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Jacky Campbell, April 2016

The rights of trustees in bankruptcy and s 75(2)(ha)

Trustees in bankruptcy are often pessimistic about how they will fare in proceedings under s 79 Family Law Act 1975 (“FLA”).

The recent case of Grainger & Bloomfield[1] is likely to increase this pessimism. The impact of s 75(2) in the determination of claims under s 79 when one party is bankrupt may be less than indicated in previous decisions of the Family Law Court.

What is the s 79 process?

The court must be satisfied that it is just and equitable to alter the legal and equitable interests of the parties in property[2]. Whilst the trustee may want an alteration of the interests in the property of the non-bankrupt spouse, in practice it is more likely that the court will find it is just and equitable to alter the interests of the parties in relation to the vested bankruptcy property. If one party is bankrupt, the interests of a bankruptcy trustee in the vested bankruptcy property can be altered[3].

When determining what alteration of property interests is appropriate, the court must consider contributions and s 75(2) factors. The s 75(2) factors are sometimes incorrectly referred to as the “future needs” of the parties, although they cover a wider range of matters including age, earning capacity, the duration of the marriage and the level of child support. The court must still consider contributions and s 75(2) factors.

How are the interests of a trustee in bankruptcy relevant to s 79?

A trustee in bankruptcy may argue that it should be considered in the determination of “legal and equitable interests” under s 79(1). Doubt has been cast, however, by the Full Court of the Family Court on whether unsecured liabilities are legal or equitable “interests” which can be altered under s 79[4]. Despite this doubt, in many cases where neither party is bankrupt, the parties and the court agree that certain debts be deducted from the gross property pool when calculating the property available for division between the parties in line with the Biltoft & Biltoft [5] line of authority. If the unsecured debts are taken into account in the determination of the property pool, a trustee in bankruptcy will not need to rely on the contribution assessment and s 75(2) factors, except in relation to its fees and expenses.

If the debts which the trustee is seeking to be paid are not paid from the gross property pool, the trustee in bankruptcy will need to seek to retain as much vested bankruptcy property as possible, and perhaps claim property of the non-bankrupt spouse, relying on legal and equitable principles to establish the bankrupt’s “interests” in property, relying otherwise on s 79, or relying on both. The opportunity to rely on legal and equitable principles is, however, beyond the scope of this article.

In relying on s 79, the trustee must establish the bankrupt’s contributions and that there should be a s 75(2) adjustment in favour of the bankrupt and/or the trustee.

Problems that arise for a trustee in bankruptcy in the assessment of contributions and s 75(2) factors include:

  • The bankrupt may be unco-operative and not be prepared to give any evidence to establish the bankrupt’s entitlements so as to maximise the property which vests in the trustee;
  • The bankrupt may be aligned with the non-bankrupt spouse and give evidence that assists the non-bankrupt spouse;
  • The bankrupt may be considered by the court to have sole responsibility for the financial losses resulting in the bankruptcy. Financial losses and debts are generally shared between the parties to a relationship (although not necessarily equally), except:
    • “where one of the parties has embarked upon a course of conduct designed to reduce or minimise the effective value or worth of matrimonial assets, or
    • where one of the parties has acted recklessly, negligently or wantonly with matrimonial assets, the overall effect of which has reduced or minimised their value.”[6].

The prospects of the non-bankrupt spouse being successful in claiming that property which has vested in the trustee should be transferred to the non-bankrupt spouse is increased by the ability of the non-bankrupt spouse to argue for an adjustment under s 75(2). The only factor among the 19 factors listed in s 75(2) which appears to be of any relevance to the trustee is s 75(2)(ha). Section 75(2)(ha) refers to the effect of any proposed order on the ability of a creditor of a party to recover the creditor’s debt. The other factors favour the non-bankrupt spouse, although arguably s 75(2)(o), which is a “catch-all” provision – “any fact or circumstance which, in the opinion of the court, the justice of the case requires to be taken into account”. However, it is not a true “catch-all” phrase and the ejusdem generis rule is applied to narrow the interpretation of s 75(2)(o) to only cover matters similar to those listed in s 75(2).

