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Jacky Campbell, November 2012

Binding financial agreements unbound

The Family Court’s decision in Parker & Parker has important implications for financial agreements and legal professional privilege.

Parker & Parker, delivered by the Full Court of the Family Court on 7 March 2012, is arguably the most significant decision on financial agreements since Black & Black.

The Full Court in Parker has confirmed that courts may look behind a Statement of Independent Legal Advice and find that, even if the s 90G(1) requirements are being met on their face, the agreement is not binding.

Understandably, most lawyers assume that, if they are provided with a Statement of Independent Legal Advice in the format required by s 90G(1)(c) of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (“the Act”), there is no necessity to examine or query whether the advice was actually given by the lawyer who signed the statement and the nature of that advice. Unfortunately, this comfortable assumption has not just been shaken by the Full Court of the Family Court, it has been comprehensively shattered.

Advice requirement

The relevant part of s 90G(1) provides that a financial agreement is binding on the parties if, and only if:

“(b)   before signing the agreement, each spouse party was provided with independent legal advice from a legal practitioner about the effect of the agreement on the rights of that party and about the advantages and disadvantages, at the time that the advice was provided, to that party of making the agreement; and

(c)   either before or after signing the agreement, each spouse party was provided with a signed statement by the legal practitioner stating that the advice referred to in paragraph (b) was provided to that party (whether or not the statement is annexed to the agreement);

(ca) a copy of the agreement referred to in paragraph (c) that was provided to a spouse party is given to the other spouse party or to a legal practitioner for the other spouse party.”

Put simply, each spouse is required to obtain independent legal advice about certain matters and their legal practitioners must sign statements verifying that the advice was given. Each statement must be given to the spouse to whom it relates and exchanged with the other spouse or their legal practitioner.

Earlier cases

Reported cases of single judges in which it was found that the requisite advice was not given despite the existence of a signed statement (called a “certificate” until the changes effected by the Federal Justice System Amendment (Efficiency Measures) Act (No 1) 2009 (Cth)) include the following circumstances:

  • Where the advice was given to a party by a lawyer not admitted in an Australian jurisdiction. [1]
  • Where the husband received advice after marriage on an agreement which was purportedly made before marriage under s90B.[2]
  • Where the wife’s lawyer relied on an interpreter to advise the wife on the agreement without the lawyer being present and the wife was unable to understand the lawyer’s advice due to language difficulties and limited education.[3]
  • Where the wife said she could not recall being given any advice about the law relating to the agreement, her rights under the agreement or the advantages and disadvantages arising to her from the agreement. The wife’s solicitor had no file notes or correspondence to confirm the advice given and could not recall the advice.[4]

However, not all judges have been prepared to look behind the statements. For example, in Pascot & Pascot[5], the court was not prepared to find that inadequate or even incorrect advice was enough to make the agreement not binding. The wife was advised by her solicitor that prenuptial agreements were not binding on the court and did not oust the jurisdiction of the court to make orders under s 79. Judge /# Justice Le Poer Trench considered that it was significant that the husband was unaware of this incorrect advice and the impact on him was relevant. He said that “it was completely unfair to the husband to set the agreement aside for a reason which is completely outside his control. To take that action would . . . potentially make s90G and the whole intention of creating ‘binding financial agreements’ unworkable and give rise to uncertainty (at [341]).” Since the Full Court handed down its decision in Parker & Parker[6]. This prediction of unworkability and uncertainty appears to have eventuated.

Parker – the trial judge

In Parker & Parker,[7] the trial judge, Strickland J, found that a s90C agreement was not binding. He was not satisfied that the effect and implications of an amendment to the agreement were explained to the wife in the same way that the terms of the rest of the agreement were explained to her.

Parker – the Full Court

The husband appealed and a two-to-one majority of the Full Court allowed the appeal. All three judges agreed that the advice given by the wife’s solicitor did not comply with s90G(1) and was therefore not binding, but they disagreed on the application of s90G(1A) and whether the agreement could be “saved” or found to be binding despite non-compliance with s90G(1). The matter was remitted for rehearing with respect to this issue.

The trial judge identified two issues for determination:

“(1)    Was each party, before signing the agreement, provided with independent legal advice from a legal practitioner about the effect of the agreement on the rights of that party, and about the advantages and disadvantages, at the time that the advice was provided to that party, of making the agreement (s 90G(1)(b))?

