Marriage and relationship breakdown

CCCLS can provide assistance with various family and relationship breakdown issues. Our lawyers can provide advice on matters such as children’s issues,  spousal maintenance and property settlements. Our financial counsellors can also help you sort out financial issues associated with relationship breakdowns.

Parental responsibility and custody

Parents have a duty to support a child until he or she is 18 years old. If the parents' relationship breaks down, the court will determine living arrangements by considering the child’s ‘best interests’ relying on a number of factors to guide its decision.

A child can also obtain his or her own legal representation. They can be ordered by the court itself, or the child or another person or group.

If a child is going overseas, written consent must be given by anyone with a parenting order. If not, the court can request passports (the child and anyone else’s) or order that the child is restrained from leaving Australia.

Spousal maintenance

Spousal maintenance is financial support paid by a person their former wife or husband. This is available in only limited circumstances. Please seek legal advice to see whether you might be eligible.  An application for spousal maintenance must be made within 12 months of the divorce order taking effect, unless the court extends this limit if particular circumstances are met.

Childbirth allowance

An application may be made for childbirth allowance if the parents were not married at the time of the birth. The court has the power to order that the father pay for childbirth expenses.

Child support

Child support agreements

The Child Support Agency makes assessments about the amount of child support parents must pay.  Child support agreements can be ‘binding’ (where parties must seek legal advice) or’ limited’. Agreements must be in writing and signed by the parties., and should pay no less than the amount in the CSA assessment.
Collecting child support

The child support agreement can reflect whether you pay and collect child support privately, or pay it to the CSA. Parties may also agree for child support to be paid to a ‘non-agency’, but it is important to keep proof of payments to send to the CSA so that they are credited as child support.  The agreement should also reflect how child support is paid (cash or non-cash, lump sum or periodic payments).

Changing child support arrangements

The amount of child support owed can be changed if the CSA can be shown that particular conditions are met.

Parties can also apply to the court for certain matters including the manner of payment or alterations to the agreement (when parties cannot agree between themselves) or the temporary stop of child support payments while there is an application regarding the agreement under consideration.

Objecting against CSA decisions

You should seek legal advice if you intend to object to a CSA decision. If you intend to object, you must do so within 28 days of receiving a notice from the CSA (unless you are granted an extension of time). Usually the CSA will make a decision in 60 days.

Certain CSA decisions about objections may in turn be reviewed by tribunals or the court. It is advisable to seek legal advice should you wish to review a CSA decision.

Child support debt

You should seek legal advice if you fall behind in your child support payments. A child support debt must be paid even if the CSA assessment has ended or the child has turned 18. Where you have incurred a late payment penalty, you may apply to the CSA to have it remitted, but  it is important to act quickly, as there may be a time limit for applications about reducing the debt.

If you have incurred a large child support debt, the CSA may prohibit you from leaving Australia under a Departure Prohibition Order. The Court can also make an enforcement order regarding, for example, seizure and sale or property and attachment of earnings to meet the debt. 

Property

Relevant courts can rule on property and maintenance matters when the parties are married or in a de facto relationship (regardless of sex), if the couple have been together for at least two years and separated after March 2009 (some exceptions apply).

The court can make declarations about existing title and rights to property, as well as allied orders (eg the sale of property and distribution of money). It can also alter the property interests of parties.

You should seek legal advice before agreeing to any property order or agreement. If you wish to appeal an order, you must do so within one month from the day when the order is made, unless an extension is granted.

Please note that this information does not amount to legal advice. It is for your information only.

Casey Cardinia Community Legal Service Inc does not take responsibility for the accuracy or currency  of the information on this page or any other page on this website.

To discuss your problem, please make an appointment to see a lawyer.