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Family law time limits – is the clock ticking?

Most legal proceedings run on a strict timeline and the same timelines apply when it comes to matters of family law. According to the Family Law Act 75, strict deadlines apply to any action that is brought to the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court. So, why exactly is this such an important factor to consider?  To put it simply, a party will be prevented from starting a claim once a time limit has expired. Failing to make your claim within the given timeframe can, unfortunately, have very detrimental consequences, especially in cases that involve property settlements, divorce/separation proceedings and spousal maintenance. In order to prevent these consequences from materialising, today we will have a look at the time limits for various family law proceedings, so read on to find out more!

Time Limits for Property Settlements

Property settlements can be tricky, especially when both parties cannot come to a mutual agreement. Regardless, it is important to note that for married couples, the time limit for filing an application for a property settlement is exactly one year after a divorce order takes effect. Whilst this may seem like an unfairly short amount of time to handle a property settlement, one should also keep in mind that a couple needs to be separated for a period of at least 12 months prior to being eligible to apply for a divorce.   In total, this technically gives a couple 2 years to come to a mutual agreement about their property settlement before filing their application.  Applying for an Extension: In some situations, the need for an extension of this timeframe is necessary. To be successful in obtaining an extension of time, you will have to be able to clearly show the legitimate reasons for not making your application before your time limit expired. Some of these reasons include hardship, bank delays or issues with the property.  It is always recommended that all parties involved start the property settlement process as soon as possible, especially in situations where the value of the property is expected to change in the near future. 

Time Limits For Divorce 

In order to apply for a divorce, the law requires married couples to have been separated for a minimum of 12 months prior to the application. Once you have been separated for 12 clear months, you can go ahead and apply for divorce. The couple must make their case to the courts that there is no chance of both parties resuming the relationship and that they have lived apart for at least 12 months. If a couple has separated but still reside at the same residence, there is still a chance of being classified as separated. Factors that will contribute to the separation include the nature of the household, social aspects of the relationship, absence of sexual relationship and financial situations of both parties.  It is important to keep note that you will have exactly 1 year from the date of the finalised divorce order to file an application for financial orders that relate to spousal maintenance or property adjustment.  Applying for an Extension: The court will only grant an extension to apply outside of the time limit for the following reasons: 
  • Hardship will be caused to a party and/or child if an extension is not granted 
  • In the case of maintenance, an applicant was unable to support themselves without an income-tested pension, allowance or benefit.

Time Limits for Parenting/Custodial Issues 

When it comes to matters concerning parenting and custody, there is no time limit. You have the ability to commence court proceedings at any given time, as long as there is a child/children under the age of 18 at the time of application. 

Time Limits For Appeals 

If you're looking to lodge an appeal with the Family Court, your appeal must be made within 28 days of the order. You will be required to file a Notice Of Appeal and must include a copy of the order received when making your appeal.  Once an application for an appeal has been served, the other party will have 14 days to file a Response to an Application for Appeal. Applying for an Extension: When applying for an extension for making an appeal, you will be required to produce an affidavit that entails the following information: 
  • Length of delay
  • Reason for delay
  • Any disadvantages it has caused the other party
  • The benefits of the proposed appeal
  • Overall justice of the case 

In Need of Assistance?

If you find yourself confused or in need of some advice relating to family law time limits, we highly recommend getting into contact with one of our expert lawyers Simply give us a call at 03 9670 7577 or head to our contact page to get in touch with one of our team members today.