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Reconciliation and what it means in Family Law - Part 1

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Thanks to the current social-distancing regulations, many of us find ourselves spending most, if not all, of our time alone. 

It probably comes as no shock that many people have contacted their former partner or spouse during this time – whether out of loneliness, boredom, or a new found appreciation for the relationships they once had! 
Could this unexpected contact reignite an old flame? Is reconciliation on the horizon for some couples, given that the saying “there’s plenty of fish in the sea” is no longer applicable to the isolated lifestyle most of us are now living?  The lock-down situation means that people are now unable to date or go out and meet new partners, so, if you are considering a reconciliation, what would that really mean from a Family Law perspective? 
It’s not quite as simple as it may seem. This series explores the various implications and effects of reconciling a relationship in Australia. While reconciliation may seem unlikely for some, and others may just be seeking some company during this difficult time, there are important factors for you to consider, regardless of the stage of your separation, divorce or reconciliation. 
Firstly, lawyers and the Court have a duty to ensure that couples considering separation or divorce are informed about the services available to help them.  The possibility of reconciliation is something that couples are advised to consider. Some lawyers may encourage this an early stage in order to prevent stress, legal fees and Court resources being used unnecessarily. 
Legal practitioners, family counsellors, family dispute resolution practitioners and arbitrators are obliged to provide  reconciliation and family counselling information documents to those considering separation or divorce proceedings.  Much of this information is contained in the Court Brochure entitled Marriages, families and separation.  It is a legal requirement to provide this Brochure to any person applying for property orders (by consent or contested) or a divorce. 
Section 13B(1) of the Family Law Act required judges, registrars and judicial registrars of the court to “… consider, from time to time, the possibility of a reconciliation of the parties”. If the court considers from the evidence, or the attitude of the parties, that there is a reasonable possibility of the parties resuming their relationship, they may actually decide to adjourn (or put on hold) the proceedings to give the parties the opportunity to consider and explore reconciliation. If the court does this, it will advise the parties to attend counselling.
Usually, by the time Court proceedings have commenced and property settlement or divorce are finalised, the parties are clearly not going to reconcile.
If thoughts about the possibility of reconciliation surface at a later date, as described above, prompted by loneliness or some other situation, it’s imperative for you to educate yourself about how the court handles reconciliation during, or following, property proceedings and divorce. 

 

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Wednesday, 27 May 2020

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