It is generally accepted that, unless the bankrupt is likely to achieve an annulment, the s 75(2) factors are not relevant to the bankrupt. The extent to which s 75(2)(ha) covers the interests of a trustee as opposed to simply those of creditors may, however, be re-considered following the decision of the Full Court of the Family Court in Bloomfield & Grainger.

Examples of cases where the rights of the trustee were considered under s 75(2)(ha)

In Pippos & Pippos[7], debts incurred by the husband post-separation led to his bankruptcy. Burr J gave the wife 5% for s 75(2) factors. He said he would have given her 10%, but the factors in her favour were partially balanced by those which favoured the trustee in bankruptcy under s 75(2)(ha) and (n) (the terms of any order proposed to be made under s 79 in relation to the property of the parties or the vested bankruptcy property of a bankrupt party) and the regard he must have to the husband’s creditors’ ability to recover their debts. He did not seem to consider it relevant that the debts were incurred by the husband post-separation.

In West & West [8] the trustee sought that the home be sold and the net proceeds of sale be divided equally between the wife and the trustees. The trustee’s costs and fees were over $60,000 where the original debt was $10,000. The wife offered to pay the original debt. The wife had made the majority of the contributions to the property of the parties and the welfare of the family and the court ordered that the property (including superannuation) be divided 85%/15% in favour of the wife. The trustee was severely hampered by the absence of evidence on behalf of the husband as to his contributions.

The Federal Magistrate considered it relevant under s 75(2)(ha) that the creditors were unlikely to receive a dividend from any monies which the court ordered the trustees be entitled to receive out of the matrimonial property. He said:

It would be perverse if the wife and children were “forced from their home” and the operation of those relevant provisions of that legislation in relation to “the Trustees’ costs” meant RACV Finance would remain out of pocket.[9]­

In Lasic & Lasic,[10] the husband’s trustee in bankruptcy sought to set aside consent orders made between the husband and the wife. The pending litigation by Mr M was not disclosed to the court. The trial Judge relied on s 75(2)(ha) and required the wife to pay $319,081 to Mr M, a creditor, who had sustained serious injuries as a result of being shot due to the negligence of the husband and the parties’ son. On appeal, in Trustee for the bankrupt estate of Lasic & Lasic[11], the Full Court understood the trial Judge’s concern that if the husband’s entitlement was paid to the trustee, Mr M would receive nothing. Reluctantly, the Full Court concluded that ordering a direct payment by the wife to Mr M was not within the trial Judge’s power. The matter was remitted for re-trial.

In Trustee of the Property of G Lemnos & Lemnos[12] the husband’s trustee successfully appealed against property orders which required that the former matrimonial home, which had vested in the trustee, be sold and the net proceeds divided equally between the trustee and the wife. Contributions were assessed as equal at the date of the trial. The equity in the home was about $2-2.5 million and the husband’s bankrupt estate had debts of about $6 million.

The Full Court of the Family Court held that the interests of unsecured creditors did not automatically prevail over the interests of the non-bankrupt spouse, and their competing claims must be balanced in the exercise of the wide discretion conferred by s 79. The wife argued that the husband wasted assets by acting recklessly and negligently in completing his tax returns, an act wholly within his knowledge. For twelve years he claimed outgoings on a property which was usually his primary residence. The majority found that the husband’s conduct was not within the exceptions to the waste principle in Kowaliw[13] as it was not designed to diminish the value of the matrimonial assets, but to increase them. The wife received the benefit of the funds which flowed from the husband’s conduct, and it was neither just nor equitable for her to escape all responsibility for payment of the primary tax.