(2)     In the event that paragraph (1)(b) is not satisfied, would it be unjust and inequitable if the agreement were not binding on the parties? Is the financial agreement binding on the parties pursuant to s 90G(1A)?”[8]

Coleman J did not deal with the first question at any length. May J quoted favourably from the trial judge, in particular finding:

  • The amendment to the agreement by the husband created a new obligation for the provision of further independent legal advice to the wife.
  • “It was not enough for the wife to have been provided with advice of a general nature. The effect of the amendment on the wife’s rights needed to be addressed.”[9]
  • The failure by the wife’s solicitor to amend the original certificate at the time that she and the wife initialled the amendments was not merely an “inadvertent omission”. The certificate could not be rectified. The advice was not given on that date, so rectifying the date on the certificate was meaningless.[10]
  • The trial judge was able to conclude on the evidence before him that the wife’s solicitor had not given the wife advice about the advantages and disadvantages of the wife entering the agreement.[11]

Justice Murphy said that Strickland J was incorrect in finding that there was an agreement on 5 November 2004 (the day the wife signed the agreement). He did not accept that an agreement was entered into on that day and varied a week later when the wife initialled the husband’s amendment. The traditional offer-acceptance analysis of contract law pointed to there being no agreement until the wife accepted the husband’s amendments.

Interestingly though, Murphy J accepted that s 90G(1)(b) did not require that all the advice be given after the terms of the agreement were finalised. He said:

“I can see nothing in the terms of s 90G … which would preclude advice being given . . . cumulatively so as to, ultimately, comprise advice which satisfies the requirements of s 90G(1)(b) by being advice in respect of ‘the agreement’. That is, it seems to me entirely possible for compliant advice to be given on one or more occasions in respect of the negotiations, and for there to be further advice given on one or more later occasions, in respect of other parts of the negotiation, so that it can be said the advice in its totality is as s 90G requires (at [206]).”

He said further that three matters must be established to satisfy the s 90G(1) requirements:

“First, it must be established that the accumulated advice has been given, ultimately, about the agreement as finally concluded . . . I accept that the particular circumstances might admit of a finding that compliant advice has been given on an occasion or occasions earlier than the occasion on which the agreement is ultimately made. But, it is vital that there be admissible evidence by which a court can conclude that the requisite advice was given about the agreement as ultimately formed.

Secondly, the section makes it clear that it is necessary to establish that the advice actually given has the content required by the section (i.e. as to rights and advantages and disadvantages). Thirdly it must be established that the advice was given at the time required by the section (i.e. before the party signs) (at [208–209]).”

However, these requirements can only be satisfied if the parties have an agreement.

Justice Murphy agreed with the trial judge that there was insufficient evidence about the compliance of the advice with s 90G(1). Although not discussed by either the trial judge or Murphy J, there are significant implications for legal professional privilege.

Legal professional privilege

Legal professional privilege protects communications between a lawyer and a client. If a financial agreement is challenged for non-compliance with s 90G(1)(b), evidence of the advice given by the legal practitioner is fundamental. In a case where a party seeks to set aside a property order under s 79 or s 90SN or to set aside a financial agreement under s 90K or s 90UM the legal advice given may be relevant. If it is not relevant it will not need to be divulged for the application to succeed.

The effect of Parker is that if a party is applying for a declaration that a financial agreement is not binding because of a failure to meet the requirements of s 90G(1)(b), in most cases the legal advice given by the legal practitioner will be relevant and the client will have to waive legal professional privilege to succeed. Arguably, both parties will need to disclose their legal advice, although this was not conclusively decided by the Full Court in Parker.

­Section 90G(1A)

The amendments to the Act made in 2010[12] enable an agreement which may be found not to be binding because of the failure to comply with s 90G(1)(b), (c) or (ca) to be “saved”. Section 90G(1A), (1B) and (1C) state:

“(1A)    A financial agreement is binding on the parties to the agreement if:

(a)   the agreement is signed by all parties; and

(b)   one or more of paragraphs (1)(b), (c) and (ca) are not satisfied in relation to the agreement; and

(c)   a court is satisfied that it would be unjust and inequitable if the agreement were not binding on the spouse parties to the agreement (disregarding any changes in circumstances from the time the agreement was made); and

(d)   the court makes an order under subsection (1B) declaring that the agreement is binding on the parties to the agreement; and

(e)   the agreement has not been terminated and has not been set aside by a court.

(1B)   For the purposes of paragraph (1A)(d), a court may make an order declaring that a financial agreement is binding on the parties to the agreement, upon application (the enforcement application ) by a spouse party seeking to enforce the agreement.

