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This video, part of a series produced by Legal Aid Western Australia, looks at ways to access help and services when you live in remote areas, as well as handy tips and ideas on ways to deal with separation.
TEXT: Getting help in rural and regional areas—dealing with challenges after separation
TEXT: When separating. A guide for what's best for you and your family after seperation.
LOGO: Legal Aid Queensland.
[ACOUSTIC GUITAR PLAYS]
A middle–aged man wearing a smart–casual shirt and dress pants walks out of the front door of a rural property and walks along a veranda towards the camera. He walks along the red dirt of his driveway and towards a four–wheel drive parked on an embankment near a water tank. He drives along dirt roads and into town.
MALE SPEAKER: Separation is a difficult time for everyone, no matter where you live. Everyone’s experience is different. You might think it’s harder living in a regional area, and maybe for some people it is, however there are services out there to assist you with how you’re feeling emotionally, to help you sort out issues with your former partner, and others that can provide legal advice or information. If you have children you might be thinking, “What about them, what should we be doing?” Wherever you are in Australia, the most important consideration when making decisions about children is the best interests of the child.
When figuring out what is in the best interests of your child and what arrangements might work for them, you and your former partner will need to think about things such as: Will the children have to move schools? Will they be far away from friends and family? Will they have to travel to spend time with each parent and how would this work—how would travelling impact on them? If one parent’s time with the children needs to be supervised, what options are available, and are there ways to keep in touch with the children when they’re with the other parent?
A man and a woman stand between two cars in a car park. Their young daughter looks up between them.
Vision cuts back to the middle–aged man driving through town in his four–wheel drive.
MALE SPEAKER: Now, after a separation, one or both people may want to move, perhaps to access job opportunities or to be closer to extended family. This can be significant in Australia as even moving one town apart can mean a fair distance between houses. Many people in this situation are able to sort out arrangements that work well for their family and are practical and affordable. If you are concerned about what a move away might mean for your children, it is a good idea to seek legal advice. If you and your former partner end up living far away from one another, think of some ways of keeping in touch with your children when they are with the other parent.
The four–wheel drive passes a middle–aged man in a black T–shirt. He walks down his driveway and smiles as he removes an A4 envelope from the letterbox. He opens the envelope and smiles again when he sees it contains photos of his children at the beach.
MALE SPEAKER: You could work out a regular time to phone them or make online video calls and write letters or emails. If you don’t have the internet at home, ask around to find out where you can get access. You can start with your local library. You can also arrange to have copies of school reports and notices posted to you.
The vision shows the man in the black T-shirt sitting at an outside table and talking to his three children via his webcam and laptop. He holds the photos of the beach in his hands.
Vision cuts back to the four–wheel drive travelling down a long dirt road.
MALE SPEAKER: There are various factors you need to keep an eye on to make sure your child is alright. Research shows the level of conflict between parents following a separation has a major impact on how children cope with their parents separating. If parents end up living a large distance from each other, children may feel sad about not seeing both parents as regularly as they used to. Also, it can be distressing feeling like everyone in town knows your business. Counselling or other support services may be of benefit to children during this time. You can also encourage them to establish their own support networks with friends and extended family.
A middle–aged woman in a black blouse leans up against a wooden fence beside a paddock. She holds a white piece of paper in her hand and reads thoughtfully before looking up at two horses standing under a tree in the paddock.
MALE SPEAKER: If there is property involved, you might be asking, “How do we decide who gets what?” and “What’s fair?” The process for working out property issues is pretty much the same everywhere in Australia. Sometimes where you live or the type of property you have can make a difference. If you have a farm or a business there may be some specific considerations to think about.
Vision cuts back to the four–wheel drive travelling along a country road.
MALE SPEAKER: The best thing to do is to seek legal advice as soon as possible because there are time limits involved with property issues and, often, the longer you leave it the more complicated it can become. If you need assistance with children or property issues, or emotional or practical support, there are a variety of services that you can access. These include counselling, parenting and financial courses, legal advice and information and assistance for those living with family and domestic violence. When separating from a partner it is a good idea to get legal advice from someone who practices in the area of family law. There are some free or low–cost legal services offered by Legal Aid and community legal centres, as well as private lawyers. To assist you and your former partner with working through the issues arising out of separation, Family Relationship Centres can provide you with family dispute resolution. This is a process where a qualified and independent person helps you to discuss issues and agree on solutions. While most people sort out their property and children’s issues without going to court, the Family Court is there to assist if you need help.