The majority in Lemnos allowed the appeal because of the trial Judge’s treatment of the primary tax burden as “waste”. The minority allowed the appeal because of the way the trial Judge applied s 75(2)(ha). By ordering that the wife receive 50% of the equity in the home, the trial Judge gave priority to the wife over the unsecured creditors. The unsecured creditors were owed approximately $6 million. They received the same dollar amount as the wife, or about 20% of their claims. In finding that the husband should satisfy the tax debt from his resources, the majority said that the trial Judge had already decided the issue which s 75(2)(ha) directed him to consider (the effect of any proposed order or the ability of a creditor to recover the creditor’s debt) when coindiering the s 75(2) factors earlier. Both the trial Judge and the Full Court considered that the wife in Lemnos should share some responsibility for the primary tax.

Financial Agreements – trustee’s rights to set aside

At first glance, financial agreements are, arguably, not as secure for the parties as consent orders if bankruptcy is a possibility. Transfers pursuant to court orders are protected by s 59A Bankruptcy Act 1966 (“BA“), but transfers pursuant to financial agreements do not have the same protection. Consent orders have the approval of the court and, provided there has been full disclosure of the debts and notice to third party creditors, they will be difficult for a trustee to set aside.

Following ASIC v Rich[14], amendments were made to the FLA and the BA to give greater protection to the position of the trustee in bankruptcy and creditors with respect to a financial agreement. These amendments included:

  • Creditors have standing to apply to set a financial agreement aside[15]
  • It is an act of bankruptcy if a person becomes insolvent as a result of a transfer or transfers made under a financial agreement[16]
  • The claw back provisions in the BA can be used to recover property transferred under a financial agreement[17]
  • A separation declaration must be made before a financial agreement comes into force or takes effect if it relates to property or financial resources[18]

In Official Trustee in Bankruptcy & Galanis[19], Rees J found that the trustee in bankruptcy of a discharged bankrupt did not have standing under s 90K(1)(aa) FLA to apply to set aside a financial agreement made subsequent to the bankrupt’s discharge. The trustee appealed. An application for the hearing of the appeal to be expedited was dismissed in Official Trustee in Bankruptcy & Galanis[20]. Rees J considered some of the broader questions of the respective standing of creditors and trustees in bankruptcy during bankruptcies.

Those questions were considered further by the Full Court in Grainger & Bloomfield[21]. For a court to have jurisdiction in proceedings to set aside the agreement under s 90K(1)(aa), the Full Court said that the proceedings must be between the parties to the agreement and either a creditor of one of those parties or “a government body acting in the interests of a creditor”. It was not contended before the Full Court that the Official Trustee was within the definition of “a government body” in s 4A, although this was argued and rejected in Galanis.

Prior to Bloomfield & Grainger, s 75(2)(ha) FLA was generally read so as to include the “trustee in bankruptcy” within the term “creditors”. However, other parts of the FLA expressly refer to “trustees in bankruptcy”, and “trustees in bankruptcy” and “creditors” in separate sections. The rights of trustees and creditors to intervene in s 79 proceedings are dealt with in s 79(11) and s 79(10) respectively. Section 79A entitles both the trustee in bankruptcy and the creditors to apply to set aside s 79 property settlement orders in certain circumstances under s 79(5) and (6) and s 79A(4) respectively.

Trustees and s 75(2)(ha)

Prior to Bloomfield & Grainger, s 75(2)(ha) FLA was generally read so as to include the “trustee in bankruptcy” within the term “creditors”. However, other parts of the FLA expressly refer to “trustees in bankruptcy”, and “trustees in bankruptcy” and “creditors” in separate sections. The rights of trustees and creditors to intervene in s 79 proceedings are dealt with in s 79(11) and s 79(10) respectively. Section 79A entitles both the trustee in bankruptcy and the creditors to apply to set aside s 79 property settlement orders in certain circumstances under s 79(5) and (6) and s 79A(4) respectively.

The narrow interpretation of s 90K(1)(aa) to exclude the interests of creditors supports a narrow reading of s 75(2)(ha) to exclude the rights of the trustee in bankruptcy. The literal or ordinary meaning of s 75(2)(ha)[22] is that s 75(2)(ha) does not cover trustees in bankruptcy. As there is no ambiguity, there is no place for looking at the purposive approach[23] or the extrinsic materials[24]. The wording of the section speaks for itself, particularly where other sections of the Act expressly refer to the rights of trustees in bankruptcy.

