Women Leading the Way: The Impact of Female Lawyers in Australian Family Law

Australia’s legal profession is going through a paradigm shift. Women are rising through the ranks and establishing themselves as influential personalities in their chosen fields. This is particularly noticeable in family law. Female family solicitors are leading the way in restructuring the legal system. 

The Changing Face of the Legal Profession

The Rise of Female Lawyers

The legal profession, traditionally dominated by men, has recently seen an impressive rise in the number of women joining and succeeding in the area. According to current statistics, female solicitors outnumbered male lawyers in various states and territories in Australia. This shift is particularly noticeable in family law, where women are making major contributions and rapidly improving to senior positions.

The Stagnation at the Top

While the increase in the number of female solicitors is a positive trend, there’s a noticeable disparity when it comes to leadership roles. According to a survey conducted by the Australian Financial Review, only 40.9% of lawyers slated for partnership in 2023 were women. This consistent number raises questions, considering the fact that women also constitute the majority of those in senior positions. 

Challenges and Opportunities: Bridging the Gender Gap

The Role of Leadership 

Legal leaders have a critical role in resolving gender inequalities. Achieving a 40:40:20 leadership balance has the potential to considerably lower Australia’s gender pay gap while also increasing senior-level diversity. According to McKinsey’s 2022 Women in the Workplace study, giving women the flexibility to work as they want improves quantifiable outcomes for the business and increases the likelihood of implementing DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) programs. 

The Future of Women in Law 

The increasing involvement of women in law, particularly in family law, indicates an optimistic future. However, more work has to be done to close the gender gap, particularly in leadership positions. It is critical for law firms and legal organizations to continue promoting gender equality and creating an atmosphere that encourages growth and development for all.  

The Power of Individualisation 

Leadership teams should personalize the employee experience to each individual, taking into account the reality of being a woman in law. Although flexibility has enabled women to strike a better balance between their home and work life, business executives must still evaluate how observational opportunities might migrate into distant contexts. 

The increase of women in family law is more than simply an indication of progress; it reflects the shifting dynamics of Australia’s legal profession. Female family lawyers are not simply making their impact; they are leading the way, breaking down boundaries, and redefining the profession. They continue to redefine the narrative by demonstrating that gender is not a barrier for progress in the legal profession. 

45ᵗʰ Family Court anniversary

2021 saw the 45th anniversary of the Family Court, a speciality Court dispensing justice upon the breakdown of relationships via the Family Law Act. 

Prior to that we had the Matrimonial Causes Act administered by State based courts, which in relation to divorce provided 14 grounds for divorce and they included adultery, cruelty, habitual drunkenness, imprisonment and insanity. Today, we have a no fault system, which has effectively dealt with the necessity to prove one of the 14 grounds.  A matter which would have put a lot of private investigators out of work.

Fast forward to 1 September 2021, the family law system has again undergone significant change with the amalgamation of the Federal Circuit and Family Courts and the introduction of new rules encompassing this Court.  This new Court and its rules has a focus on transparency and access to justice in a quick and cost effective manner. With funding for the appointment of new Registrars with varying powers, there is hope that families can reach a resolution sooner rather than later, moving on with living their best life.

Family Violence in Australia

A recent Justice Project report on Family Violence in Australia by Law Council of Australia, dated August 2018:

Family violence can affect anyone, irrespective of age, gender, socio-economic status or cultural background. 

According to statistics, in 2016 it was reported that Australian police dealt with family violence, on average, every two minutes and it was nearly three times more likely for women to experience partner violence than men.

The report prepared by the Law Council of Australia entitled “People Who Experience Family Violence” is an investigation into the barriers that people face accessing justice in circumstances of family violence.

More and more family violence features in the break-down of relationships and its presence will make reaching an agreement to separate your financial affairs or make proper arrangements for the children all that more difficult.

From a separation perspective, if you are experiencing family violence please give us a call today so we can assist and guide you through these difficult times.

If you know someone who is experiencing family violence and needs counseling and support, follow the link below.

Family Violence – A national disgrace

Statistics show that 11 women have lost their lives to violence already this year.  Our Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia is committed to striving higher to reduce family violence.  We are in the midst’s of a national crisis.  It’s an all society issue.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2024-04-20/chief-justice-family-court-men-must-make-change-family-violence/103748036

Recovery and Location Orders

In parenting matters, most of you will be familiar with orders relating to “parental responsibility,” “lives with” and “spends time with.”  However, there are other important orders the court is able to make upon the application of a party.

What is a recovery order?

