s

Jacky Campbell, October 2018

But wait – there are more amendments to the Family Law Act in 2018

The two Bills restructuring the Family Law Courts have been delayed by Parliament for further consideration in 2019. This gave family lawyers hope that 2018 would be a quiet legislative year. But, we were mistaken. Instead, the floodgates have opened. First we had the Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2018, [see ->Family Violence – changes to the Family Law Act]. Then, the Civil Law & Justice Legislation Amendment Act 2018 (“Amendment Act”) received Royal Assent on 25 October 2018. The Amendment Act introduces changes to the Family Law Act 1975 (FLA) with respect to a wide range of matters, including bankruptcy, when de facto property settlement proceedings can be issued, costs orders against case guardians, disclosure of the fact of an offer to a judge, widening the scope of the conduct where overseas child abduction will be considered to be a criminal offence, making arrests, the Rules Advisory Committee, and renumbering Part VIIIB FLA.

Limitation of proceedings

The amendments to s 44 FLA in the Amendment Act address two main problems:

  1. Section 44(2) was interpreted in Hedley & Hedley (2009) FLC 93-413 to extend the limitation period for the issue of property settlement proceedings when parenting proceedings have been issued and the property settlement application is included in a Response to an Initiating Application seeking parenting orders. This method of extending the usual limitation period for issuing property settlement or maintenance proceedings of 12 months after a divorce order was final was artificial and in contradiction to the intent of s 44(3). Section 44(2) has now been repealed.
  2. Section 44(5), which applies to de facto couples, unlike the equivalent provision for married couples (s 44(3B)), did not provide the automatic right for the institution of property settlement proceedings if a financial agreement was found to be not binding or set aside. There was also no provision for parties to consent to the institution of proceedings out of time as for married couples (s 44(3)). Section 44(5) has been amended so that property settlement proceedings can be issued within 12 months after a financial agreement between the parties to a de facto relationship is set aside, or found to be invalid, or at any time if both parties consent. The fact that the rights of de facto parties were so different to those of married couples in these respects was, presumably, an oversight when the FLA was amended to allow de facto parties to have their property rights dealt with under the FLA.

These changes commenced on 26 October 2018.

Costs orders and offers of settlement

Section 117 has been amended to make the following changes:

  1. Prior to the Amendment Act, the fact that an offer has been made and the terms of any offer made by a party to settle proceedings could not be disclosed to the court except where the court was considering whether it should make an order for costs under s 117(2) and the terms of any such order. After the amendment, the fact that an offer has been made can be disclosed, but not the terms of the offer. According to the Revised Explanatory Memorandum (paragraph 281), the amendment is “intended to promote early settlement of matters”. One circumstance where the amendment will be useful is if one party has made offers to settle and the other party has made no offers. Being able to tell the judge that this is the situation, although valuations and disclosure have been completed, will allow the judge to encourage the party who has not made any offers to do so. Also, a judge will be able to ask if the parties have made any offers and express their displeasure if no offers have been made at all.
  2. The court cannot make an order against a guardian ad litem (case guardian) unless the court is satisfied that one or more acts or omissions of the guardian relating to the proceedings are unreasonable or have delayed the proceedings unreasonably (s 117(6)). The reason for this amendment was that the risk of a personal costs order was discouraging people from consenting to being appointed as case guardians.

These changes commenced on 26 October 2018.

Offences of taking or sending a child outside Australia or retaining a child outside Australia

Currently international child abduction from Australia is only a criminal matter in some circumstances. The removal of the child must be in breach of parenting orders made under the FLA, or in the course of proceedings for such orders. The primary emphasis in most matters is on the civil aspects, being locating the children, whether the country the children were abducted to was a signatory to The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and how the country to which the children were abducted applies the Convention.

Sections 65X and 65Y remain (although s 65Y in particular, has been re-worded), but the range of circumstances which will amount to criminal conduct will be expanded to cover:

  • the retention of a child overseas in contravention of a final parenting order and without the written consent of the other person or persons exercising parental responsibility for the child (s 65YA);
  • the retention of a child overseas where parenting order proceedings are pending under the FLA, and the child is retained by a party to those proceedings without the written consent of the other party or parties to the pending proceedings, or an order of the court (s 65ZAA).

Specific defences to s 65Y and s 65Z are in ss (2) of each section and apply if:

(a)     the person (whether or not the person is or was the party to the proceedings) takes or sends the child from Australia to a place outside Australia because the person believes the conduct is necessary to prevent family violence; and

(b)     the conduct is reasonable in the circumstances as the person perceives them.

Widening the scope of the offence of taking or sending a child outside Australia and having specific defences has been discussed for at least 20 years. In its 1998 Report “Parental Child Abduction: a Report to the Attorney-General”, the Family Law Council recommended that parental child abduction not be criminalised, but that if its recommendation was not accepted, there should be general exceptions or defences. These included fleeing from violence, and protecting the child from imminent harm. (Recommendation 6(b))

In its 2011 submission to the “International Abduction to and from Australia” Senate Standing Committee on Legal & Constitutional Affairs, 31 October 2011 (“Senate Committee”), the Family Law Council was in favour of the extension of the FLA provisions to cover retention of children overseas beyond the agreed or authorised period. However, the Family Law Council repeated its 1998 view that there should be specific defences if fleeing from family violence, protecting children from danger or imminent harm and a reasonable excuse for failing to return the child to Australia (such as flight cancellations or ill-health).