There are, however, two possible interpretations of s 75(2)(ha) if this narrow approach is adopted:

  1. As in West and Lasic, where any payment to the trustee in bankruptcy could not have resulted in any dividend being paid to the creditors, s 75(2)(ha) is irrelevant. If there is to be a dividend to the creditors rather than all monies in the bankrupt estate being used to pay the trustee’s fees and expenses including legal costs, then s 75(2)(ha) is relevant;
  2. As the trustee in bankruptcy is representing the interests of creditors, and the creditors do not have the right to bring proceedings to enforce recovery of their debts, s 75(2)(ha) is totally irrelevant to the s 79 process. This approach is even narrower.

Conclusion

Trustees in bankruptcy are understandably wary of how they will fare in FLA proceedings. The recent decision of Bloomfield & Grainger is likely to increase their concerns that outcomes favourable to trustees are difficult to achieve.

The wide interpretation of s 75(2)(ha) to include the interests of a trustee in bankruptcy (as representing the interests) of creditors appears inconsistent with Grainger & Bloomfield whether a narrower reading of s 75(2)(ha) will be adopted, and how narrow this reading will be, is unclear.

 

©  Copyright – CCH and Jacqueline Campbell.  This paper uses some material written by the author for publication in CCH Australian Family Law and Practice.  The material is used with the kind permission of CCH.

[1]    (2015) FLC 93-677

[2]    Stanford & Stanford (2012) FLC 93-518

[3]    (s 79(1)(b)

[4]    e.g Bevan & Bevan (2013) FLC 93-545 and Layton & Layton [2014] FamCAFC 120

[5]    (1995) FLC 92-614

[6]    Kowaliw & Kowaliw (1981) FLC 91-092 at p76,744

[7]    [2008] FamCA 542

[8]    [2007] FMCAfam 681

[9]    (at para 111)

[10]    [2007] FamCA 1188

[11]    (2009) FLC 93-402

[12]    (2009) FLC 93-394

[13]    (1981) FLC 91-092

[14]    (2003) FLC 93-171

[15]    s 90K(1)(aa) and 90K(1A) FLA

[16]    s 40(1)(o) and s 40(7) BA

[17]    s 40(1)(o) and s 120 BA

[18]    s 90DA(1) FLA

[19]    [2014] FamCA 832

[20]    [2015] FamCAFC 212

[21]    (2015) FLC 93-67

[22]    Amalgamated Society of Engineers v Adelaide Steamship Co Ltd (1920) 29 CLR 129

[23]    s 15AA Acts Interpretation Act 1901

[24]    s 15AB Acts Interpretation Act 1901

Jacky Campbell

Partner

University qualifications

Master of Laws, Monash University

Bachelor of Laws, Monash University

Bachelor of Arts, Monash University

Graduate Diploma of Professional Writing, Deakin University

Other qualifications
Accredited Family Law Specialist,
Law Institute of Victoria

Email Jacky Campbell
jcampbell@fortefamilylawyers.com.au

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Publications
To read Jacky Campbell’s articles and papers click here.

In 2020, Jacky was recognised as a leading family lawyer in Melbourne by Doyle’s Guide to the Australian Legal Market as well as one of Melbourne’s leading family lawyers in High-value and Complex Property matters, and a recommended lawyer in parenting matters. Jacky was also a recommended lawyer in the Doyle’s leading family and divorce lawyers in Australia. Jacky writes extensively on complex aspects of family law and her up-to-date knowledge means that she is able to provide accurate information about the law. She combines this with offering strategic advice to clients and guidance as to the best approach to take in their particular circumstances.

Jacky wrote her Masters thesis on the relationship of bankruptcy and family law. She continues to have a special interest in matters involving bankruptcy, insolvency, liquidation and receivership.

Jacky received the Law Institute of Victoria Rogers Legal Writing Award 2004—for the article “Splitting the Super…and Selling the Home”. She is experienced with complex superannuation interests such as defined benefit funds and self managed superannuation funds.

