination of their children against COVID-19. We invite you to call our office on (08) 9325 8675, to schedule an appointment with one of our dedicated solicitors if this is an issue for you. We can provide you with  guidance and help you decide how to deal with the dispute

What does child support cover?

Separated or divorced couples who have children together must continue to contribute towards their children’s financial wellbeing following separation. Child support applies to all parents, including same-sex parents whether married or in a de facto relationship, who have never lived together or even had a relationship.

The goal of child support is to provide for the following expenses:

  1. Food;
  2. Clothing;
  3. Medical and dental costs;
  4. Housing costs;
  5. School or pre-school expenses;
  6. Extra-curricular activities;

However, Perth Family Lawyers note that there are no strict rules about what child support covers and the list above is just a guideline.

The recipient may spend the funds received however they wish.

Unfortunately, the amount of child support assessed as payable is usually insufficient to fund costs associated with children such as Private health insurance, Private school fees, Extra-curricular activities and any extra costs due to a child’s ‘special needs’ 

There will need to be discussion and agreement as to how to split costs related to such things as dental and medical costs, private school fees, uniforms etc. These costs are not covered by the child support formula and if there is an agreement that one party will fund these costs, the agreement should be documented. 

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Is there a formula to determine how much child support is to be paid?

The Child Support Agency (“CSA”) is the agency responsible for child support. When a parent applies to the CSA, a formula is applied to determine how much child support should be paid. Some of the factors that are considered when determining the amount of child support are:

  1. The number of children involved;
  2. Age of the children (child support is being paid until a child reaches 18 years of age);
  3. The income of each of the parents (incomes of present partners or spouses of the parents do not affect child support – child support is based on the incomes of the two parents only).
  4. The percentage of care each parent provides for the children.

The CSA formula does not include any additional allowance for private school fees or health insurance premiums.

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Prescribed expenses

A parent can ask CSA to credit certain “prescribed expense” payments for up to 30% of their assessed child support liabilities. These “prescribed expenses” include the following:

  1. Child care payments;
  2. School and pre-school fees;
  3. School uniforms and prescribed textbooks;
  4. Medical and dental expenses;
  5. Housing expenses, such as mortgage, rent, bond payments;
  6. Motor vehicle expenses

Also, up to 30% of child support can be paid by the payer spending directly on bills.

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Special circumstances

Some situations can change the overall child support assessment, for example if the child has high or unusual medical or educational expenses. In those events, the recipient has to apply to CSA to review the case.

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What if you believe that child support contributions/receipt is unfair?

If you believe that the child support assessment does not reflect the true financial position of either parent, for example if one parent has not disclosed their real financial position, or if you believe that accessibility and cost of spending time with a child needs evaluation, then you can apply to the CSA to reconsider your child support assessment. You can apply for this yourself or obtain advise from your legal team regarding how to apply.  Our dedicated Perth Family Lawyers can assist you in doing so.

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Limited Child Support Agreements and Binding Child Support Agreements

The Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth) also provides for two types of agreements that set or alter the amount of child support to be paid which can also to take things into account such as:

  1. payment of private school fees;
  2. payment of uniforms, books and extra-curricular-activities;
  3. payment of private health insurance;
  4. additional costs due to the ‘special needs’ of a child.

These two types of Private Child Support Agreements include Limited Child Support Agreements; and Binding Child Support Agreements.

Perth Family Lawyers can assist you with both Limited and Binding Child Support Agreements. Our dedicated solicitors can provide legal advice in relation to these matters, and can negotiate agreements on your behalf, and can finalise them so you are protected moving forward.

Call (08) 9325 8675 today or obtain further information on our website www.perthfamilylawyers.com

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.

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