The advantages and disadvantages of s 65X and s 65Y FLA and extending their scope also apply to the introduction of a discrete criminal offence for international child abduction (which has not been done). They were summarised by the Senate Committee.

The advantages include:

  • ensuring that international parental child abduction matters are afforded priority in the allocation of policy resources;
  • ensuring that additional investigation and enforcement mechanisms are made available to assist in locating a child. These mechanisms include the use of telephone interceptions and listening devices, the ability to request the assistance of Interpol and overseas police forces to locate abducted children, and the availability of extradition and mutual assistance procedures to return abducting parents to Australia. (p.25)

The disadvantages include:

  • such an offence would deter abducting parents from voluntarily returning children or participating in negotiations, and cause them to further evade law enforcement authorities for fear of prosecution;
  • the prospect of the taking-parent being subject to criminal proceedings on their return would undermine the effectiveness of the Convention because the existence of a criminal offence may trigger an Article 13(b) exception;
  • even if an Article 13(b) exception cannot be established, there is the potential that the child’s best interests would be damaged if a parent is convicted of an offence which may result in his or her imprisonment (thus denying the child the opportunity to have a meaningful relationship with, and be cared for by, that parent);
  • the threat of criminal prosecution would have a negative impact on disadvantaged parents such as those who have committed international parental child abduction to escape family violence or child abuse committed by the other parent. (p.26-27)

In addition, the Senate Committee reported that the then Chief Justice of the Family Court, the Hon. Diana Bryant, was opposed to a stand-alone criminal offence (at p.27):

“I have to say that I am not in favour of it, for this reason. What you would say in favour of it is that it is my understanding that it does assist the police and Interpol to look for children overseas, but one would have hoped there might be some other way of doing that. Surely the AFP here can have arrangements in relation to abduction of children short of necessarily having to have criminal offences created. The second reason for doing it, I suppose, is a community perception, particularly from the left-behind parent, that there should be some punishment, but the problem is that in the cases that we see regularly where the children are sought to be returned to a country where there are laws whereby criminality is created by removing a child – typically that is some of the state in the United States, where it is regarded as kidnapping – you often end up having to try to get some kind of undertaking from the other parent not to prosecute so the child can be returned, and that is not always possible if the prosecution is by a district attorney or something. One of the defences that might then arise would be if the father, for example, is not able on the face of it to care for the children and the mother is going to be jailed upon return and there is no-one to look after the child. Then the ‘intolerable situation’ defence would arise. So this problem arises all the time, and it is not uncommon to be seeking for other jurisdictions to forgo prosecution so that the children can be returned. So it is a real issue.”

Again, these arguments also apply to s 65X and s 65Y FLA, and the extension of their operation.

The Committee, in its 2016 Report (Senate Standing Committee on Legal & Constitutional Affairs Family Law Amendment (Financial Agreements & Other Measures) Bill 2015, February 2016, p.26-27), declined to support an offence-specific defence for persons fleeing from family violence on the grounds that the new wrongful retention offences should provide a comprehensive and certain legal basis upon which authorities could take action to recover children who were wrongfully removed or retained, and should serve as a general deterrent to such behaviour. The Committee commented that “complex situations where family members are fleeing with children to escape violence or abuse should be dealt with in Australia”. A differently constituted Committee in 2017 took a different view and recommended that there be specific defences.

A new section 65ZDE provides that section 15.4 of the Criminal Code applies to an offence against any of s 65Y to s 65ZB which deal with the taking, sending or retaining a child outside Australia. This gives category D extended geographical jurisdiction to the offence so that it can be prosecuted whether or not the conduct occurred in Australia. A nexus to Australia or an Australian person is not required.

These changes commence by 25 April 2019 (being six months after Royal Assent).

Bankruptcy

The Bankruptcy Act 1966 has been amended to expressly provide that the Family Court has jurisdiction in bankruptcy where the trustee in bankruptcy is an applicant for an order to set aside a financial agreement under s 90K(1) or (3) or 90UM(1) or (6) FLA (new s 35(1)(b)(ii) and 35(1A)(b)(ii)). This is in addition to the Family Court having jurisdiction in bankruptcy where the trustee in bankruptcy is a party to property settlement proceedings under s 79 or s 90SM, maintenance proceedings or proceedings to set aside or vary a property settlement order under s 79A or s 90SN FLA.

The definition of a “bankrupt” in the FLA has been expanded to include a person who has been discharged from bankruptcy whose property remains vested in the bankruptcy trustee (s 4(6) FLA).

These changes commenced on 26 October 2018.

