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Jacky Campbell, November 2012

Introduction to CCH Australian Family Law Act 1975 book

Introduction

During the past 12 months there have been two major changes to the Family Law Act 1975 (“the Act”), two sets of changes to the Family Law Rules 2004 and to the Family Law Regulations 1984 and one set of changes to the Federal Magistrates Court Rules 2001. Other legislation has made relatively minor changes to the legislation in this Book. The changes to the Act, being the family violence amendments and the retrospective validation of orders with respect to de facto financial matters, are the most significant and also led to consequential changes to subordinate legislation.

Family violence amendments

The Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2011 (“the Family Violence Act”) responded to reports received by the Government into the 2006 family law reforms and how the family law system deals with family violence. The Family Violence Act amendments commenced on 7 June 2012 and largely apply to proceedings commenced on or after that date. The key amendments made by the Family Violence Act aimed to, as set out in the Replacement Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill:

  • prioritise the safety of children in parenting matters
  • change the definitions of ‘abuse’ and ‘family violence’ to better capture harmful behaviour
  • strengthen adviser’ obligations by requiring family consultants, family counsellors, family dispute resolution practitioners and legal practitioners to prioritise the safety of children
  • ensure the courts have better access to evidence of abuse and family violence by improving reporting requirements; and
  • make it easier for state and territory child protection authorities to participate in family law proceedings where appropriate

The definition of “abuse” was amended to:

  • Remove the requirement for “an assault including a sexual assault” of a child to be an offence under the law of the State or Territory in which the assault occurs
  • Include “causing the child to suffer serious psychological harm”
  • Include “serious neglect of the child”

The definition of “family violence” was also broadened. It was previously defined in s 4(1) as “conduct, whether actual or threatened, by a person towards, or towards the property of, a member of the person’s family that causes that or any other member of the person’s family reasonably to fear for, or reasonably be apprehensive about, his or her personal wellbeing or safety.”

The new definition in s 4AB(1) is “violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person’s family (the family member), or causes the family member to be fearful.” Examples include (but are not limited to):

“(a)  an assault; or

(b)  a sexual assault or other sexually abusive behaviour; or

(c)  stalking; or

(d)  repeated derogatory taunts; or

(e)  intentionally damaging or destroying property; or

(f)  intentionally causing death or injury to an animal; or

(g)  unreasonably denying the family member the financial autonomy that he or she would otherwise have had; or

(h)  unreasonably withholding financial support needed to meet the reasonable living expenses of the family member, or his or her child, at a time when the family member is entirely or predominantly dependent on the person for financial support; or

(i)  preventing the family member from making or keeping connections with his or her family, friends or culture; or

(j)  unlawfully depriving the family member, or any member of the family member‘s family, of his or her liberty” (s 4AB(2)).

A child is exposed to family violence “if the child sees or hears family violence or otherwise experiences the effects of family violence” (s 4AB(3)). Examples are listed in s 4AB(4) and include seeing or hearing an assault by a member of the child‘s family towards another member of the child‘s family and being present when police or ambulance officers attend an incident involving such an assault.

The primary considerations for determining what is in a child’s best interests were amended so that:

  1. The Court must give greater weight to s 60CC(2)(b) (“the need to protect a child from physical or psychological harm from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence”) than to s 60CC(2)(a) (“the benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both of the child’s parents”).
  2. The so-called “friendly parent” provision (s 60CC(3)(c)) was removed. This stated that one of the additional considerations was “the willingness and ability of each of the child’s parents to facilitate, and encourage, a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent.” It was removed because of concern that parties were reluctant to allege child abuse or family violence in case they were seen as unwilling to facilitate the child’s relationship with the other party. The replacement provisions, s 60CC(3)(c) and (ca), look at the extent to which each of the child‘s parents has taken, or failed to take, the opportunity to participate in making decisions about major long-term issues in relation to the child, to spend time with the child and to communicate with the child and the extent to which each of the child‘s parents has fulfilled, or failed to fulfil, the parent‘s obligations to maintain the child.
  3. The requirement that a family violence order was only relevant if it was a final order or the making of it was contested was removed. Relevant inferences can now be drawn under s 60CC(3)(k) from the nature of the order, the circumstances in which the order was made, any evidence admitted, any findings made by the court and any other relevant matter.

