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201 Elizabeth Street
Sydney NSW 2000

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Melbourne VIC 3000

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231 North Quay
Brisbane QLD 4000

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1 Farrell Place
Canberra ACT 2601

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family law faq


Contact Armstrong Legal:
Sydney: (02) 9261 4555
Melbourne: (03) 9620 2777
Brisbane: (07) 3229 4448
Canberra: (02) 6288 1100

Michelle McDermott

Divorce, Child Custody & Domestic Violence
FAQs about Australian Family Law

At Armstrong Legal, we have an approachable team of specialist family lawyers who are highly experienced in relation to property matters, child custody disputes, separation and divorce.

Below are some of the more commonly asked questions regarding family law. To see the answer, simply click on the question in the grey block.

Of course, if your question isn't answered on this page or you need further advice on any family law related matter, contact Armstrong Legal.

Do all family law matters have to go to Court?

Statistics show that approximately 85% of family law disputes are resolved without the Court being required to make any decision. In other words people have agreed as to the outcome of their dispute and have only used the Court services to formalise that agreement or have decided that they do not require the agreement to be formalised at all. Further, of the Cases that are filed with the Court for determination only approximately 2% of those cases actually proceed to a final determination by a Judge or Federal Magistrate. The remaining 13% of cases are settled after the case has been filed in Court but before the handing down of the Judgement.

These statistics emphasise that only a very small proportion of all family law disputes require the Court to make a determination. In most cases the Court's involvement is only to provide formality and finality to the agreement.

Do I need a Lawyer?

When you are faced with family breakdown, divorce, or another family law problem, one of the decisions you need to make is whether you need a lawyer. Some families manage their way through the legal side of things without any formal legal advice. It really depends on how difficult your situation is and what is at stake.

The checklist below may help you decide whether you need a lawyer to help you.

If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the questions below, you are more or likely to benefit from legal advice:

  • Are there children involved?
  • Are you unsure of what you are entitled to?
  • Has your partner hired a lawyer?
  • Is violence an issue or a possible issue?
  • Do you feel emotionally unprepared to handle the negotiations yourself?
  • Is there likely to be a disagreement over the dividing of the property or assets?
  • Is your partner likely to want to move interstate, overseas or far away with your children?
  • Are you transferring assets between yourselves and require assistance in obtaining an exception from the payment of stamp duty or tax?

If you do need a lawyer, please contact us to discuss your situation.

Why choose Armstrong Legal?

  • We have a specialist team of fourteen full time family lawyers practising exclusively in family law making us the largest dedicated family law team in Sydney CBD. Having such a specialist team enables us to delegate work to a solicitor who has appropriate level of experience to provide costs savings to you. It also provides us with the experience, resources, individual attention and efficiency that cannot be offered by our competitors.
  • All family law solicitors either have a Masters Degree or are studying to obtain a Masters Degree in Applied Family Law through the College of Law.
  • Our offices are located conveniently in Elizabeth Street, Sydney with easy access to trains, buses and parking. We are only a short walk from the Family Court and see clients by an appointment at Parramatta, Miranda, Wollongong and in Canberra.
  • We have both male and female solicitors available to help you.
  • We have solicitors with University qualifications in Psychology and Social Sciences to assist you in negotiations, the difficulties faced in the breakdown of a relationship and with greater insight in relation to issues involving children.
  • We have eleven solicitors trained to be Independent Children’s Lawyers (ICL), which means they have undergone additional training to enable them to represent the interests of children. Again, this gives great insight and advantage in dealing with children’s issues.
  • We have solicitors that have University qualifications in Accounting which provides a distinct advantage in financial cases in dealing with the dollars and cents.
  • We have solicitors trained in mediation and alternate dispute resolution, including Collaborative Law, to assist you in obtaining the best possible results out of Court.
  • We are Law 9000 accredited which means we have proven and tested strategies in place for managing your matter and our firm. Our management practices meet the qualifications standards and are to make sure we are providing you with the best service available.
  • Our lawyers are chosen not only for their technical skills and expertise, but also for their demonstrated care and compassion towards their clients. Each of our lawyers are motivated to make a genuine difference in the day-to-day lives of our clients.
  • We have relationships with the best experts including accountants, financial planners, valuers of real estates, businesses, jewellery, vehicles, boats and other items, leading mediators and arbitrators, psychologists and psychiatrists who are leaders in their fields, as well as a panel of Australia’s best family law barristers with whom we work regularly. All of these resources are available to our clients as and when needed.
  • We will provide you with realistic advice as to what we can achieve for you in your situation and more importantly, we will speak candidly to you in relation to what we will not be able to achieve on your behalf. We will discuss strategies with you and outline the options as to how to approach your situation in order to achieve the best outcome for you. You will be central to all decisions that are made and kept informed at every step of the process.
  • We will speak to you candidly about costs and the expenses associated with running your case so that you can make informed decisions about which course of action to pursue and its likely benefit to you.