Jacky is the consultant editor of Wolters Kluwer/CCH Australian Family Law and Practice and contributing author to Wolters Kluwer/CCH Australian Family Law and Practice to the Property, Spousal Maintenance, Financial Agreements, Maintenance Agreements, Procedure and Precedents tabs. She writes several chapters of the Wolters/Kluwer CCH Australian Master Family Law Guide, and is the author of the family law chapters in the Thomson-Reuters Australian Financial Planning Handbook and in the CCH Australian Master Superannuation Guide.

Jacky is a Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, a board member of the Asia Pacific Chapter of that Academy, and an Associate of the American Bar Association. She acts for many clients who are overseas or where there is an international element such as overseas assets and international child abduction under the Hague Convention. She is also experienced in Australian and overseas surrogacy arrangements and in disputes about the role of a sperm donor. She is a member of the Maintenance and Property Committee of the Family Law Section of the Law Institute of Victoria, the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia and Victorian Women Lawyers.

Jacky is keen to assist clients to resolve matters before trial through alternative dispute resolution processes including mediation. She is a trained arbitrator and is an arbitrator with The Alternative Courtroom.

Wendy Kayler-Thomson

PARTNER

University qualifications

Master of Laws, Monash University

Bachelor of Laws, University of Melbourne

Bachelor of Commerce, University of Melbourne

Other qualifications
Accredited Family Law Specialist, Law Institute of Victoria

Email Wendy Kayler-Thomson
wkaylerthomson@fortefamilylawyers.com.au

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Wendy Kayler-Thomson is a partner of Forte Family Lawyers and has practised as a lawyer specialising in family law for more than 25 years. Wendy is recognised as one of Melbourne’s leading family lawyers in Doyle’s 2020 Guide to the Australian Legal Market.

Wendy is the Immediate Past Chair of the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia, the peak body for Australian family lawyers, and has been a member of the Executive of the Family Law Section for more than 10 years. The Family Law Section is regularly consulted by the Federal government and the Courts about changes to family law and court procedures. As a result, Wendy is able to offer her clients the most up to date advice on family law and strategies to take advantage of future changes.

Wendy’s time as Chair of the Family Law Section (from 2016 to 2018) coincided with a period of great controversy and unprecedented attention on the reform of family law and the family law system. This included the Victorian Royal Commission into family violence, the Federal Parliamentary enquiry into the family law system and family violence, the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Family Law Review and the Federal Government’s proposal to restructure the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court.

Wendy was a member of the Advisory Committee to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Family Law Review, the most comprehensive review of family law and the family law sector in 40 years.

Wendy was also a member of the Advisory Committee to the Law Council of Australia’s 2018 Justice Project, chaired by former High Court of Australia Chief Justice, the Hon. Robert French. The Justice Project is one of the most comprehensive, national reviews into the state of access to justice in Australia in the past 40 years.

Wendy develops close and trusted relationships with her clients and the wide network of professionals that refer her work. Wendy’s approach is tailored to each individual client’s needs, recognising that for most people, the breakdown of a relationship is one of their most stressful and challenging experiences. Wendy brings a high attention to detail, strategic advice and a depth of expert knowledge about family law. Wendy has a commercial background and has acted for many clients with complex financial arrangements. She works closely with her clients’ accountants and other professional advisors to ensure that all the complexities of those arrangements, including tax impacts and restructuring, are dealt with as part of any settlement.

Wendy has undertaken extensive training in a wide range of social sciences that impact on families and their children, including family and domestic violence, parental alienation, personality disorders, drug and alcohol addiction and high conflict. Wendy’s clients benefit from her knowledge of the most up to date approaches by child psychologists and other experts to managing the post-separation care arrangements of children. Wendy has particular expertise in cases where one parent wants to relocate with the children interstate or overseas.

Wendy is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Family Law Section of the Law Institute of Victoria, the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, the Australian Institute of Family Law Arbitrators and Mediators and Victorian Women Lawyers.