Section 60D sets out the obligations of an adviser in relation to the best interests of a child. “Adviser” is defined to include a legal practitioner, a family counsellor, a family dispute resolution practitioner or a family consultant. An adviser giving advice or assistance to a person about matters concerning a child or Pt VII must:

“(a)  inform the person that the person should regard the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration; and

(b)  encourage the person to act on the basis that the child‘s best interests are best met:

(i)  by the child having a meaningful relationship with both of the child‘s parents; and

(ii)  by the child being protected from physical or psychological harm from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence; and

(iii)  in applying the considerations set out in subparagraphs (i) and (ii)–by giving greater weight to the consideration set out in subparagraph (ii)”.

These obligations arise even for proceedings commenced but not finalised prior to 7 June 2012 (item 45 of the Family Violence Act) although most other amendments do not apply to those proceedings.

Section 67ZBB sets out the Court’s obligations if a Form 4 Notice of Child Abuse or Family Violence is filed. The Court must consider if any interim or procedural orders should be made to enable appropriate evidence to be obtained as expeditiously as possible, to protect the child or any of the parties and to deal with the issues raised by the allegation as expeditiously as possible.

In conducting child-related proceedings, the court must ask each party whether the child has been, or is at risk of being, subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence and whether a party has been, or is at risk of being, subjected to family violence (s 69ZQ(1)(aa)). The court must deal with the matter appropriately and decisions which the court must make are listed in the same sub-section.

Section 117AB was removed from the Act due to concern that it acted as a disincentive to reporting family violence or child abuse because of the prospect of a mandatory costs order if a false allegation was made.

Schedule 2 of the Family Violence Act contains other amendments to the Act including:

  • Clarification of the Family Court’s power to dismiss appeals and to delegate procedural applications in appeals to Registrars
  • Including an extensive list of witnesses for affidavits in s 98AB
  • Clarifying that parentage testing orders and parentage declarations are not parenting orders
  • Providing Family Court Judges with a rule-making power relating to bankruptcy proceedings transferred to the Family Court under s 35A Bankruptcy Act 1966 (Cth).

Retrospective Validation of Orders

The Family Law Amendment (Validation of Certain Orders and Other Measures) Act 2012 “Validation Act” retrospectively validated “affected orders” being orders made by the Family Law Courts with respect to de-facto financial causes before the relevant proclamation was made on 11 February 2012 for all States and Territories except Western Australia.

On 5 February 2009 the Family Law Amendment (De Facto Financial Matters & Other Measures) Act 2008 was proclaimed by the Governor-General with a commencement date of 1 March 2009 with respect to certain items. The commencement date of the balance of the Amendment Act was triggered by the commencement of these items. This was intended to give exclusive jurisdiction to the Family Law Courts in all State and Territories which had referred their powers with respect to de facto financial causes.

However, s 40(1) of the Act requires that the jurisdiction of the Family Court not be exercised except in accordance with a Proclamation under that section. Section 40(2) provides that the Governor-General may, by proclamation, fix the date from which the relevant jurisdiction can be exercised by the Family Court.   Section 31(1)(aa) confers jurisdiction on the Family Court with respect to “matters arising under this Act in respect of which de facto financial causes are instituted under this Act”.

Specific reference ought to have been made in a proclamation but this did not occur prior to the commencement of the de facto provisions. The appropriate proclamation was made on 11 February 2012 but it was not retrospective.

The Federal Magistrates Court was also affected by the oversight. Under s 40A of the Act, the Federal Magistrates Court cannot exercise jurisdiction in, say, New South Wales, if the jurisdiction it seeks to exercise is not capable of being exercised by the Registries of the Family Court in New South Wales.

