New Domestic Violence Laws and Initiatives

Victims of domestic violence can soon terminate rental leases with one week’s notice, thanks to new rental laws passed in Queensland Parliament last week.

Those escaping violent relationships are usually reluctant to do so due to financial hardship, among other reasons. A victim can become discouraged from leaving and the often violent cycle continues, as they are left with no choice but to remain in their current circumstances.

However, the new laws allow victims to terminate their lease and access their share of the bond, making escaping their situation slightly more achievable. Under section 308A of the Housing Legislation Amendment Bill 2021, a tenant who can “no longer safely continue to occupy a premise because of domestic violence may end their interest in the tenancy” with 7 days notice.

Not only this, but once passed, the legislation will also allow tenants to change the locks on their rental without requiring their landlord’s consent. Section 211 allows a tenant to change locks if they have a “reasonable excuse” or it is “necessary because of an emergency”.

Of course, these victim tenants must provide evidence to their landlord or property manager of their domestic violence experience, such as a protection order, court injunction or evidence document signed by a social worker. These overdue changes will amend the latest Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008, supporting victims as they flee violent relationships for a better life, instead of leaving them stuck and bound to a lease which, instead of providing a safe home, may be putting them at further risk.

Alongside these empowering new laws, women and children leaving violent relationships can access a one-off $5,000 payment from this week – made up of $1,500 cash, with the remainder put towards payment of a rental bond, school fees or other essential items – known as the Escaping Violence Payment, part of a $1.1billion safety package announced in the May budget. Again, applicants must supply evidence of financial stress and domestic violence.

Queensland is leading by example when it comes to recognition of victims of domestic violence. If any of the above circumstances apply to you, please contact our office and we will be able to assist you.

If you have any questions, please get in touch with our team at Richardson Murray here.

De-facto relationship break-up entitlements in Australia

A de-facto relationship is defined in section 4AA of the Family Law Act, and includes partners who:

… have a relationship as a couple, living together on a genuine domestic basis.

De-facto couples are those who are not married. So, what happens if they separate? Is the division of property viewed the same as married couples?

In order for the court to hear your application, the court will consider the following matters:

1. The relationship was for at least two years;

2. There is a child of the relationship;

3. The relationship is or was registered by law; or

4. Significant contributions were made by one party, and failure to issue an order would result in serious injustice.

You must also satisfy the court that:

1. You were in a genuine de facto relationship, which has broken down. This is evidenced by things like proof of the same address and sharing of living expenses;

2. You have a geographical connection to the jurisdiction (for example, you live in Queensland); and

3. Your relationship broke down after 1 March 2009.

If you think you satisfy these criteria, your application to the court is using the same forms that are used for married couples. As for what the court will decide, this depends entirely on your circumstances and there is no one answer, nor is there a 50/50 presumption. Typically, the decision is made following a four-step process:

1. Identify and value all assets and liabilities of both parties, to have a net ‘property pool’ dollar value;

2. Assess the financial and non-financial contributions of both parties, for example parenting, wage-earning and homemaking;

3. Consider the future needs of each party, for example the income earning capacity or who has the primary care of the children; and

4. Decide whether the proposed percentage division is just and equitable.

The dollar value will then tell you what you need to do – for example, if one party is awarded 60% of the pool, and the family home is worth 60% of the pool, it is reasonable for them to keep the family home. If the family home is valued at 80% of the pool, the family home may need to be sold.

De facto partner maintenance may also be payable in some circumstances. Typically, it can be ordered where one party cannot meet their own expenses, and the other party has capacity to. For example, where one party’s income exceeds their weekly expenses, and the others falls short, spousal maintenance may be payable. For more information, please contact our office to discuss.

It is important to note that there are time limits on these applications. For de facto couples, you must apply within two years of the relationship breakdown.

Contact our team today.

Don’t miss the chance to apply for a TAFE Queensland Scholarship

Queenslanders who wish to study at TAFE Queensland in 2022 are being urged to apply for one of the 100 scholarships on offer with applications closing Friday 24 September.

Successful recipients will receive up to $5,000 to help cover the costs of course fees, text books and living expenses.

TAFE Queensland delivers hands-on, practical training across almost 500 qualifications at more than 60 campus locations throughout Queensland, from Thursday Island in the North, to Coolangatta in the South East, and as far west as Mount Isa.

Recipients can enrol into a qualification level of their choice from a Certificate III up to an Advance Diploma across a range of industries such as health, trades, business, creative, hair and beauty, hospitality, information technology and many more.

TAFE Queensland Chief Executive Officer, Mary Campbell said the scholarships provide an opportunity for Queenslanders to develop their skills and gain a qualification to secure jobs in some of the largest and fastest growing industries.

“For anyone who is interested in studying to gain the skills they need to get a job, including those considering a career change – now is the time to get started,” she said.

There are two types of scholarships available, one being Merit scholarships aimed at supporting people who have demonstrated strong levels of achievement to advance their careers. The second are Access and Equity scholarships designed to help students who are battling social or financial hardship.

After he found himself unemployed in 2020, accomplished pianist Cezar Ostaszewski decided to enrol into the Diploma of Music Industry – Sound Production at TAFE Queensland’s Coomera campus to learn new industry trends and techniques.