A recovery order is an order made by the court which requires a child to be returned to your care if the other party is withholding the child.  The following people are eligible to make such an application:

  1. A person who the child lives with spends time with or communicates with as stated in a parenting order;
  2. A person who has parental responsibility for the child in a parenting order;
  3. A grandparent of the child; or
  4. A person concerned with the care, welfare, and development of a child.

In their usual terms, officers of the Australian Federal Police or officers of State and Territory Police are authorised or directed by the court to find, recover and deliver the child to your care.

A recovery order is usually valid for 12 months from the date of issue by the court.

Whether or not you will be successful in obtaining a recovery order, will depend on the circumstances of your case.

What is location or information order?

If at the time of making an application to the court for a recovery order, you do not know the whereabouts of the child, you can seek what is known as a location or information order. These are orders requiring a Commonwealth Government department, such as Centrelink to give the court information on the child’s whereabouts if known.

What do I do now?

If you wish to urgently make an application for a recovery order, or you have been served with documents in which the other party has initiated proceedings seeking a recovery order for a child who is in your care, please contact us to make an appointment today.

Obtaining advice at the outset is critical in these applications.

Psych nurse likens divorce for men to PTSD

Too often, a person’s mental health is neglected during the breakdown of a relationship.  For me, this article not only brings to the forefront a mans perspective on such matters, but also outlines the importance of obtaining legal advice at the outset, no matter whether you are the husband/father or wife/mother.

Obtaining legal advice will enable you to think practically and logically about your situation.  We can then work together to devise a plan that best suits your needs moving forward.  Call us at CopperTree Family Law on (02) 4369 6838 today for an initial consultation.

Aaron Stevenson’s painful separation led him to write a practical guide for men dealing with the trauma of divorce.

With more than 30 years’ experience in the mental health system, Mr Stevenson regularly saw people in the throes of a relationship break-up.

Then, three years ago, it happened to him.

The psychiatric nurse’s 10-year marriage ended leaving him “blindsided”, just as his 50th birthday approached.

Likening a divorce to a trauma like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Mr Stevenson said the response was the same.

You don’t have to have fought in Afghanistan or got run over by a car to have PTSD; basically it’s about having trauma and, in some way, feeling you’re at risk“, Mr. Stevenson said.

“Symptoms can escalate into extreme situations when people’s willingness and or capacity to seek help and support is poor,”, Mr. Stevenson said.

“They go out and drink, do drugs, smash things, break things, get IVOs (family violence intervention order) against them, which causes another set of problems”, Mr. Stevenson.

While there are many services for men and plenty of books, articles and blogs about relationships, Mr Stevenson struggled to find any clear practical guidelines.

So Mr Stevenson compiled all his research into a guidebook, including his own experiences and his 32 years of clinical work.

The secret art of breaking up: Surviving and thriving is a guidebook for men trying to navigate the crisis of their relationship, which he co-wrote with his friend, former ABC reporter Corey Hague.

The first part outlines options for saving a relationship and the second part is how to make it through the “brutal process” of an inevitable break-up.

More women initiate divorce

The 2016 Census found that 41.5 per cent of divorces were from joint applicants while 32.5 per cent of single applicants were initiated by women.

“There’s a significant percentage where it’s women initiating and a lot less where it is men initiating”, he said.

While the initiator may have spent much time thinking about the separation, the non-initiator was quite often taken by surprise.

“It will come somewhat out of left field and it can be quite a period of crisis and distress when it’s done in that way because they then have to start dealing with it, whereas the other person is much further down the path,”, Mr. Stevenson.

“When that break up happens — you’re sort of out on your own.”

Mr Stevenson said he felt the same when his own marriage ended.

“Things were slowly deteriorating, and I didn’t realise it until one day the writing was on the wall and it hit me — it was like ‘boom’,”., Mr. Stevenson.

Divorce ‘harder on men’

Mr Wiseman said divorce was harder on men largely due to the higher levels of social isolation many men experienced.

He cited a 2015 survey by Beyond Blue that revealed that 25 per cent of men between 35 and 65 had few or no social connections.

Often in a relationship, Mr Wiseman said, the woman would play the role of social secretary, so when a relationship did end men tended to re-partner much sooner with little time to process their emotions.

Of those relationships men did have with friends, many of them tended to be “active” relationships.

“They might go off to the football together or the pub together or play golf together, but they may not necessarily talk about what’s going on in their lives and how they’re managing or not managing,”., Mr. Stevenson.

Because men generally tended to be solution-oriented, Mr Stevenson used a crisis intervention model in his book as well as worksheets.

Some of the immediate strategies involved making a commitment to the need for change including strategies in being proactive, finding support, and planning responses.

He said language was a crucial strategy that formed part of acceptance.

One piece of advice for men was to relinquish control by agreeing with their partner’s opinions instead of automatically defending themselves.

Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties Scheme

Amendments to the  Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) have been made that provide protection to victims of family violence who are cross-examined as part of family law proceedings.

From 10 September 2019, personal cross-examination will be banned in family law proceedings in certain circumstances where allegations of family violence have been raised. 

Personal cross-examination is where a party asks questions of another party or witness directly, rather than having the questions asked by a lawyer.

Under the scheme, cross-examination will now be conducted by legal representatives.

The scheme is funded by the Commonwealth Government, who will provide $7m, over three years, to legal aid commissions to provide legal representation to parties subject to the ban.

This will remove the fear of being directly cross-examined by their perpetrator as a factor in a woman’s decision whether to settle a matter, and encourage women who have experienced family violence to pursue their legal entitlements. The provision of legal assistance will also support the expeditious resolution of family law matters, assisting women to recover from abusive relationships and obtain economic security for themselves and their children sooner.

For more information, read the Court’s fact sheet.

Separation or divorce – Things to consider…

Going through a marital separation or divorce can be an emotionally draining time and can effect everyone in different ways. If you are going through a separation or divorce there are some immediate decisions you may need to make regarding your children and finances. The first step is to try to reach an agreement with your former partner, however, if a mutual decision cannot be reached, engaging with an independent third-party may be the best step forward.

It is important to take care of yourself and your children’s physical and mental health the dependents in the early stages of a separation or divorce. Some of the things you will need to think about when first separating from a marriage include;

  • Where your children live and who will take care of them?
  • How you and your former partner will support yourselves and your children?
  • What, how and when you will tell the children, other family members and friends?
  • Who will pay outstanding bills or debts?
  • Who will stay in the house?
  • How will the rent or mortgage be paid?
  • What will happen to any joint bank, building society or credit union accounts?
  • What will happen to the house, car, furniture and other property?

Decisions concerning your children

If you have dependent children at home, it is especially important to ensure practical steps are taken for their well-being. The first step would be for you and your former partner to sit down and talk with a view to reaching an agreement which focuses on the best interests of the children. If that fails, or communication between you breaks down, it may be worthwhile to engage with an independent, third party to help mediate.

Decisions concerning your finances and assets

The financial aspect of a separation can be daunting. Living arrangements, assets, debts and joint accounts are just some of the financial decisions that will need to be considered. Coming to a amicable agreement with your former partner is without doubt the best outcome. However even a mutual agreement should be documented in black and white to ensure everyone is in agreement and will avoid any unneccessary disputes in the future. Seeking advice from a qualified and experienced family lawyer may be the best option.

Whichever way is the right option for you, reaching an agreement early will help ease the stress of going through a separation or divorce.

There are several options you can consider to help with a separation or divorce, they include:

Speaking with loved ones.

Speaking with family and friends who may have already experienced a divorce or seperation. It is great to speak with someone who cares for you, though it is advisable to get legal advice too.

Family Relationship Centers.

To find a Centre near you, or to find out about other services in your area, call 1800 050 321 or visit Family Relationships online

Reconciliation counseling.

Reconciliation counseling may help you understand more about your feelings and help you decide whether to stay together or not.

Separation counseling or mediation.

Separation counseling or mediation may help you to sort out any problems you have about settling your arrangements if you decide to separate.

Legal advice

Legal advice will help you understand the law relating to family disputes and help you understand your legal rights and responsibilities. Obtaining legal advice right at the beginning could not only save you time and money but could assit you and your former partner preserve your relationship for the future benefit of the children. CopperTree Family Law are experienced Family Lawyers who can help. Our team are here to listen, provide you with informed and independent legal advice and we can help you reach an an agreement with your former partner. We can also assit you document the agreement reached, so as to be enforceable if your former partner later decides not to comply with his/her obligations.

Separation is never easy, focusing on what matters for you and finding a solution early will help ease the pressures and allow you to come to terms with the separation, allowing you to find your feet to move forward again.

Call CopperTree Family Law today for an obligation free chat on 02 4369 6838.

Finding a Lawyer who will work best for your needs

For many of you, visiting a family lawyer to obtain legal advice after the breakdown of your relationship, whether that be in relation to property, parenting (custody) or divorce matters may be the first time you have ever set foot in a lawyer’s office.

Whether or not you have engaged with a lawyer in the past, obtaining advice can be confronting. I think we can all agree that when visiting a family lawyer, you will have many questions about your current situation. You may have already taken the time to prepare a long list of questions in anticipation. However, how much thought should you put into deciding which lawyer will work best for you?

Arguably, engaging the right family lawyer from the beginning, someone who will meet your individual needs, is the single most important decision of this process. So take the time to consider what you want in a lawyer.

