Legal Firm

Advancement of women in the legal profession

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Adriana Care, Coutts Solicitors & Conveyancers principal solicitor and Your Law Society Team Country Member candidate in the Law Society of NSW council election, has signed the Law Society Charter for the Advancement of Women in the Legal Profession.

The Law Society of New South Wales promotes diversity, equality and inclusion in the legal profession, in particular by developing and progressing initiatives to ensure the equality of opportunity for all members of the profession, regardless of race, ethnicity, heritage, gender, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.

Women make up about 50 per cent of the legal profession, and have made significant advances in all areas of practice. However impediments still remain to the retention and career progression of women in the profession.

The Law Society’s Charter for the Advancement of Women is designed to promote and support strategies to retain women in the profession over the course of their careers and encourage and promote their career progression into senior executive and management positions.

The Charter aims to achieve this by assisting legal practices to develop cultures which promote diversity and inclusion and impact positively on all practitioners in their workplaces, resulting in better business outcomes for legal practices, the legal profession and the community as a whole.

In support of this initiative, the signatories to this Charter commit to:

  • demonstrating leadership by implementing diversity and inclusion principles in the legal profession and removing gender bias and discrimination in the legal workplace;
  • driving change in the legal profession by developing a culture that supports the retention of women legal practitioners and recognises their value in senior roles;
  • implementing recruitment and promotion strategies that include gender diversity as an important consideration, including ensuring equal pay for legal graduates within the same organisation regardless of gender;
  • promoting and supporting mentoring and sponsorship of women in the legal profession;
  • encouraging and supporting flexible work practices in the legal profession to assist men and women to better balance professional and other commitments.

Signatories agree to implement these strategies within two years of signing the Charter, with the exception of equal pay for graduates, which will be implemented within 12 months.

Charter content first appeared on the Law Society website. For more information visit the Law Society of NSW.

4 Do's and Don'ts when your house is being broken into.

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Generally, when a person’s home is being broken into, they automatically assume that they have the right to fight the intruder and/or assault the intruder because the intruder is trespassing in their home. Unfortunately, the law does not account for homeowners having a right to fight or hurt an intruder, and this mentality is what sees a lot of people experience the Criminal Courts across New South Wales.

So the question then is: what should you do if your house is being broken into?

  1. Listen carefully so that you can assess where the intruder may be and whether it is safe for you to get out of the house;
  2. If it is safe to do so, leave the house and go to your neighbours. If you do not feel that it is safe to leave, hide in a safe place inside the house with your family all in the one room and lock the door;
  3. If you do come into contact with the intruder, comply with their requests; and
  4. Call the police and report the incident. Wait for the police to attend before you return to your house.

What shouldn’t you do if your house is being broken into?

  1. Do not approach the intruder;
  2. *Do not assault the intruder.
  3. Do not call out and let the intruder know that you are in the house, if it is not safe to leave; and
  4. Do not tell the intruder that you have called the police.

*If you do assault an intruder, you may face legal implications and be charged. It's difficult to prove that you have acted in self-defence. It is up to the court to determine if you have acted in self-defence based on the evidence provided to them. If you are charged, you can be given up to 5 years imprisonment depending on the decision made by the court

Things to consider before you approach an intruder if you decide not to take the above advice:

  1. You don’t know who the intruder is;
  2. You don’t know how many intruder’s there are;
  3. You don’t know the mental or physical state of the intruder (For example, whether the intruder is under the influence of drugs or alcohol); and
  4. Whether the intruder is carrying a weapon.

Do not be a hero in these circumstances – you could be placing yourself and/or your family in a very dangerous situation.

You should ensure that you have good measures in place for your home security to limit the chances of having your home invaded. Also note that if an intruder is injured during their attempt to break into your property as a result of a homeowner assaulting them, they may have a right to claim through the civil courts, against the homeowner.

If you have been charged, or need advice in relation to a criminal law matter, please contact our Criminal Law Hotline on 02 8324 7527 to arrange an initial free consultation today.

Picton legal office reopening

Picton Flood Recovery

On the weekend of Sunday 5th June, most of us were aware of the wild weather that swept through the Macarthur Area. The lucky ones were rugged up inside their homes with the heating on, watching the heavy rain and gutters over flow through their windows. Many people started to realise by late Sunday afternoon that the heavy rain was causing hazardous floods in many areas, with pictures posted on social media of flood waters rising at Campbelltown Station, Mount Annan and Leppington. But it was the images of the high water levels sweeping through the main street of Picton that alarmed the staff at Coutts Solicitors and Conveyancers, as this is the location of our Picton legal office .

The Main Street of Picton Flooded

The Main Street of Picton Flooded

Coutts Solicitors &  Conveyancers is located on the corner of Argyle Street and Cliffe Street, very close to where these photos were taken. We all felt sick at the sight of the images of the floods, but at this stage had no idea of the damage caused to our offices.

On Monday morning none of the staff were able to attend the Picton office. All the roads were closed due to the high flood waters, so all Picton staff were relocated to the Narellan Office to work. Throughout the day we heard reports of neighbouring businesses front windows being  smashed by the rush of flood water and losing all of their stock. We could could not view the damage to our office, until the flood waters dispersed and roads to the area were reopened. However we still had hope,  we are on the higher end of the street, a significant distance away from the burst river banks.

Coutts Solicitors front entrance after the Picton floods.

Coutts Solicitors front entrance after the Picton floods.

It was Monday afternoon by the time we had access to our Picton legal office. The damage was immediately evident, with a brown sludge being left on the floor of the entire office (under the sludge are glossy white tiles). The smell was also horrendous, the whole office smelt like a sewer and the brown sludge looked like sewage, it was heartbreaking.

