Could a foreign country provide a better legal outcome?

Thursday, March 05, 2015

It is easy to assume that if a person is in Australia, that the Australian court system must be used to finalise the financial matters arising from the breakdown of a relationship. That is not the case. If person (or their former partner) has a connection to a foreign country they may be able to utilise those foreign courts to achieve a better financial outcome.

Family law is not universal. Each country has different provisions governing property divisions and financial support. For example, the courts in the United Kingdom provide extremely generous spousal maintenance and child support orders (great if you are a wife with children), New Zealand (unlike Australia) has preserved the sanctity of trusts in family law (usually great if you are the husband or heir to family wealth), and the United States provides incredible enforcement opportunities to ensure child support is paid.

The question of whether or not a person should (or is able to) attempt to engage the courts in a foreign jurisdiction depends upon their individual circumstances. An example – if a young family with UK connections is income rich but asset poor (eg: relatively minor property in Australia, but the husband works primarily in England with a significant income) and the wife gave up her job at the time of marriage and has since cared for their three children, she may be much better off in attempting to engage the English courts to obtain what could be a lifetime spousal maintenance order on top of generous child support which could include a house and all private education expenses for the children – as opposed to obtaining an order in the Australian courts and then perhaps only achieving a share of the minor Australian property and little or no spousal maintenance for a very short period of time.

It is important to obtain legal advice early to ascertain whether taking (or not taking) legal steps in Australia is the best course of action for a client. A person may inadvertently cut themselves off from the ability to engage a foreign court if they did something (normally considered minor) such as applying for divorce in Australia. On the other hand, a person may want to quickly engage the jurisdiction of the courts in Australia before their former partner engages a foreign court.

                                       By Sarah Bastian-Jordan – Senior Associate – Phillips Family Law


​Funding research to stop violence against women

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Federal Government has recently announced the allocation of $3.5m to fund further research about projects aimed to reduce violence against women and their children. The funding come from Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) 2014 – 2016 Research Program. ANROWS is jointly funded by all Governments under the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children 2010-2022.  

The research conducted by ANROWS will aid in in forming how best to support communities to prevent and reduce violence against women and their children. Kevin Andrews, Minister for Social Services, when announcing the research funding said that the program would help to identify ways to reduce the prevalence of domestic, family and sexual violence and its impact on women and their children. It is intended that the research would be utilised by Government service providers to improve the primary prevention campaigns and deliver better responses to violence in our community.

As part of the implementation of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has released a national data collection and reporting framework to improve the evidence base for action against family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia. Once the national data collection and reporting framework is in place, it is expected that researchers would be able to:

1. Better identify common characteristics of family and domestic violence events;

2. Create demographic and economic profiles of family relationships and the nature of the violence and the frequency of events;

3. Assess outcomes, including Court proceedings, medical intervention and access to other support services (such as housing assistance).

The findings of the 2013 National Community Attitudes Towards Violence Survey (conducted by VicHealth), found that:

1. The majority of Australians have a good knowledge of violence against women, and do not endorse attitudes supportive of that violence;

2. Some specific areas of research had shown a deterioration in attitudes since the last survey in 2009;

3. Young people’s attitudes to violence against women remains an area of concern with young people having a more “violence supportive” attitude than others.

Di Simpson is a Partner of DDCS Lawyers, 18 Kendall Lane, NewActon, Canberra ACT 2601 and can be contacted on (02) 6212 7600 or by email at family@ddcslawyers.com.au.