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Jacky Campbell, November 2017

Escaping tax debts? Is this the brave new world of Pt VIIIAA Family Law Act?

Minimising tax paid, if not actively evading tax, is considered by many family law clients to be a justifiable activity or even a national sport. The power of the Family Law Courts to use Pt VIIIA Family Law Act 1975 (“FLA”) to assign a taxation debt owed by one party to a relationship to the other party was considered by the Full Court of the Family Court in Tomaras & Tomaras and Official Trustee in Bankruptcy and Commissioner of Taxation (2017) FLC 93-806; [2017] FamCAFC 216. In Tomaras, the Full Court agreed that one spouse could be substituted for another spouse as the debtor responsible for the debt, even though it was a taxation debt and therefore owed to the Crown. The Commissioner of Taxation’s argument that Pt VIIIAA did not bind the Crown failed. Does this mean that the floodgates have opened to a new way to avoid paying tax?

Facts

The background facts can be explained fairly simply in a short chronology:

1992 The husband and wife married.
2009 The parties separated.   The wife’s tax debt arose prior to separation.
November 2009 The Commissioner of Taxation obtained a default judgment against the wife. She failed to pay the judgment debt and the Commissioner did not take any steps to enforce it.

 

November 2013 The husband became bankrupt.
December 2013 The wife issued proceedings in the Federal Circuit Court under s 79 FLA. She sought an alteration of property interests between herself and the husband.

 

February 2016 The Commissioner was granted leave to intervene in the s 79 proceedings.

The orders sought by the wife included:

“8.   Pursuant to s 90AE(1)(b) of the FLA in respect of the applicant wife’s indebtedness to the Commissioner of Taxation for the Commonwealth of Australia taxation related liabilities in the amount of $256,078.32 as at 9 August 2016 plus General Interest Charge (GIC), the respondent husband be substituted for the applicant wife as the debtor and the respondent husband be solely liable to the Commissioner of Taxation for the said debt.”

The Federal Circuit Court judge, Purdon-Sully J, stated a case for the opinion of the Full Court in the following terms:

“Does s 90AE(1)-(2) of the FLA (Cth) grant the court power to make order 8 of the final orders sought in the amended initiating application of the wife?”

A case stated involves a court seeking the opinion of another court as to questions of law based on agreed facts.

Relevant legislation

The wife sought to rely on Pt VIIIAA of the FLA which empowers the Family Law Courts to make orders and injunctions which bind third parties if certain prerequisites are met. In particular, the wife relied on s 90AE(1)(b), which allows the court to direct a creditor to change the debtor or debtors. Section 90AE(1) provides:

“In proceedings under s 79, the court may make any of the following orders … (b) an order directed to a creditor of one party to a marriage to substitute the other party, or both parties, to the marriage for that party in relation to a debt owed to the creditor.”

Section 90AE(2) specifically allows the court to make any such order that:

(a) directs a third party to do a thing in relation to the property of a party to the marriage; or

(b) alters the rights, liabilities or property interests of a third party in relation to the marriage.”

Section 90AE(3) and (4) set out the requirements for making an order under s 90AE(1) and (2).

“(3) The court may only make an order under subsection (1) or (2) if:

(a)   the making of the order is reasonably necessary, or reasonably appropriate and adapted, to effect a division of property between the parties to the marriage; and

(b)   if the order concerns a debt of a party to the marriage – it is not foreseeable at the time that the order is made that to make the order would result in the debt not being paid in full; and

(c)   the third party has been accorded procedural fairness in relation to the making of the order; and

(d)   the court is satisfied that, in all the circumstances, it is just and equitable to make the order; and

(e)   the court is satisfied that the order takes into account the matters mentioned in subsection (4).

(4)   The matters are as follows:

(a)   the taxation effect (if any) of the order on the parties to the marriage;

(b)   the taxation effect (if any) of the order on the third party;

(c)   the social security effect (if any) of the order on the parties to the marriage;

(d)   the third party’s administrative costs in relation to the order;

(e)   if the order concerns a debt of a party to the marriage – the capacity of a party to the marriage to repay the debt after the order is made;

(f)   the economic, legal or other capacity of the third party to comply with the order;

(g)   if, as a result of the third party being accorded procedural fairness in relation to the making of the order, the third party raises any other matters – those matters;

(h)   any other matter that the court considers relevant.”

There is very little case law where s 90AE has been successfully used although it commenced operation in 2004. For example, it was unsuccessfully relied on in Stephens & Stephens & Anor [2005] FamCA 118 and B Pty Ltd & K and Anor and Ors [2008] FamCAFC 113. In Rand & Ors and Rand [2008] FamCAFC 50 the Full Court found that the trial judge provided inadequate reasons. Manichaeus & Manichaeus and Ors [2010] FamCA 397 was a rare example where s 90AE was used to re-assign liability for a debt, but the court expressed confidence that the husband would be able to pay the debt in full. The creditor bank had been a party to the proceedings earlier, but had elected not to be a party at trial. The bank was given procedural fairness before the final orders were made.

