‘amica’, a new online service for separating couples, is an initiative by National Legal Aid and the Legal Services Commission of South Australia with support from the Australian Government.
“The Morrison Government is committed to improving the family law system to make the system faster, simpler, cheaper and much less stressful for separating couples and their children,” the Attorney-General said.
It is expected that the online service will reduce legal expenses for separating couples and relieve pressure on the family law courts.
The service enables separating couples to come to an agreement in relation to financial and parenting arrangements by negotiating and communicating with each other online.
It will suit partners who are on good terms and whose situation is straight forward. The online service is not suitable for complex matters.
‘amica’ suggests a division of the assets and parenting arrangements based on the information each person enters. It also takes into account the couple’s particular circumstances, the kinds of agreements reached by couples in similar situations and how the courts would have treated similar disputes.
When an agreement has been reached, the online service records the agreement/s in plain English, but it is not a legally binding or guaranteed outcome. Nor does the agreement replace legal advice, legal representation, a decision of any court or tribunal or the process of Family Dispute Resolution for the purposes of the Family Law Act (1975)(Cth).
It is important to know that the tool facilitates a method which may help couples to come to an agreement based on general information.
All information that is exchanged with your former partner is on a ‘Without Prejudice’ basis, which means that any communication is inadmissible as evidence in a Court.
The new online service will be helpful for some couples, but it may leave some partners vulnerable who are not receiving either financial or legal advice for their personal circumstances.
The online tool does not deal with a divorce application.
Your separation may be amicable, but if the situation changes in the future then the agreement you made on ‘amica’ is not enforceable or binding. It is generally necessary and advisable to have Court orders in place in relation to financial matters (including spousal or partner support if relevant). So if you do reach an agreement, it is very important to consider obtaining legal advice about formalising the agreement by way of Consent Orders or a Financial Agreement. If you are unable to reach an agreement, services are available to assist you in reaching an agreement. Strict time limits apply in relation to finalising financial matters between you and your estranged partner or spouse.
Until the end of this year it is free to use ‘amica’, but if at any stage you need legal advice in relation to your personal circumstances or wish to know more about your rights, obligations and responsibilities, then please make an appointment with one of our experienced family lawyers on 6162 8271.