We believe that we can provide you with advice and service in all aspects of family law which is second to none. We suggest you contact us on 9261 4555 to discuss your situation and how we can make a difference to you.

Do we take on Legal Aid work?

We do not take on Legal Aid assigned work from the general public, however, we do from time-to-time take on Legal Aid assignments to represent children in Family Court disputes as an Independent Children’s Lawyer.

In order to undertake this role many of our Lawyers have undergone additional training in relation to the bests interests of children, their needs and the Court process from their perspective.

Do you do pro bono work?

From time-to-time we undertake pro bono work as a matter of referral from various church based agencies to assist where there has been a substantial injustice or need for assistance. We do this as part of our service to the community.

Unfortunately we are unable to take requests for pro bono work from the public. If you are in need of legal assistance and unable to pay for legal fees we suggest that you contact Legal Aid or a local community legal centre.

What Time Limits Apply in Family Law Matters?

  • Property Settlement and Spousal Maintenance (De Facto Couples) – The limitation period for filing an application for property settlement or maintenance arising from a de facto relationship is two (2) years from the date of separation.
  • Divorce – There is no time limit by which an Application for Divorce must be brought, however, no Application for Divorce can be brought unless there has been a period of 12 months of separation between the parties. That period of separation may be under one roof.
  • Property settlement and Spousal Maintenance (Married Couples) – The limitation period for bringing an application for property settlement for couples that have been married is 12 months from the date of divorce, however, an application can be brought at any time prior to this date and after separation.
  • Appeals – The limitation period for bringing an appeal against any Order of the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court (Federal Magistrates Court) may vary depending upon the type of Order to be appealed or reviewed. Some Orders require an appeal or review to be lodged within seven (7) days and others within twenty eight (28) days of the making of the Order. If you require further information in relation to appeals or reviews please contact us to discuss your situation.

What are the Timeframes for Family Court?

  • Consent Orders – Application for Consent Orders filed in the Family Court of Australia are currently being determined between seven (7) to twenty one (21) days from the date of filing. In our experience most matters that are agreed between the parties are able to have Consent Orders made and the matter finally resolved six (6) to eight (8) weeks from the date of us receiving initial instructions.
  • Interim Hearings – An Application in a Case filed for the determination of an interim issue is usually listed for determination within six (6) to ten (10) weeks of the date of filing, however, it is not uncommon for matters not to be reached on the first occasion and require a further listing in order to be finally determined.
  • Urgent Interim Hearings – Applications seeking that the matter be listed urgently are currently being listed for determination between seven (7) and fourteen (14) days from the date of filing.
  • Extremely Urgent Interim Applications – Extremely Urgent Applications in a Case are normally listed the same day that the Application is filed or in some instances the following day and are usually determined on the date on which the matter is listed.
  • Final Orders – Current matters filed for determination in the Family Court of Australia that proceed to a Final Hearing are being determined approximately 18-24 months from the date of filing.
  • Appeals – To the Full Court of the Family Court of Australia are currently being determined approximately nine (9) to twelve (12) months from the date of filing of the appeal.

How is it determined what matters are filed in the Family Court of Australia & the Federal Circuit Court (Federal Magistrates Court)?

The following issues should be heard in the Family Court of Australia:

  • International child abduction;
  • International relocation;
  • Disputes as to whether a case should be heard in Australia;
  • Special medical procedures such as gender reassignment or sterilisation;
  • Contravention and related Applications in parenting cases relating to Orders which have been made in the Family Court of Australia and been determined within 12 months prior to filing of the Contravention Application;
  • Serious allegations of sexual abuse or physical abuse of a child or serious controlling family violence;
  • Complex questions of jurisdiction;
  • If the matter for a final hearing is likely to be taken in excess of four (4) days of hearing time;
  • Matters in relation to adoptions; and
  • Matters in relation to the validity of a marriage or validity of divorce.
  • All other matters should be filed in the FMC.

Either the Court of its own motion or either of the parties may request that a matter be transferred between the Federal Circuit Court (Federal Magistrates Court) and the Family Court of Australia if it is considered that the matter was filed in the wrong venue. This often causes increased cost and delay for parties.

If you have any concerns about the appropriate venue for your dispute to be heard please contact us to discuss your situation.


where to next?

Taking the next step and contacting a family lawyer can be scary. Our lawyers will make you feel comfortable so you can talk about your situation. But first, ask yourself, Do I really need a lawyer?

Why Choose Armstrong Legal?

Contact Armstrong Legal:
Sydney: (02) 9261 4555
Melbourne: (03) 9620 2777
Brisbane: (07) 3229 4448
Canberra: (02) 6288 1100

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