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Canberra Family Law – What are the Family Law Act time limits?

By June 25, 2015June 29th, 2015No Comments

A recent article linked on discussed the various time limits imposed under the Australian Family Law Act that you need remember, to ensure you protect your rights.

In summary, the article notes the following time limits:

Time Limit 1 – Length of separation

The most straight forward (and perhaps well known) time limit is that you can’t be divorced until you have been separated for 12 months.

Time Limit 2 – Married for less than two years

Although not strictly a time limit, if you’ve been married for less than two years you can’t proceed with a divorce until you’ve attended counselling and received a certificate for it. In those circumstances, lawyers will often advise that you wait until you have been married for two years before making an application for divorce, simply to reduce red tape.

Time Limit 3 – Applying for property adjustments

Applications or negotiations can begin from the moment of separation. There is no need to wait 12 months for a property settlement, although you have to wait to become divorced.

Time Limit 4 – Property settlement/spouse maintenance applications for divorced couples

The more important time limit is that proceedings for property settlement must be commenced, or orders made, within 12 months of the date of divorce. If your property arrangements are not dealt with within those 12 months, you will need to apply for the permission (“leave”) of the Court to begin proceedings out of time.

The article points out that “if the reason is good enough, a Court will often grant that leave, but that should certainly never be relied upon and property settlement really needs to be started well before that 12 month period end”.  Factors which can help you successfully file a claim for property proceedings late, or ‘out of time’ include: an ongoing financial relationship, adequate reasons for the delay, an ongoing expectation of receiving support or financial assistance from a spouse, and therefore no real financial ‘cut off’ date, ongoing joint property ownership, and other factors.

Time Limit 5 – Property settlement/spouse maintenance applications for De facto relationships

The situation with de factos is slightly different – at the end of a de facto relationship there is a two year period in which to begin proceedings for property adjustment. The end of de facto relationships can often be murky, so sending an email confirming a conversation to the effect (particularly if you continue to live under one roof for convenience or financial necessity) can be  helpful.

You cannot make an application for de facto property adjustment if the relationship is less than two years. However, as with many aspects of the Family Law Act, there are exceptions to that rule. These include if there is a child of the relationship or if the person applying for the order made substantial contributions and failure to make an order or declaration could result in serious injustice to the applicant.

Need help with a property settlement or spousal maintenance or other family law matter? Are you ‘out of time’ to file an application? Call one of our approachable lawyers Cristina Huesch, Sharla Stevens or Angela Li today at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400 to make an appointment for advice specific to your circumstances.

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