Re-numbering Part VIIIB

In the wake of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Discussion Paper on the Review of the Family Law System recommending the re-numbering of the FLA, that sensible proposal has already been partially implemented in relation to Part VIIIB. The downside is that all the decided cases and other parts of the legislation will have incorrect legislative references and any pending orders will need to be changed. This change takes effect on 23 November 2018. The benefits are that the alpha-numeric numbering will now be consecutive and it will be easier to find the required section in the approximately 120 of section 90s in the FLA.

The new numbering is as follows:

Renumbering
Item Column 1 Provision Column 2 Renumber as:
1 Section 90MA Section 90XA
2 Section 90MB Section 90XB
3 Section 90MC Section 90XC
4 Section 90MD Section 90XD
5 Section 90MDA Section 90XDA
6 Section 90ME Section 90XE
7 Section 90MF Section 90XF
8 Section 90MG Section 90XG
9 Section 90MH Section 90XH
10 Section 90MHA Section 90XHA
11 Section 90MI Section 90XI
12 Section 90MJ Section 90XJ
13 Section 90MK Section 90XK
14 Section 90ML Section 90XL
15 Section 90MLA Section 90XLA
16 Section 90MM Section 90XM
17 Section 90MN Section 90XN
18 Section 90MO Section 90XO
19 Section 90MP Section 90XP
20 Section 90MQ Section 90XQ
21 Section 90MR Section 90XR
22 Section 90MS Section 90XS
23 Section 90MT Section 90XT
24 Section 90MU Section 90XU
25 Section 90MUA Section 90XUA
26 Section 90MV Section 90XV
27 Section 90MW Section 90XW
28 Section 90MX Section 90XX
29 Section 90MY Section 90XY
30 Section 90MZ Section 90XZ
31 Section 90MZA Section 90XZA
32 Section 90MZB Section 90XZB
33 Section 90MZC Section 90XZC
34 Section 90MZD Section 90XZD
35 Section 90MZE Section 90XZE
36 Section 90MZF Section 90XZF
37 Section 90MZG Section 90XZG
38 Section 90MZH Section 90XZH

Miscellaneous amendments

Other amendments include, in summary:

  • The admissibility of communications with family consultants has been changed, with a new s 11C(3) replacing the old s 11C(3);
  • Clarification that the Family Court “is and is taken always to have been, a court of law and equity” (s 21(2)). This is relevant to the interpretation of the court’s implied powers;
  • Registrars of the Family Court of Australia, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Western Australia conducting property settlement conferences have the same protection and immunity as a Judge of the Family Court (s 38Z). This was uncertain before;
  • The process and power for making arrests have been changed, with a major re-write of s 122A and 122AA FLA. The arrest provisions in the FLA are now in line with similar powers of the Federal Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. There is greater clarity as to who can make arrests. In line with similar powers in the Crimes Act 1914, an arrester’s power to enter and search premises and stop and detain conveyances (which include a vehicle, a vessel and an aircraft) for the purposes of making an arrest is more limited (Revised Explanatory Memorandum para 33).
  • Section 160 Evidence Act 1995 (Cth) has been amended so that where legislation does not otherwise provide, a postal article sent by pre-paid post is presumed to be received by the recipient on the seventh working day after being posted, rather than on the fourth working day. This change reflects the fact that the postal service is now less frequent.
  • Central Authorities under the Child Abduction Convention now have clearer and greater powers to apply for location orders (s 67K(2)).
  • The Rules Advisory Committee of the Family Court of Australia will now be appointed by the Chief Justice of the Family Court rather than by the Governor-General after consultation with the Chief Justice (s 124(1) amended and s 124(3) deleted). This is presumably in line with the intention of the Chief Justice that he have greater control over changes to the Rules of both Courts, rather than the decision for any changes having to be decided, as at presect, by a majority of judges of each court.
  • The definition of “Registry Manager” has been broadened so that the Family Law Courts have a broad discretion in relation to the appointment, possibly foreshadowing the changes which will occur with the restructure of the Family Law Courts.

The above changes commenced on 26 October 2018, except for the arrest provisions which will commence when the changes to the child abduction provisions commence – probably 25 April 2019.

Conclusion

The various changes in the Amendment Act cover many aspects of the FLA. The renumbering of Pt VIIIB will have the most impact on legal practitioners on a daily basis. There will presumably be a period of confusion whilst everyone adjusts to the new numbers. One of the most significant change is probably the extension of conduct which will amount to criminal offences with respect to international child abduction. It will be interesting to see what, if any, impact this has on the number of parents who abduct children. For lawyers, it will affect the advice given to left-behind parents who need to decide whether to push for criminal charges to be instituted. It will also impact how the return of children is voluntarily negotiated and how and whether the orders are made by overseas courts when there is a greater likelihood that the abducting parent will face criminal charges upon their return to Australia. Other major changes are to the rights of de facto parties to commence property and maintenance proceedings and the ability of parties to tell the court that offers have been made, but not the terms of the offer).

 

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

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

Connect on LinkedIn

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.

Natasha Mastroianni

Senior 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.

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.

 

 

 

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.