The problem did not apply to Western Australia as the Family Court of Western Australia continues to exercise State power over de facto relationships. However, the Validation Act retrospectively validated certain orders of the Family Court made on appeal from Family Law Magistrates in Western Australia between 1 July 2006 and 21 October 2011. A Proclamation ought to have been made in 2006.

The Validation Act:

(a) declared that the rights and liabilities of all persons affected by orders made during the period before 11 February 2012 were the same as if the Proclamation had been made when it should have been made;

(b) excluded liabilities arising from convictions for offences relating to de facto financial causes from the retrospectivity;

(c) ensured that if new orders were made on the basis that the affected order was or might have been invalid, the retrospectivity did not revive the affected order.

(d) ensured that if an order was declared or held to be invalid or to have been made without power before the commencement of the Validation Act, the order was not revived;

(e) respectively validated orders made on appeal from Family Law Magistrates in Western Australia;

(f) removed s 40(1) and 40(2) from the Act and replaced them with a new s 40(1). Regulations are now used to specify a date from which the jurisdiction of the Family Court must not be exercised in specified States or Territories. This helps ensure that similar oversights do not occur in the future.

From 21 April 2012 the Family Law Amendment Regulation 2012 (No 2) commenced. This Regulation was introduced under s 40(1) of the Act to restrict the exercise of the Family Court’s jurisdiction.

The Family Court cannot exercise jurisdiction under s 31(1)(c) concerning matters arising under the law of a territory (other than Northern Territory) including adoption of children. The Family Court has never been able to exercise this jurisdiction and the Regulation maintains this limitation. The Regulation also restricts the Family Court from exercising a large proportion of the jurisdiction conferred on it under the Act in Western Australia, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island. Due to s 40A of the Act, the restrictions in the Regulation limit the exercise of jurisdiction by the Federal Magistrates Court.

Amendments to the Family Law Rules

The Family Law Amendment Rules 2012 (No.1) included the following amendments to the Rules:

  1. Further defined the nature of court events, the recording of which is prohibited.
  2. Introduced a Statement of Truth for an application for consent orders.
  3. Made rules necessary or convenient to implement the amendments made by the Family Violence Act.
  4. Implemented a streamlined approach to the filing and storing of electronically filed large documents attached to affidavits.

Rule 5.19 Family Law Amendment Rules 2011 (No 2) sets out matters to be included in an affidavit in support of an application and to suppress publication of a judgment. The Court anonymises all judgments in accordance with s 121 of the Act, but most judgments are published on the Family Court website and on www.austlii.edu.au as well as by CCH and other legal publishers.

Before making an order, the Court will consider such matters as whether there is a public interest in suppressing or not suppressing publication, why further anonymisation is not sufficient and whether a summary of the judgment should be publicly available if publication is suppressed.

Parties to an Application for Consent Orders no longer need to swear or affirm an affidavit. Instead, they only need to sign a Statement of Truth which does not require the signature of the party to be witnessed (r 10.18(a)).

New definitions were inserted into the Dictionary to the Family Law Rules. The definition of “court event” was expanded to include “an attendance with a single expert witness performing the functions of a single expert witness”. The definitions of “expert”, “expert witness” and “single expert witness” were moved from r 15.43 to the Dictionary but were not changed.

Rule 1.19 prohibits the photographing or recording by electronic means of hearings, trials, conferences, attendances on a family consultant, single expert or person who is in the court premises.

Rule 2.04D was amended to prescribe a Notice of Child Abuse or Family Violence (Form 4) for the purposes of s 67Z(2) and s 67ZBA(2). The person filing the Form 4 must file an affidavit or affidavit setting out the evidence on which the allegations in the Form 4 are based, by no later than the time the Form 4 is filed.

