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Family Law Definition
Family law deals with issues arising from domestic relationships, both marital relationships and de facto relationships. While the most common aspects of family law are those arising from the breakdown of relationships, family law also encompasses aspects of relationship planning, such as cohabitation agreements and prenuptial agreements, as well as issues dealing with surrogacy law and parentage issues.
Typically, the type of work undertaken by family lawyers in Australia may include:
• Divorce and relationship breakdown including, the issues arising from that breakdown, whether financial or non-financial. These issues usually include: applications for divorce, a consideration of property settlement entitlements (including superannuation splitting arrangements) for each party, spousal maintenance issues, child support and the appropriate parenting arrangements for any children of the relationship. It also encompasses relocation cases, dealing with grandparents’ rights, step-parent applications and applications for parenting orders by other carers concerned with the care, welfare or development of a child.
• Family violence including applications for protection orders and other issues arising from family violence.
• Child abuse matters.
• Child abduction, domestic and international, including matters arising under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Abduction and related issues about the recognition of orders made in other jurisdictions.
• Parentage testing.
• Relationship planning including structuring and planning prenuptial agreements and cohabitation agreements for both married couples and de facto couples.
• Adoption including step-parent adoptions and applications for leave to the Family Court of Australia prior to an application being made for step-parent adoption.
• Surrogacy and parentage issues arising from artificial conception procedures including IVF.
Less commonly, family lawyers will also deal with issues arising from:
• Questions about the determination of the validity of marriages and nullity of marriage.
• Special medical procedures requiring Court authorisation.
Family law is an area that is becoming increasingly specialised and complex and often involves the intersection of other areas of law including taxation issues and issues dealing with corporate and trust structures. Matters increasingly require family lawyers to deal with accounting and valuation issues as part of their day-to-day practice. Family law may also have an international element requiring a consideration of conflict of laws and forum issues.
Family law includes both litigation and non-litigation pathways to resolve disputes. Many family law matters in Australia settle using alternative dispute resolution methods including mediation, arbitration and collaborative law. Many family lawyers have training in one or more of these alternative dispute resolutions methods.
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