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Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia

Divorcing Over 50 – The Grey Divorce

Do you stay in a marriage that is over or risk financial ruin for happiness?  Unless you are a highly evolved Zen master your divorce is likely to “suck” – most do.

Getting divorced at any age is difficult. Everyone wants their marriage to work however divorcing later in life presents unique challenges and being newly single can be terrifying.   It is sometimes thought people “your age” are not supposed to get divorced.

If you are divorcing after 50, chances are your children may be teenagers or older. Their reaction may be unfavourable and even hostile. Be prepared to help older children cope with the divorce.  It’s also important to monitor your children’s feelings. Your kids may be older, but don’t assume it’s easier on them than it would be if they were younger.   You may choose to end your role as husband or wife, but your role as mother or father does not end. Handling your divorce process with your children in mind provides opportunities to share in their lives without the tension.

The financial consequences of a divorce can be significantly more damaging for older divorcing couples.  You may have dedicated your entire life to the family and marriage and have no professional skills of any kind. You have have been hard at work earning good money to support a family that now you feel has disappeared.  You may even already be retired, your assets fairly fixed and your employment opportunities may be limited.  There are now two households to support. 

An amicable divorce process will limit the cost of suffering financially and emotionally.  As difficult as dealing with all of these issues will be, one of the most significant impacts that divorce over 50 will have on your life is the inevitable financial strain.  The equitable division of assets and liabilities is a concern in almost all divorces and generally the older you are the more complicated your finances have likely become.

Given the typical level of assets and complexities it is important that you get legal advice, but doing so doesn’t mean you have to go to battle. No matter what kind of grey divorce you may be facing you have the power to choose how you handle it and we can assist you accomplish a more comprehensive and cost-effective dissolution of your marriage.   Even if your split is amicable it is important to seek your own legal advice early on.

Call or email us now for advice from one of our experienced and knowledgeable lawyers.

Family law Courts to be restructured, given new name

The Federal government announced today its intention to combine the existing two-Court federal family court system in Australia into one, larger Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (“FCFCA”) commencing 1 January 2019.

What does this mean for you though? Currently, there are two Courts, one that is the ‘higher’ Court – the Family Court deals with complex property matters, serious allegations of child abuse or  particularly serious parenting arguments, International parenting matters and protracted disputes; and the Federal Circuit Court deals with the bulk of family law matters.

At present, your lawyer has to decide which Court you ‘belong’ in when starting your case. It is often not easy to know this at the first stage, and choosing the wrong Court may mean that you are sent between Courts while this is clarified or when new issues arise. Additionally, starting Court proceedings for property disputes in the Family Court is currently ‘easier’ than in the Federal Circuit Court, as you are not required to file an affidavit in support of your application at first. Drafting a good, comprehensive and accurate affidavit in support of your case can be time-consuming (and costly) and so it is a quick option for lawyers in a rush to simply go to the Family Court even if the property case is not otherwise complex enough to justify being in that Court.

The combined Court will mean a single point of entry for all matters, which will then be directed in the right place. This might be considered a bit like ‘triage’ that a hospital might conduct, prioritising and assessing cases as they come in and linking them with services, hopefully sooner than they would be otherwise.

The additional factor to consider in the government’s announcement is that appeals from the FCFCA will no longer be dealt with by an appeals section of the Family Court, but will be dealt with in a new division of the Federal Court of Australia. What does this mean? Family law judges in the Family Court who currently spend time hearing appeals will be available to hear cases from the start, potentially meaning more front-line resources in terms of time and Judges.

Of course, at present this is just an announcement. Once the government releases its proposal in more details, we will be able to assess how effective this might be at clearing some of the delays currently affecting the family law system.