Families often bring us so much joy, but can become the impossible dream. With so many pressures on families these days it can be difficult to maintain a happy home
and avoid separation and divorce.

Marriage counselling

Separation can have serious consequences financially, emotionally and socially for the parties to the relationship and any children involved. The joint assets will likely be divided between the parties so that each party ends up with less than they currently have, and the assets for division will be reduced further if costly litigation is commenced.
Children’s lives are inescapably changed when they are suddenly required to live in two houses rather than one, and are separated from either of their parents from time to time.
Given the implications separation can have, family counselling with an appropriately qualified professional should be attempted to explore reconciliation and assist couples to work through interpersonal issues that may be causing the breakdown of the relationship.
If you have been married less than two years then counselling is mandatory before you may apply for a divorce order.

Family Dispute Resolution

If separation is inevitable then consideration will need to be given to financial division and arrangements for any children involved. Family Dispute Resolution can assist couples to agree on post-separation arrangements, and is mandatory when applying to a court for parenting orders unless an exemption applies.

Post-separation courses

There are various courses available to assist couples to effectively deal with each other after separation. These courses are facilitated by organisations such as Relationships Australia, Unifam, Anglicare and Interrelate.

Legal advice

If you or your partner decide to separate in 2016, then seeking early legal advice as to your rights and obligations can assist to avoid costly drawn out litigation. Litigation in the family courts is currently taking, on average, three years from the commencement of proceedings to trial. Knowing your position at law can equip you to effectively negotiate an early settlement and move on with your life.

Workplace — sexual harassment

When does workplace banter cross the line and constitute unlawful and unacceptable conduct? This is a question that confuses a lot of employees.
If the conduct or comment(s) is unwanted and unwelcome then it constitutes sexual harassment. When determining this the law does not take into account the views of the perpetrator, but the views of a person in the shoes of the victim.
Conduct or comments that cross the line can be asking someone out for a drink, inappropriate jokes or screensavers, and physical touching to assault. Despite the publicity around sexual harassment in the workplace we are still being engaged to act in matters where there has been serious sexual harassment.
So how is this addressed, and who is liable? Employers must put in place appropriate policies, conduct regular training and have support mechanisms in place for all employees.
Employees must abide by these policies and be consciously aware of how their conduct can impact others.
The courts are also addressing the impact of sexual harassment on victims by imposing substantial verdicts against perpetrators and the companies that employ(ed) them. The Federal Court of Australia has indicated that damages need to increase, and did so in a recent case involving a manager sexually assaulted by a contractor. The court awarded the manager substantial damages.
Shortly before Christmas the Supreme Court of Victoria awarded an employee approximately one million dollars for the psychological effects of sexual harassment.
It is not only employers who are faced with this extensive liability, but also the perpetrators. The impact will go beyond having to pay damages and your own lawyer’s fees, but also the impact to work colleagues, your friends and family. ☐