How does family law work in Australia?

Family law in Australia is the legal umbrella under which issues relating to the breakdown of a relationship are governed. It is one of the most frequently heard issues in the legal profession and there are many reputable family lawyers all around the country.

Family law does not deal with any criminal issues, although some criminal issues may affect outcomes in family law. For example; a parent found guilty of criminal child abuse would not receive custody of children in a family law dispute.

Above all, the family law system in Australia is designed to protect the emotional and economic well-being of any children under the relationship. The rights of disputing parents are considered secondary to the rights of the child.

This is why classic examples of parents manipulating their children to pick a side in custody disputes are dealt with harshly by judges. The family law system has no patience for individuals who attempt to manipulate the process by coercing impressionable children.

Despite the focus on the well-being of children, this does not always mean their wishes are listened to. Children who are considered too young to make a rational choice on who to stay with do not have their opinions taken into consideration when determining custody disputes.

However, a child who is older (usually teenagers) is hard to force a decision on, so their choices are given more importance in deciding on custody issues.

Most of the time family law disputes are settled out of court via mediation sessions between disputing parties. This is preferred by the court system as decisions that are mediated rather than arbitrated by a judge are longer lasting and more agreeable to each party.

This ultimately helps to prevent family law disputes from dragging out over long periods of time, causing more emotional turmoil the longer they remain unresolved. For this reasons the best family lawyers are usually accredited with alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

High profile family lawyers have usually practised for several decades and have seen a wide variety of different cases with similar circumstances. This gives them a lot of past precedent to work from and they usually don’t need to perform as much research as other types of lawyers.

Australian family law also has a concept known as “no fault divorce”. This means that there is no legal mechanism that acknowledges which party was at fault for the divorce, such as issues of infidelity.

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