He then applied for a TAFE Queensland Scholarship to help finance his studies and to his surprise, he was awarded a merit scholarship of $5,000.

“The scholarship has given me the financial freedom to focus on my studies and gain new skills in sound engineering and music production, which is priceless to me,” he said.

To anyone who is thinking about applying for a TAFE Queensland scholarship, Cezar said he highly recommends everyone to apply, no matter how old you are or what circumstances you’re in.

“It is a very easy step by step process of answering some questions about you, your study and you career goals. To be chosen and granted a scholarship is a great honour which will give you a lot of satisfaction and joy,” he said.

The TAFE Queensland Scholarship Program first launched in 2015 and has since awarded over $1.8 million; helping more than 390 Queenslanders pursue their careers goals.

Mrs Campbell said this year there are more scholarships on offer than ever before thanks to two new partners to the TAFE Queensland Scholarship Program – RACQ and CPL.

“RACQ have come on-board to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who wish to study in the Townsville region, while CPL have provided funding for scholarships under the Access and Equity category for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a disability.”

With an average of 600 applications received each year, Mrs Campbell encourages anyone looking to start their career or make a career change to apply now.

Applications for a TAFE Queensland scholarship to study in 2022 close on Friday 24 September 2021.

For more information visit scholarships.tafeqld.edu.au.

I’m thinking of separating from my partner – what should I do first legally?

You may be surprised that when faced with the above question, I always ask my client whether they have been to relationship counselling. A relationship counsellor or psychologist is not always about reconciliation but can also assist parties in separating responsibly. This is particularly important when there are children involved. If reconciliation is not on the cards, then perhaps a healthy discussion can be held regarding how parties are going to separate and avoid conflict. Sheltering the children from psychological or emotional harm by being exposed to conflict, should be of paramount consideration.

1. Get early legal advice
Early legal advice can be very helpful when considering separation. Make sure to engage an experienced family lawyer, preferably one who practices exclusively in family law. Knowing and understanding the process and procedure involved in a legal separation is imperative. If you know your rights and entitlements, it will assist you in any discussions that you may have with your spouse partner. You may wish to make a proposal or if you are considering a proposal that has been made by your partner, you will be informed as to whether what is being offered is fair or reasonable.

When going to see your lawyer, you will get the most out of your first appointment if you are organised.

  • If you are seeking advice regarding parenting matters, then write down what parenting arrangement you consider to be in your children’s best interest and why.
  • If you have any concerns, then make a list and give examples of incidents which have caused you to hold the concern.
  • If you have any evidence, such as text messages or photographs, then make sure to print them or save them somewhere safe where they will not be lost or deleted.
  • If you are seeking advice regarding financial matters, then make a list of your current assets and liabilities.
  • Write out a brief chronology of the relationship history in bullet point format, addressing when the relationship started who had what assets or liabilities, what were your respective roles during the relationship, were there any lump sum contributions made by either of you or your family or friends, such as gifts or inheritances or compensation payments.

2. Collate financial documents
It is sometimes a good idea to start collating your financial documents which can evidence what the current bank balances are or what assets are owned and who made what contributions.

  • It is recommended to speak to your lawyer before withdrawing money or selling or disposing of assets. Do not draw money from accounts which you are not legally entitled to draw from (for example a company account to which you are not entitled). Ask your lawyer to advise you as to your options and to recommend the best way to protect assets.

3. Find support
Do not be tempted to talk to anyone with an ear. Separation is an emotional event and if it can be done politely and considerately then it will be easier on all involved.

  • Consider sharing your emotions with a qualified psychologist rather than friends. Avoid social media.
  • Do not vent via inappropriate social media posts, which can potentially be used as evidence in future court proceedings.
  • Think about changing your personal passwords, including to cloud storage, which can sometimes be accessed via multiple devices in a household.

We offer a free initial consultation, during which we can share with you our experience and help you on your path. To find out more, visit richardson-murray.law and download our Family Law Guide here.

Budgeting 101: Save, pay down debt and achieve your goals

Want to save money, pay down debt, achieve your financial goals faster and live well along the way? These budgeting tips for beginners will show you how to make a budget that works and reveal the secrets to keeping your budget—and financial goals—on track.

The benefits of budgeting
Budgeting is boring, right? True, budgeting itself might not make for riveting conversation, but the goals it can help you achieve most certainly do. Holidays, a house deposit, having a baby, launching a business, retiring in comfort, shopping without guilt, and so on, are all benefits that can come from budgeting.

What is a budget?
Imagine you were heading off on a long trip across the country. You wouldn’t just start driving. You would first look at a map to plan your route. You’d look for rest stops, petrol stations, sights to see along the way. The alternative, without a map or GPS to guide you, is that you could take the long way, go in the wrong direction or go nowhere at all.

The same can be said about your financial goals: the best chance you have of achieving them is to have a plan. Yet the majority of people have no financial map at all. Money comes in and money goes out, which can lead to a lot of driving in circles!