Jemma Mackenzie

Senior Associate

University qualifications

Bachelor of Laws (Hons) Monash University
Bachelor of Arts (Hons) Monash University

Email Jemma Mackenzie
jmackenzie@fortefamilylawyers.com.au

Other qualifications
Accredited Family Law Specialist,
Law Institute of Victoria

Connect on LinkedIn

Jemma is a Senior Associate at Forte Family Lawyers. She has worked predominantly in family law since being admitted to legal practice in December 2009.

Jemma obtained Specialist Accreditation as a Family Lawyer from the Law Institute of Victoria in 2015. Accreditation recognises the high level of knowledge and practical skills Jemma brings to each family law matter.

Jemma is mindful that the breakdown of a marriage or de facto relationship can be a stressful and often overwhelming experience for clients. She works with her clients to identify appropriate pathways for resolving both parenting and property matters.

Jemma prides herself on her ability to effectively communicate what can be complex legal principles and to provide realistic, up to date and accurate legal advice at each stage of a matter.

Jemma has experience in a wide variety of family law matters including division of property, maintenance (including urgent applications), Financial Agreements (including Agreements made prior to marriage), care and living arrangements for children, child support and family violence – including Intervention Order proceedings.

Prior to joining Forte Family Lawyers, Jemma worked in a Bayside family law firm and a boutique firm in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. She has conducted litigation in both the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne and interstate.

In addition to her daily work with clients, Jemma has made presentations to financial advisors and medico-legal professionals about the family law system in Australia and what clients should know about family law prior to separating.

Jemma is a member of Victorian Women Lawyers, the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia and the Family Law Section of the Law Institute of Victoria.

Jane Bentley

Senior Associate

University Qualifications

Masters of Applied Law (Family Law), College of Law

Bachelor of Laws, Victoria University

Bachelor of Science, University of Melbourne

Email Jane Bentley

jbentley@fortefamilylawyers.com.au

Other Qualifications

Accredited Family Law Specialist, Law Institute of Victoria

Jane is a Senior Associate at Forte Family Lawyers. Jane is an Accredited Family Law Specialist as a recognised by the Law Institute of Victoria. Accredited Specialists demonstrate superior knowledge, experience and proficiency in their specialist area of law.

Additionally, Jane has undertaken a Masters of Applied Law in Family Law.

Prior to joining the firm, Jane has worked in both the private and community sectors where she worked on both complex parenting and property matters, regularly appeared in the Family Law Courts and through her work at a commercial firm Jane was able to build and enhance her commercial skills. Throughout her career, Jane has worked collaboratively with commercial lawyers providing advice where both family and commercial law intersect, as well as working directly with professionals on family law matters including psychologists, mediators, accountants and financial advisors.

Jane has a wide range of experience in different family law matters including financial agreements, family violence, parenting, IVF issues, matters involving grandparents, Hague Child Abduction Convention, child support, property and spousal maintenance.

Jane prides herself on her ability to communicate effectively with her clients during an emotional and challenging time. Jane builds strong relationships with her clients as she recognises that the legal system can appear complex and daunting and works with her clients to guide them through the process.

Jane is a member of the Courts Practice and the Property and Maintenance Committees of the Law Institute of Victoria which ensures that she is appraised of recent developments in family law and at the Family Law Courts. Jane is also a member of the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia.

Matthew Beckmans

Senior Associate

University qualifications

Bachelor of Laws, University of Western Sydney

Email Matthew Beckmans
mbeckmans@fortefamilylawyers.com.au

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Matthew commenced his legal career practising in a medium-sized rural law firm. Matthew is able to draw on his broad experiences over a number of practice areas, prior to practising exclusively in family law, to offer clients a well-rounded approach to tactically resolve complex legal issues.

Matthew has developed a special interest in complex disputes involving companies and trusts, insolvency and bankruptcy, taxation, and international/domestic relocation.  He also has a particular expertise in child support.