The four–wheel drive passes a woman walking along the footpath and into a building. The camera follows her inside as she asks a question to an older lady standing at the front desk of a community service centre. The vision shows the two women talking amicably and standing in front of a wall of pamphlets.
Vision returns to the man travelling in the four–wheel drive.
MALE SPEAKER: So, if you would need some assistance, where do you go? Some areas have a large number of services nearby. It may be as simple as walking in the door of your closest community service and asking them to direct you to what you need. Sometimes you may need to look a bit further to find what you’re looking for. If you’re unsure where to begin, go online or call Legal Aid. If the service you would like to use isn’t in your local area, it won’t always be possible for you to engage with them face-to-face, however, there are a variety of options for connecting with service providers. You might not even have to leave the house. For example, some Family Relationship Centres offer services over the phone or by video link. Some also provide an outreach service, meaning they come to you or a town nearby. Many information services have good online resources or can post information out to you. Other services can provide advice including legal advice over the phone or by video link.
Vision shows of a middle–aged woman sitting at an outdoor setting and talking on the phone. A man in a suit and tie sits in an office cubicle with a headpiece on. He puts brochures into an A4 envelope. Vision shows the woman sitting on a couch and opening the envelope and looking through the brochures.
The camera cuts back to the four–wheel drive travelling along a country road.
MALE SPEAKER: One issue that can come up more frequently when seeking legal advice outside of the metropolitan area is conflict of interest. A conflict of interest may occur in various ways: perhaps the lawyer is a friend of your family; your former partner may have already been to see the lawyer about a legal matter; the lawyer may have a close working relationship with people in your area and could not act for you without people thinking they were biased. Don’t be offended if a lawyer is unable to act for you. They are required by their professional rules not to act where there is, or may appear to be, a conflict of interest. Conflicts also occur with other services providers. If a conflict does occur, they won’t be able to tell you the reason for the conflict but they can give you information about how to access another service or will organise a referral for you.
If you need to access the Family Court, there are registries in every capital city in Australia. Judges also travel to some regional areas on a circuit. Alternatively, if the Family Court is too far from where you live, you can send in your Family Court documents by post or you may be able to make your family law application at the closest Magistrates Court. However, not all issues can be dealt with at the Magistrates Court and your matter may be transferred to the Family Court. If this happens and you are unable to travel to the Family Court, then you can arrange to attend by phone or video link. Family law advice can help you decide whether or not to commence Family Court proceedings and which option is best for you.
Sometimes matters are so urgent there isn’t time to ask the court for help through the usual process. If something is very urgent, you may be able to send your application to the court request an urgent hearing and then attend by telephone. It’s best to get legal advice before doing this. You could call Legal Aid as a starting point. They may be able to advise you or refer you to someone who can assist. If something crucial comes up, out of business hours, that cannot wait until the next day, you can call the court and, in exceptional circumstances, they may be able to arrange a hearing out-of-hours.
The man in the four–wheel parks the car in a car park and walks away from the vehicle as he slings a backpack over one shoulder. Vision shows him standing in front of a projector and giving a presentation to a small room of people. The contact details for Legal Aid Queensland are shown behind him on the screen.
TEXT: If you need help or a referral. Legal Aid Queensland, phone 1300 65 11 88 or visit www.legalaid.qld.gov.au. Community legal centres, phone 07 3392 0092 or visit www.qails.org.au or look under “community legal centres” in your local phone book. Family Relationship Advice Line, phone 1800 050 321.
MALE SPEAKER: There are many regional services providing support and assistance for people affected by separation. Don’t delay—explore the options available to you sooner rather than later. It’s worth the effort. Coming here today you have already taken an important first step.
TEXT: This video is intended to provide you with information only. If you have a legal problem, you should get legal advice from a lawyer.
TEXT: Copyright 2012 Legal Aid Western Australia. This film had been adapted by Legal Aid Queensland from resources produced by the Legal Aid WA When separating project.
Legal Aid Queensland thanks Legal Aid WA for permission to reproduce this content. This information is copyright. All persons or organisations wanting to reproduce this material should get permission from Legal Aid Western Australia.
LOGO: Legal Aid Queensland, www.legalaid.qld.gov.au, 1300 65 11 88.
Last updated 25 November 2015