Presumption with respect to binding the Crown

The presumption that the statutory provisions expressed in general terms do not bind the Crown was considered by the High Court in Bropho v State of Western Australia [1990] HCA 24; (1990) 171 CLR 1. In Tomaras, Thackray and Strickland JJ discussed this case and noted that the presumption does not apply to provisions which, properly construed, confer a benefit on the Crown (Madras Electricity Supply Corporation v Boarland [1955] AC 667; McGraw-Hinds (Aust) Pty Ltd v Smith [1979] HCA 19; (1979) 144 CLR 633 at 656). They said (at [17]) that it could be reasonably argued that s 90AE can only impose a benefit on the Crown since:

“(a) instead of an impecunious taxpayer being responsible for a tax liability, his or her more wealthy spouse may be made solely responsible pursuant to s 90AE(1)(a), thereby increasing the prospects of recovery;

(b)   instead of one spouse being responsible for a tax liability, both spouses may be made liable pursuant to s 90AE(1)(b), thereby providing a remedy for recovery that otherwise would have been unavailable;

(c)   whilst an order might be made leaving the less wealthy spouse to meet a tax debt, such an order could not be made if it was foreseeable that the order would result in the debt not being paid (s 90AE(3)(b)); and

(d)   the legislation permits the court to make such order as it considers just for the payment of the reasonable expenses of the creditor incurred as a necessary result of the order (s 90AJ(2)).”

Section 90AE could therefore only operate to the detriment of the Crown if the court, in making an order (at [18]):

“(a) relieved a spouse of their obligation to pay tax which they would have paid if the order had not been made; and

(b)   instead imposed the obligation on a spouse who, although appearing at the time able to meet the liability in full, ultimately was unable to do so for some unforeseeable reason.”

Of course, as noted by Thackray and Strickland JJ, the Commissioner would be on notice that an order under s 90AE was sought and was entitled to be heard as required by s 90AE(3)(b) and 4(e) on the issue of the foreseeability of the tax not being paid if one party were to be substituted for the other. They concluded (at [20]):

“that the possibility of the Commissioner being adversely affected by an order under s 90AE does not arise by operation of the Act but only by the happening of an event that could not have been reasonably anticipated.” There was therefore no place for the presumption that statutory provisions are not binding on the Crown in relation to s 90AE.”

Although finding that the presumption did not apply, Thackray and Strickland JJ went on to consider the Commissioner’s arguments which were based on the view that the presumption did apply.

Taxation debts are not connected with particular assets

The Commissioner argued that a substitution order could only be made if a debt was associated with a specific item of property. Otherwise, it could not be seen as “reasonably necessary” or “appropriate and adopted” in order “to effect a division of property (s 90AE(3)(a)). Thackray and Strickland JJ were not convinced that there “was any sound basis for construing the provision so narrowly” (at [27]) and then said (at [28]):

“In any event, this argument goes only to the exercise of the power, rather than the existence of the power. It would always be open to the Commissioner to argue in a particular case that a proposed order was not “reasonably necessary, or reasonably appropriate and adopted, to effect a division of property.”

Commissioner’s other grounds

The Commissioner had other arguments which were rejected by the Full Court. These included:

  • There was no express statement in s 90AE that the section bound the Crown
  • There were alternative provisions in the FLA to deal with the circumstances where it was appropriate for one spouse to be responsible for a taxation liability incurred by the other spouse. In particular, s 80(1)(f) FLA gives the court the power to make an “order that payments be made … to a public authority for the benefit of a party to the marriage”.
  • Permitting tax debts to be transferred between spouses would create absurdities in the application of the tax scheme because objection, review and appeal rights associated with the tax debt could not be transferred.
  • The Explanatory Memoranda to the Bill which amended the FLA to include Pt VIIIAA did not refer to tax debts or other liabilities owed to government agencies.

Use of the word “creditor”

The wife argued that as the Commissioner was a “creditor” for the purposes of s 79 and s 79A of the FLA, it was also a “creditor” for the purposes of s 90AE.

Thackray and Strickland JJ found that there was an express link between s 79 and s 90AE and it would be surprising if different meanings were given to the word in the two linked sections. They said (at [55]):

“Had Parliament intended to exclude the Commissioner as a “creditor” when expanding the existing powers of the court, it would have readily done so in precisely the same way that it excluded a species of property from the ambit of the section when enacting s 90ACA, which is in these terms…”

Minority judgment

Aldridge J agreed generally with the majority and the orders made, but made two further points. He expressed a “tentative” view that s 90AE could not be regarded as beneficial to the Crown. He also considered that in relation to the rights to object and appeal in relation to a taxation liability, the original creditor could still exercise these rights even if one spouse was substituted for another and, perhaps a more complete answer was that an order was unlikely to be made if there was a genuine dispute as to the debt.