There are a range of skills and qualities you might want to consider:

Your lawyer must have great speaking skills and able to write effectively. Most importantly, a great listener too. Good communication between you and your lawyer is also vital. You may want to think about how you best communicate and then discuss this with your lawyer to achieve an optimum level of communication between you.

A skilled and experienced lawyer, who predominately works in a particular area of law may be considered a subject matter expert, as opposed to a generalist lawyer who works in many different areas of law. You may find a lawyer working in a particular area is usually in a better position to properly present your case.

A lawyer needs to understand you and your needs to prepare legal strategies for your case. The practice of law involves absorbing large quantities of information, and then using that material logically and efficiently to best present your case and get the best possible outcome for you and your family.

A great lawyer typically has a passion for a particular practice area. A specialist lawyer may practice in the area of their passion for most of their legal career.

Family law involves complex situations and central to that is obtaining instructions. Making sure your family lawyer is going to be available when you need them will be a valuable tool you will not want to do without.


CopperTree Family Law is a boutique family law firm based in Erina on the Central Coast with a focus on providing traditional customer service, and tailoring to individual needs. We are proactive, keeping in touch with you during the process and focusing on what matters to you. We will listen to your story and find out what matters, our interest is yours.

Get in touch with us today for a consultation.

High Court Decision – June 19th 2019

On 19 June 2019, the High Court of Australia handed down a land mark decision which turns on the definition of “parent” under the Family Law Act (“the Act”). Although in the general course of matters, the parents of a child, for the purposes of the legislation, are easily identifiable. Sometimes, and particularly where artificial insemination is involved, it is not always straight forward.

In this matter of Masson & Parsons, a man donated sperm to a woman, with the intention that he would support and care for the child. There was no doubt that the man was the biological father. However, was he a “parent” of the child by legal definition and therefore entitled to seek relief in the Family Court in respect of parenting orders?

At the time of trial, which was some years after the donation of sperm, the court found the man had an ongoing role of financial support, health, education, general welfare and had an extremely close and secure attachment with the child.

Although the Judge at first instance decided the man did not qualify as a parent under section 60H of the Act (the section which provides rules in respect of the parentage of children born of artificial conception procedures), Her Honour did go on to find that he was a parent within the “ordinary meaning of the word.”

On appeal, the Full Court of the Family Court found that the father was not a parent by virtue of the Status of Children Act, which expressly states the man is not a parent as a result of the artificial insemination.

Ultimately, the High Court agreed with the trial Judge and found the man was a parent within the “ordinary meaning of the word” and thus he was entitled to seek relief from the Family Court in respect of parenting orders.

Planning for the Future

With National Advance Care Planning Week upon us, it is a reminder for us to plan for the future. It is a good time for each of us to reflect on what arrangements we should put in place. Arrangements for our health and personal care as we age and to encourage our loved ones to do the same.

Thinking about one’s health and personal care for the future is not only a consideration for the elderly or frail. It is also for each of us who want to have a say about what care we receive when we are unable to make those decisions for ourselves.

Importantly, we need to identify the values we hold, the beliefs we have and the preferences we would like our loved ones to consider when making decisions on our behalf. Planning for the future includes:

 1. Considering and completing an Advance Care Directive

An Advance Care Directive is a document which sets out your values, beliefs, and preferences. If your Guardian is required to make a health decision on your behalf, they are able to confidently refer to the Advance Care Directive. Your guardian can then make a decision based on the information previously provided by you.  In my view, this also removes some of the burdens of making these decisions from your loved one.

An Advance Care Directive is not a legal document and there is no specific form that it must take. Your doctor or health care professional can assist and guide you in this process.

Once you have thought about what health care choices you wish your loved ones to make on your behalf, you will then need to give your loved ones the legal power to make these decisions on your behalf.  This is done through a document called “Appointment of Enduring Guardian.”

 2. Appointing a Guardian (a substitute decision-maker).

You are only able to appoint an Enduring Guardian whilst you are able to understand the effect of bestowing decision making powers on your loved ones.  Unfortunately, if you are not capable of understanding the power you are giving to your loved ones, then there is another formal legal process they have to go through to be appointed as your Guardian. It is a more complicated process, but we are able to guide you through the process.

Taking the time to think about what is important to you, talking to your loved ones about your wishes for the future and putting in place a legal guardian is an important topic for all of us.  Sadly, and oftentimes this area is only addressed in times of urgent need.  If we have these conversations early, we have the opportunity to work out what is really important and convey that to our loved ones.

If you would like to appoint an Enduring Guardian, we would love to assist you. CopperTree Family Law finds what matters to you.