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Family Law


Expert family law advice in Melbourne and regional Victoria

MDW’s specialist family and relationship law team is consistently recognised as one of Melbourne’s leading family and relationship law firms in Doyle’s Guide, specialising in achieving pragmatic and commercial outcomes in complex financial disputes and challenging parenting and child support matters.

Our lawyers are individually recognised by Doyle’s Guide as leading family and relationship lawyers and include several Accredited Specialists.

We pride ourselves on empathetic and client-centred practice. You will receive early and pragmatic advice and you will have direct, responsive and timely communication with the lawyer handling your case. With the benefit of our expertise and experience, our clients achieve early and cost-effective outcomes. We have a focus on early dispute resolution and are well placed to take strong and decisive action when required.

Premium family law services

We offer services in the following areas:

  1. Property Settlements
  2. Children’s Arrangements
  3. De Facto Relationships
  4. Same-Sex Relationships
  5. Financial Agreements
  6. Child Support
  7. Spousal Maintenance
  8. Asset Protection and Strategic Planning

In more than 45 years’ practice in family and relationship law, our firm has developed strong relationships with allied professionals who can assist you to negotiate the complexities of family and relationship law, including accountants, psychologists (including child specialists), counsellors, financial planners and mortgage brokers.

Family Law FAQs

Am I in a de facto relationship?

You’re in a de facto relationship if you’re living with your partner on a genuine domestic basis, but you’re not legally married to each other.

There are other things which may indicate a de facto relationship. They include:

  1. The length of your relationship
  2. The nature and extent of the couple’s common residence
  3. Whether there’s a sexual relationship
  4. Whether you share finances, or whether one of you is financially dependent on the other
  5. Whether you jointly own real estate or other assets, how you use them and how you came to acquire them
  6. Whether you’re both committed to sharing your lives
  7. Whether you’ve had children together
  8. Whether you’re responsible for the care and support of any children
  9. How others may view your relationship. For example, whether they think of you as a de facto couple

You can be in a de facto relationship even if one of you is married to someone else.

Although you may be in a de facto relationship, pursuant to the Family Law Act the Court only has the power to make orders for the division of property or spousal maintenance if it is satisfied that:

  1. you have been in a de facto relationship for at least two years; or
  2. there is a child of your relationship; or
  3. that one of you has made substantial contributions (financial, non-financial or as a homemaker or parent) and a failure to make an order would result in a serious injustice; or
  4. your relationship has been registered under State or Territory legislation.
What is a pre-nuptial agreement?

A pre-nuptial agreement is also known as a pre-nup.

A couple can make a pre-nup before marrying or moving in together. It’s a type of binding financial agreement that sets out how property will be divided if the relationship breaks down. Pre-nups must be made with care. If there’s a possibility that one party is unfairly disadvantaged, the pre-nup may not be enforceable.

It’s essential to get independent legal advice before signing a pre-nup.

How do I get a Divorce?

In Australia, you usually start the divorce process by applying to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA). To get a divorce you need to be able to show your marriage has irretrievably broken down. This is usually proven by demonstrating that you’ve been separated from your spouse for at least 12 months.

You will also need to show proof that your marriage was valid, for example, your marriage certificate.

If you and your former spouse have children, you will also have to show that proper arrangements have been made for their care.

After separation, what should I consider when making arrangements for the children?

When a relationship breaks down, Australian family law says that the best interests of the children of your relationship is the most important consideration when deciding on parenting matters.

The children may live with both parties on an equal basis, or they might live with one parent and spend time with the other parent. The principle of equal parental responsibility applies, meaning that regardless of living arrangements, both parents jointly make long-term decisions for their children (unless there are good reasons not to, for example, concerns about the safety of the children or family violence).

What is spousal maintenance?

It’s a payment made by one spouse to the other to help with their living costs. It can be regular payments or a lump sum. Both married couples and de facto partners can apply for spousal maintenance.

To be eligible for spousal maintenance:

  1. You must have a need for financial support (for example, you are unable to support yourself from your income); and
  2. Your former partner must have enough income to be able to contribute to your reasonable living costs.

To work out how much spousal maintenance you’re entitled to, a court will consider many things, including:

  • Your old and new living situation
  • Your expenses
  • Your former partner’s financial circumstances
  • Your ability to earn an income
  • Your caring responsibility for any children
  • Any other issues, for example, medical needs

Family Law Articles

Grandparents’ legal rights: How to stay connected with your grandkids after a family split
Grandparents’ legal rights: How to stay connected with your grandkids after a family split
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Family law team recognised by Doyle’s Guide 2022
Family law team recognised by Doyle’s Guide 2022
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MDW Family law Accredited Specialists announced
MDW Family law Accredited Specialists announced
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How does family law treat financial support from parents to adult children?
How does family law treat financial support from parents to adult children?
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