Filing a Notice of Child Abuse or Family Violence in appropriate cases is also required for cases commenced before 7 June 2012 if a party alleges that there has been family violence by one of the parties or there is a risk of family violence by one of the parties. If no Notice was filed before 7 June 2012, one must be filed and the Court must treat the allegation as if s 67ZBB applied.

Procedures were introduced to alert the Court to allegations of family violence and to how the allegations have been dealt with in the orders, when a Court is making consent orders. If the orders are presented during a hearing or trial, each party or lawyer:

“(a) must advise the court whether the party considers that the child concerned has been, or is at risk of being, subjected to or exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence;

(b) must advise the court whether the party considers that he or she, or another party to the proceedings, has been or is at risk of being subjected to family violence; and

(c) if allegations of abuse or family violence have been made must explain to the court how the order attempts to deal with the allegations.” (r 10.15A(3)).

For any other application, each party or a lawyer:

“(a) must certify in an annexure to the draft consent order whether the party considers that the child concerned has been, or is at risk of being, subjected to or exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence;

(b) must certify in the annexure whether the party considers that he or she, or another party to the proceedings, has been or is at risk of being subjected to family violence; and

(c) if allegations of abuse or family violence have been made- must explain in the annexure how the order attempts to deal with the allegations”. (r 10.15A(3)).

Rule 15.12(7) addresses lengthy affidavits filed electronically by requiring that if an affidavit and associated documents total more than 50 pages:

  • each document must be filed as an exhibit to the affidavit
  • each document must be served with the hard copy of the affidavit
  • a hard copy of each exhibit must be filed with the court at least 48 hours before the court event in which the affidavit is to be relied on.

Federal Magistrates Court Rules Amendments

The Federal Magistrates Court Amendment Rules 2012 (No 1) primarily:

  • facilitate the Family Violence Act
  • enable ordinary service by email
  • amend the costs schedule
  • amend the enforcement provisions in r 25B, particularly with respect to child support.

Commencing 1 June 2012, r 13.04 was amended. Prior to that date, in an application for a parenting order by consent, the parties were required to advise the Court whether any of the following allegations were made in the proceedings:

(a) allegations of child abuse or neglect, or a risk of child abuse or neglect;

(b) allegations of family violence or a risk of family violence;

(c) allegations of mental ill-health that is alleged to adversely impact on parenting capacity;

(d) allegations of serious parental incapacity;

(e) any other allegation involving a risk to the child (r 13.04A(2)).

The new r 13.04A(2A) requires each party to advise the court (similarly to s 692Q(1)(aa)):

“(a) whether the party considers that the child concerned has been, or is at risk of being, subjected or exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence; and

(b) whether the party considers that he or she, or another party to the proceedings, has been, or is at risk of being, subjected to family violence.”

If an allegation has been made under r 13.045A(2) or a party advises the court of any concerns mentioned in subrule (2A), “the parties must explain to the court how the parenting order attempts to deal with the allegation” (r 13.04A(3)).

Proceeds of Crime

State and Territory proceeds of crime orders were given the same recognition under the Act as orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. These amendments apply to proceeds of crime orders or applications for forfeiture orders made at or after commencement, but apply to proceedings under the Act regardless of whether the proceedings under that Act commenced before or after the order or application was made. The Proceeds of Crime Authority replaced the Director of Public Prosecutions as the relevant authority.

Conclusion

At the time of publishing this Book, the Family Violence Act amendments had only just commenced. It is not yet known whether they will have the effects sought by the legislators. The general expectation is that there will be considerable litigation about the interpretation and application of the amendments.

After a year in which there were major changes to the Family Law Act, in the coming year there is an expectation of further significant legislative change. Whilst a merger of the Family Court and the Federal Magistrates Court is no longer proposed, the Attorney General, Nicola Roxon, has announced that the name of the Federal Magistrates Court will change. There is also likely to be changes in the types of matters dealt with by each court which will presumably result in significant changes to the Rules of both Courts.

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.

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.