Matthew is aware and mindful of the financial challenges and restraints when attempting to resolve family law disputes, and sets out to achieve negotiated and cost effective outcomes which avoid court where possible. Matthew recognises the emotional issues attached to the breakdown of a relationship, and draws on his strong communication skills in demystifying the family law process, and to identify and explain possible options for resolution in a concise manner.

Matthew was a member of the steering committee of the Riverina Family Law Pathways Network, secretary of the South West Slopes Law Society, and a mock trial magistrate for the Law Society of New South Wales.

Prior to practising law, Matthew was rookie listed by the Sydney Swans, where he enjoyed a brief career.  He now plays for the Monash Blues in the VAFA.

Matthew is a member of the Family Law Sections of the Law Council of Australia and the Law Institute of Victoria.  He is on the Court Practice Committee of the Family Law Section of the Law Institute of Victoria.

Vinh Nguyen

Associate

University qualifications

Bachelor of Laws, Deakin University

Bachelor of Commerce, Deakin University

Email Vinh Nguyen
vnguyen@fortefamilylawyers.com.au

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Vinh first worked at Forte Family Lawyers as part of his Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice at the Leo Cussen Institute for Law in 2017. He joined Forte Family Lawyers as a lawyer after his admission into legal practice in October 2017 and has, since then, worked solely in family law.

Prior to his admission as a lawyer, Vinh worked as a paralegal in a community legal centre and in a property and commercial law firm, where he gained valuable experience in property transactions.

Vinh is a member of the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia, the Law Institute of Victoria and the Asian Australian Lawyers’ Association. Vinh also volunteers at the Darebin Community Legal Centre.

Vinh is fluent in Vietnamese.

 

 

 

Natasha Mastroianni

Associate

University Qualifications

Bachelor of Laws (Hons), Latrobe University

Bachelor of Arts, Latrobe University

Masters of Applied Law (Family Law), College of Law

Email Natasha Mastroianni

nmastroianni@fortefamilylawyers.com.au

 

 

Connect on LinkedIn

Natasha Mastroianni has experience in a range of family law matters, including property settlements, financial agreements, parenting matters (including interstate and overseas relocation issues), child support and intervention order proceedings.

Natasha was admitted to practice in August 2014 and commenced her career in a generalist practice where she gained experience in family law, property law, wills and estates. Natasha worked in a boutique family law practice prior to commencing at Forte in February 2020.

Natasha has a Masters of Applied Law (Family Law) from the College of Law and speaks conversational Italian.

Having practical experience in other areas of law assists Natasha to understand the interrelated issues involved in her clients’ family law matters. She regularly appears on behalf of clients at Duty List Hearings and other Court events in the Federal Circuit Court, Family Court of Australia and the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria. Natasha also appears as a solicitor agent for interstate or rural practitioners when required.

Natasha prides herself on being able to understand and manage her clients’ expectations whilst providing realistic and practical advice. She acts with empathy and compassion when striving to achieve the best possible results for her clients.

Natasha is a volunteer lawyer with the Women’s Legal Service and is the Vice President of the Northern Suburbs Law Association. She is also a member of the Courts Practice Committee of the Family Law Section of the Law Institute of Victoria, the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia and Victorian Women Lawyers.

Mark Di Donato

Lawyer

University Qualifications

Bachelor of Criminology and Justice, Navitas College of Public Safety

Juris Doctor, Monash University

Email Mark Di Donato

mdidonato@fortefamilylawyers.com.au

Connect on LinkedIn

Mark started work at Forte Family Lawyers as part of his Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice at the Leo Cussen Institute for Law in 2019. Mark was later admitted into the legal practice in September 2019 and transitioned into a lawyer role with Forte Family Lawyers in February 2020.

Prior to his admission as a lawyer, Mark volunteered as a paralegal at Darebin Community Legal Centre and interned at a commercial law firm, where he gained valuable experience in property transactions and in intellectual property. Mark also completed a Professional Placement whilst completing his law degree where he provided legal advice on various family law matters through the Monash Law Clinic.

Mark is a member of the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia, and the Law Institute of Victoria. Mark volunteers at the Darebin Community Legal Centre and has provided advice on a range of issues including family law.