In contrast, a good budget is like a map for your money. It will show you the fastest, most efficient path to reach your goals. If something unexpected happens along the way (eg. your cat needs emergency surgery), your budget can even help to recalculate the route.

Of course, if you’re new to budgeting you might be wondering if this money mapping is going to be time consuming or difficult. We won’t lie—creating a workable budget does take a little time. But we promise the results are worth it. We also promise that budgeting reduces financial stress and uncertainty, which gives you more financial freedom in your life, not less.

Budgeting tip #1: Start with why
Why do you want to make a budget? Are you saving for something special? Trying to pay down debt faster? Perhaps you’re tired of living week to week or sick of running out of cash before payday. There are a million good reasons to manage your money better with a budget.

Budgeting tip #2: Don’t overestimate your income
Your income is any money you receive or get paid throughout the year. As well as salary and wage payments, you may also have income from other sources, such as child support, a pension or dividends. If you have joint finances, make sure you include you and your partner’s income.

What if your income is inconsistent? Casual and contract work, commission-based sales, self-employment and other types of work can result in pay cheques that go up and down. This makes budgeting more challenging because there isn’t a set amount of money coming into your budget every pay cycle. If this describes your situation, the safest approach is to base your income on your lowest paycheque or monthly average.

Budgeting tip #3: Don’t underestimate your expenses
A common budgeting mistake is to include only essential, fixed expenses in your budget (eg. rent/mortgage, groceries, transport, utilities, insurance etc). However, for your budget to be realistic, it needs to include all of your discretionary expenses too.

Essential expenses describe items you need to live. Think needs: housing, food, transport, medical and electricity bills.

Everything else you spend money on are discretionary expenses. Think wants: restaurant meals, coffee, fashion, tech gadgets, memberships, subscriptions, home renovations, trumpet lessons, and so on.

It’s these little discretionary expenses that can add up quickly. The best way to uncover them is to go through your debit and credit card statements for the last three to six months. Use two different coloured highlighter pens to code your expenses as essential (needs) or discretionary (nice to have but not necessary).

Budgeting tip #4: Take the whole year into account
A common budgeting mistake is for people to base their budget on their pay cycle or the calendar month. Budgeting your monthly expenses and income is a good start, but the challenge comes when an annual or quarterly bill pops up. Suddenly, there is not enough monthly income to cover the budget’s usual monthly expenses plus, for example, annual car registration.

By creating a 12-month budget, your entire year of finances is mapped out. For a lot of people, this is where they discover why their finances feel like ‘one step forward and two steps back’.

On a weekly basis, it looks like they live within their means. But it’s the annual accumulative effects of kids’ birthdays, Christmas presents, car rego and servicing, power and water bills, council rates, and so on, that make it impossible to save.

Budgeting tip #5: Prioritise your expenses
At MyBudget, we organise our clients’ expenses into ‘streams.’ These get prioritised in order of importance. You can do the same with your budget. For example, essential living expenses (eg. rent/mortgage, electricity, petrol, groceries), will take priority over ‘Netflix’ or ‘Takeaway Food’.

Ranking your expenses is an excellent way to make sure you meet your most important obligations first. It can also reveal where you can trim the fat. New budgeters often ask themselves questions like ‘do I really need Foxtel, Netflix, Disney-Plus, Stan and Kayo?’

Budgeting tip #6: Build flexibility into your budget
You know the biggest challenge with budgeting? Life! Just when everything is going well, your car breaks down, water heater fails, or a global pandemic hits. This is why you need to build flexibility into your budget.

The way to create a flexible budget is with savings. This is money you set aside regularly that builds up into an emergency fund. It should have its own stream in your budget. To differentiate it from other saving goals, you should call it something like ‘Emergency Fund’, ‘Rainy Day Savings’, or ‘Buffer Money’.

Keep this money in a separate account or subaccount for safekeeping. It doesn’t matter if your savings start out small. Even just $5 to $10 a week will snowball over time. You can also top up your emergency savings with one-off payments, such as a tax refund, bonus or birthday money.

Budgeting tip #7: Budgets that don’t balance
A balanced budget is a budget where your income is equal to or greater than your expenses. With budgets that don’t balance there is more money going out than coming in. The danger in this case is that either your savings are going down or your debt is going up. This is how a debt spiral can begin.

So, what is the right approach with a budget that won’t balance? The first step is to congratulate yourself. Instead of hiding your head in the sand, by creating a budget you have a powerful money management tool that can help you to understand, explore and fix your financial situation.

Start by making changes to your budget to see what effect they have. These are all scenarios that can be explored with your budget:
● What if you were to trim your expenses?
● What if you were to refinance or consolidate your debts?
● What if you were to negotiate lower payments with your creditors?
● Should you sell an asset?
● What if you added an income stream to your budget?

Importantly, unlike Band-Aid measures, budgeting helps to uncover and fix the root of financial problems. And by getting to the underlying cause, you have the opportunity to stop them from happening again. In fact, with the right budgeting system, you have the foundation for lifelong financial success!

MyBudget is the worry-free way to manage your money

Whatever your financial goals, there is a MyBudget solution to help you reach them.

To find out more, call 1300 300 922 or enquire online today.