(1C)  To avoid doubt, section 90KA applies in relation to the enforcement application.”

Coleman J in Parker seemed inclined to find that the agreement should be binding under s 90G(1B) on the basis that it was unjust or inequitable for the agreement not to be binding. He considered it relevant that the wife signed the agreement despite admitting that her solicitor advised her not to do so. She did not seek to disturb the agreement for some time. He held that the trial judge’s conclusion was “the kind of outcome” which s 90G(1A), (1B) and (1C) were intended to remedy and “involved a narrow interpretation of s 90G(1A)(c) … which did not promote the objectives of the legislation” ([at 20]).

Judge /# Justice May said that the second question that the trial judge was asked to answer was incorrect. The submissions confused the requirements of s 90G(1A), (1B) and (1C). She concluded that the matter had to be remitted for re-hearing to enable evidence to be given in relation to an “enforcement application” (although a formal enforcement application may not be necessary) and in relation to s 90KA (brought in by s 90G(1C)).

Justice Murphy considered, at length, the application of the transitional provisions. He held that the trial judge applied the incorrect form of s 90G(1B). The trial took place over a year before judgment was delivered in Senior & Anderson, so the parties and the court did not have the benefit of the analysis of the transitional provisions set out there.

Justice Murphy said that s 90G(1A)(c) envisaged “a broad discretion vested in the court (at [231])”. He rejected a limitation on the discretion to “technical” non-compliance (at [232]) but found it relevant that an agreement is only binding “if and only if” s 90G(1)’s requirements are met (at [238]). Failure to comply with s 90G(1) was not decisive in the exercise of the discretion under s 90G(1A), but it was a factor, and a significant factor, in the exercise of the discretion (at [239]).

Murphy J held that on the evidence before him the trial judge was correct in his exercise of the s 90G(1A) discretion, particularly as there was insufficient evidence before him about matters that might inform the s 90G(1A)(c) discretion.

What should lawyers do?

The easiest and safest course for lawyers is to avoid drafting and advising on financial agreements altogether. Any agreement is at risk of being found not to be binding even if it appears that the technical requirements are met. It is difficult to see how a lawyer can minimise the risk of an agreement being found not to be binding under s 90G(1)(b) or 90UJ(1)(b). It may help to exchange letters of advice, check that they comply with s 90G(1)(b) and are accurate, and ensure that the other party speaks the language the advice was given in and has full capacity to understand the advice. However, exchanging letters of advice not only waives privilege and risks a demand that the whole file be disclosed, but may create further disagreement between the parties about the terms of the financial agreement. If there is litigation, the information disclosed in the letter of advice will be able to be used in that litigation. How does one legal practitioner check that the other party understands the advice? Is a psychiatric report required, and confirmation of that party’s ability to understand English? All these matters may need to be addressed before a lawyer signs a Statement of Independent Legal Advice.

Conclusion

A lawyer may have done everything necessary to meet the s 90G(1) requirements but be thwarted by the failure of the other lawyer to meet the standard. There seems no obvious and risk-free way to be assured that the advice given to the other party meets the s 90G(1)(b) requirements.

The comfort of a binding financial agreement seems even more elusive after Parker than it did after Fevia & Carmel-Fevia [13] and Senior & Anderson. For separated couples, court orders under s 79 or s 90SM will usually be less risky. For couples seeking the protection of a prenuptial agreement, there may be no alternative. But for lawyers, the safest option is to avoid them altogether.

[1]    Ruane & Bachmann-Ruane [2009] FamCA 1100.

[2]    Sullivan & Sullivan [2011] FamCA 752.

[3]    Omar & Bilal [2011] FMCAfam 1430.

[4]    Hoult & Hoult (2011) FLC 93-489.

[5]    [2011] FamCA 945.

[6]    [2012] FLC 93-499.

[7]    [2010] FamCA 664.

[8]    Paragraph 75 of the trial judgment, cited by the Full Court at paragraph 24.

[9]    Paragraph 88 of the trial judgment, cited by the Full Court at paragraph 64.

[10]    Paragraph 92 of the trial judgment, cited by the Full Court at paragraph 64.

[11]    Paragraph 94 of the trial judgment, cited by the Full Court at paragraph 65.

[12]    Federal Justice System Amendment (Efficiency Measures) Act (No 1) 2009 (Cth).

[13]    (2009) FLC 93-411.

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

Connect on LinkedIn

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

Connect on LinkedIn

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

Connect on LinkedIn

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.