Outcome

The Full Court answered the case stated in the affirmative, but with the proviso that s 90AE(1) confers power only to make an order that the Commissioner be directed to substitute the first respondent for the applicant in relation to the debt owed by the applicant to the Commissioner of Taxation. The words “and the respondent Husband be solely liable to the Commissioner for the said debt” were omitted. The reason for the omission was that otherwise there was (at [60])

“… the potential to create the impression that whatever rights the applicant may have had to challenge the debt (which senior counsel for the Commissioner acknowledged might still exist) are extinguished by the making of the order. For the reasons given earlier, we are not entirely persuaded that such rights would be extinguished by an order under s 90AE”.

What next?

It is difficult to see what the wife was seeking to achieve in Tomaras. The husband was bankrupt, so unless the husband was likely to have a surplus after his bankruptcy ended, or there was a chance of an annulment, it appeared on the face of the judgment unlikely that the court would order that the taxation debt be borne solely by the husband as this would mean, contrary to s 90AE(3)(b) and (4)(e), that the debt was not likely to be paid.

Rather than opening the flood gates, the Full Court emphasised that s 90AE(3) requirements had to be satisfied before one party could be substituted for another party in relation to a debt as the Full Court has now clarified that s 90AE can bind the Commissioner of Taxation, so there may be other cases where one party can be substituted for another in relation to a tax debt, although the court will need to be satisfied that it is not foreseeable that the debt will not be paid in full if the order for substitution is made.

 

© 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wendy Kayler-Thomson

PARTNER

University qualifications

Master of Laws, Monash University

Bachelor of Laws, University of Melbourne

Bachelor of Commerce, University of Melbourne

Other qualifications
Accredited Family Law Specialist, Law Institute of Victoria

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

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.

Kristy Haranas

Senior Associate

University qualifications

Bachelor of Laws, James Cook University

Email Kristy Haranas
kharanas@fortefamilylawyers.com.au

Other qualifications
Accredited Family Law Specialist,
Law Institute of Victoria

Connect on LinkedIn

Kristy is a Senior Associate at Forte Family Lawyers. Kristy is an Accredited Family Law Specialist as recognised by the Law Institute of Victoria. Accredited Specialists are required to maintain a high degree of continuing professional development to ensure their advice is based on the most current legal principles and to the highest possible standard. Kristy was recognised in the 2020 edition of Doyles Guide as a Family Law Rising Star.

Kristy has undertaken further tertiary study in the area of family law and has a Masters of Applied Law (Family Law) from the College of Law.

Prior to joining the firm, Kristy worked in a range of practice areas including several years in family law in Queensland. Kristy also worked a lawyer for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission on large-scale financial investigations. During her time at AISC Kristy gained valuable commercial experience and developed a high level of attention to detail which she now applies to her work in family law financial cases.

Kristy has a wide range of experience in different areas of family law including parenting issues, property settlements (including complex matters with multifaceted trust/corporate structures), financial agreements, child support and family violence cases.

Kristy prides herself on building strong relationships with clients from the outset. Kristy recognises that for most people, the breakdown of a relationship can result in stress, conflict and confusion. As a result, Kristy ensures that clients receive not only strategic and commercially focused legal advice, but empathy and compassion. Kristy has strong communication skills which she uses to confidently guide clients through what can sometimes feel like a complicated legal system.

Kristy is a member of the Courts Practice Committee of the Family Law Section of the Law Institute of Victoria which provides her with valuable insight into recent developments in the Family Law Courts. Kristy is also a member of the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia and Victorian Women Lawyers.

Matthew Beckmans

Senior Associate

University qualifications

Bachelor of Laws, University of Western Sydney

Email Matthew Beckmans
mbeckmans@fortefamilylawyers.com.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vinh Nguyen

Associate

University qualifications

Bachelor of Laws, Deakin University

Bachelor of Commerce, Deakin University

Email Vinh Nguyen
vnguyen@fortefamilylawyers.com.au

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

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

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

Vinh is fluent in Vietnamese.

 

 

 

Natasha Mastroianni

Associate

University Qualifications

Bachelor of Laws (Hons), Latrobe University

Bachelor of Arts, Latrobe University

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

Email Natasha Mastroianni

nmastroianni@fortefamilylawyers.com.au

 

 

Connect on LinkedIn

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Di Donato

Lawyer

University Qualifications

Bachelor of Criminology and Justice, Navitas College of Public Safety

Juris Doctor, Monash University

Email Mark Di Donato

mdidonato@fortefamilylawyers.com.au

Connect on LinkedIn

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

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

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