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Guide to divorce and family law in Brisbane

All you need to know about divorce and separation before you take the first step

If you are about to go through a divorce or a separation, you can expect a challenging experience ahead, and during this time, you will need clear advice and practical solutions from a team of experienced family lawyers you can trust.

You may find that you need legal support with:

  • the divorce and separation process
  • parenting issues, orders and plans
  • spousal maintenance
  • alternative dispute resolution
  • financial agreements
  • court appeals and reviews
  • relationship issues relevant to your specific needs, including issues that can arise from domestic violence, international relationships and same sex relationships.

We have developed this comprehensive guide to equip you with essential information about divorce and family matters in Queensland and Australia. In this guide you will find valuable information about separation trends, property settlements, inheritance, what you’re entitled to and how to deal with going through a separation.

How do I start the divorce or separation process?

Taking the first step and contacting a family lawyer is often the hardest part, but once contact is made you will see that we will build a meaningful relationship with you and strive to understand your needs on a personal and professional level.

This family law resource page contains everything you need to guide you through each stage of the divorce and separation process.

It is possible to save time and money by being prepared before you meet with a family lawyer. Here are some tips to help ensure you get the most out of any meetings you have with a family lawyer:

  1. Identify what you want to achieve
  2. Understand your family lawyer’s role
  3. Source appropriate emotional support
  4. Prepare a chronology of important dates and information
  5. Be prepared to be uncomfortable – this is not an easy process for anyone.

What you can expect when you get in touch with a family lawyer

For most people, ending a relationship is one of the most distressing experiences they encounter in their life. Seeing a lawyer in the midst of that distress can be daunting, especially at a time when you are already feeling vulnerable. However, making sure you’re well prepared from the outset will mean you are getting the most out of each and every meeting you have with your lawyer. You are going to be asked lots of questions, such as:
  • When did your relationship start?
  • When did you get married?
  • When were any children born?
  • What property or other assets are there?
  • When was any real estate purchased and what was the purchase price?
  • What are your financial needs?
Cooper Grace Ward is one of the few major Brisbane-based law firms with a dedicated team of family lawyers. Our team provides expert practical advice on all family law issues, including the associated tax, superannuation, corporate and property aspects. With our broad expertise in negotiation, mediation, collaborative lawyering and, where best for your case, litigation and advocacy, our goal is to provide clear advice on the likely outcomes and guide you successfully through each stage of the family law process. It is always helpful if you put some thought into those matters before the first meeting. When you call to make the appointment, ask what information would be helpful for the appointment. The more information your family lawyer has from the outset, the faster they will be able to give you advice that is tailored to your specific circumstances, saving you time and money.

Divorce and separation: five important things you need to think about

Social scientists tell us that separating from a spouse is one of the most difficult experiences in life. With this comes emotional pain and uncertainty about the future. If you are considering separating, or you suspect your spouse may initiate separation, you should carefully think about how your circumstances may change after separation and what steps you can take to manage any uncertainty.

Is getting divorced all I need to do?

To finalise your separation, you will generally need to consider more than just obtaining a divorce. There are five separate issues you may need to think about depending upon your circumstances:

  • divorce
  • property settlement
  • spousal maintenance
  • care arrangements for children
  • child support.

Read more

How do I protect my wealth from my partner?

There is no doubt that a financial agreement is the highest the law has to offer to protect your wealth in the event of separation from your spouse. A financial agreement is essentially a contract that is designed to contain all the terms of your property settlement and spousal maintenance agreement if you and your partner separate. It prevents either of you from invoking the jurisdiction of the family law courts for a greater or different financial settlement in the future. A financial agreement may be entered into before, during or after a marriage or de facto relationship. Remember, just because a party is married or has been in a de facto relationship that has broken down, does not necessarily mean they are entitled to an adjustment of the other party’s property. That is, the passage of time in a relationship does not create an entitlement to a property settlement; there must be more than simply being together.

Is my inheritance relevant to my property settlement?

If you and your ex-partner or spouse separate or divorce, how you divide your property will be an important issue to consider at what is often an extremely stressful time. Advice from a family lawyer about your entitlements and strategy, together with the process to be followed and the pitfalls to avoid, will assist you to negotiate and, if necessary, obtain from the court an appropriate outcome following the breakdown of your relationship.

This advice is also important when you are ready to formalise your property settlement agreement, given the many family law, tax and business consequences arising from separating family assets.

Who works out how much I pay in property settlement?

If you and your ex-partner or spouse separate or divorce, how you divide your property will be an important issue to consider at what is often an extremely stressful time.

Advice from a family lawyer about your entitlements and strategy, together with the process to be followed and the pitfalls to avoid, will assist you to negotiate and, if necessary, obtain from the court an appropriate outcome following the breakdown of your relationship.

Working out how, legally, the property that parties have accumulated before and during their relationship should be divided is the same in Australia, regardless of how much or how little couples have. Naturally, the more complicated the asset structure, the more complicated any court order or agreement will need to be. There is more to consider when finalising separation, which may include corporate issues or complex tax and trust structures.

But the basic questions the parties will ask themselves to determine how to divide their assets will be the same, regardless of the extent of their joint or separate wealth.

Read more about property settlements


Binding financial agreements

A binding financial agreement, sometimes known as a prenuptial agreement, sets out the way some or all of a couple’s assets will be divided in the event that their relationship breaks down. It can also deal with spousal maintenance.

Parenting and child support

The law regarding children’s arrangements is complex and anyone considering arrangements for their child should obtain expert family law legal advice. The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) has undergone many changes over the years, including the shared parenting legislation and recent amendments relating to family violence. All of these changes have significantly impacted the types of parenting outcomes that now occur.

If an agreement is reached between parents for their child’s arrangements, that can be documented either by way of a Parenting Plan or a Consent Order.


Family law critical questions

We have compiled some short videos and articles to answer the common questions our family lawyers receive from clients.

Many factors affect your entitlements and obligations following a relationship breakdown. While every family law matter is different, some of the basic questions a family lawyer is likely to ask you are as follows:

  • Were you married or in a de facto relationship?
  • When did you begin to co-habit?
  • If you have separated already, when did that occur?
  • Are there any children of the relationship? What are the current arrangements for their care?
  • How old are you, your spouse and each of your children?
  • What assets and debts did you and your spouse each bring to the relationship?
  • What property do you and your spouse currently own and what is the approximate value of that property?
  • What superannuation do you and your spouse each have? Do you know the name of the superannuation fund(s)?
  • What debts do you and your spouse currently have, including business debts, mortgages, credit cards and personal loans?
  • What corporate or trust structures have you established?
  • What is your average income and your spouse’s average income?
  • Have you entered into a legally binding prenuptial or de facto financial agreement?

Useful resources