The damage was clear in every room,  computers, files, printers and stationary all clearly showing the water damage. We established by the water marks on the wall that the water levels had submerged the office 30 - 40 cm. The money and time needed to repair the office had yet to be calculated, but at this stage we realised the damage was worse than we initially thought. We had not been as lucky as we had hoped on Monday.

After the devastating news of our own damage we began to hear unsettling rumours of Picton businesses insurance claims being rejected. Many insurance companies  had found a loophole to avoid paying out for damages.   We watched in dismay as  fellow Picton business owners coped with the crushing news, many had been operating their whole life in the area and were now out of business as a result. We joined the community in their reaction of anger and disgust at theinsurance companies tactics to save their money.....  We were yet to be assessed by our insurance company, so the future of our office remained uncertain.

Thanks to our Insurance Broker

Luckily, we had a wonderful insurance broker (Jared from Ausure) who was communicating with our insurance company. He organised for an assessor to come out to our office and view the damage. We were fortunate enough that our Insurance company decided we were able to put in a claim for the damage. It was a huge relief, our Picton legal office would reopen, but we still had a long road ahead with the clean up and replacement of our equipment to take weeks.

The aftermath of the Picton floods resulted in many businesses on the main street shutting down for weeks,  some had to close their doors indefinitely. When we did go to Picton, it looked like a ghost town, we were worried about the future of business  and concerned if the town would recover.

Back in business for Picton!

Now, nearly 3 months after the devastating floods, their is a light at the end of the tunnel. Community events have been held to raise money for the businesses and residents that were badly effected by the natural disaster.  Local businesses offered a helping hand to those in need with, discounts and charity donations. As much as the Picton floods caused so much trauma and stress to its residents, it has been amazing to see the generosity and caring spirit of people in the whole of the Sydney area. All the donations and charity to the Picton flood relief have helped Picton get back in business.

The Coutts Solicitors & Conveyancers Picton legal office is coming close to finishing its repair and is set to reopen on or before the 31st August. We are extremely thankful for those people who contributed to its refurbishment and  helped us to get back to business. We are looking forward to reopening our doors and being able to provide the Picton residents with legal services once again.

Please remember to "Go Local"  when choosing a service or purchasing products, your support will help Picton businesses to thrive once again.

10 things to think about when Separating - Property

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If you are going through a separation, and own property together (whether you are married or a de facto couple), you will need to decide on separating property between you. Before you are able to reach an agreement with separating property you have, it’s important to have reasonable expectations. Expectations of life after separation and what life is really going to be like for you, sometimes don’t meet up, so it is important to take a realistic approach.

Here are 10 things to think about when separating property:

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What next?

After you have taken the time to consider these things and what you want for the future, it is important to speak to a lawyer about the best way to move forward. It’s very important that a formal family law property settlement is done to protect you both in the future.

To make an appointment to discuss your separation and these issues, contact us today. We can help you plan how to move past these issues and onto the next exciting chapter of your life.

Should I let my Children Travel overseas with my ex?

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If your ex has asked to take your children to travel overseas with them, you may be worried or questioning, "Should I let my children travel overseas with my ex?". On the one hand overseas travel can be an amazing opportunity for children to spend time with your former partner and learn about the world. However, it can be a scary and uncertain thing for the parent who isn’t travelling with the children. When considering a request from your ex to take your children travelling overseas, you obviously need to consider if it is safe for your children to travel. One of the biggest concerns people express  is that the other parent will not return the children to Australia.

When weighing things up, you should consider the following:

  1. Is your former partner a citizen, or are your children citizens of another country?
  2. Does your former partner have family in another country that they are close with?
  3. Has your former partner ever lived overseas, or expressed a desire to move overseas with the children?
  4. Is your former partner proposing to travel with the children to a country that is not a signatory to the Hague Convention?
  5. Do you have current Family Law Orders in place?

What is the Hague Convention?

Formally called ‘The Hague Convention of the Civil Aspects of Internal Child Abduction’, the Hague Convention is an international treaty that provides avenues for child recovery when a person takes children overseas without permission or does not return to the home country as promised.

Countries that have agreed to be a part of the Convention are called ‘signatories’.

Australia is a signatory to the Hague Convention, and so when children travel to other signatory countries, the Hague Convention applies. However, if children travel to other countries that are not signatories to the Hague Convention, then the treaty does not apply and the avenues it provides are not available if the children are not returned. For the full list of countries practicing the Hague Convention click here.

What are Family Law Orders?

Family Law Orders are orders that have been made under the Family Law Act. They provide orders about things like who children live with after separation takes place. Family Law Orders can also provide conditions of overseas travel.

If there are Family Law Orders in place, both parties are bound to comply with the orders. Failure to comply allows the other party to make an application to the court to enforce the orders under certain circumstances.

So, what can I do to make sure that my children travel safely with my ex?

Holidays are a part of life, and overseas travel is a wonderful opportunity for your children to learn about the world. But, if you are unsure or uncomfortable with the thought of your children travelling and want to know more about your options, please contact us for an appointment.

The Coutts Solicitors Family Law team are experienced and knowledgeable in all areas of current Australian Family Laws. Several members of our team practice solely on Family Law Matters, meaning they have advised hundreds of people on Family Laws. Each of our team are excellent at negotiation and mediation outside of Court, as well as representing you in Court if you wish to proceed to this level. If you would like to know more about Family Law and how Coutts can help, please click here.

I have been left out of a Will! - Can I make a claim?

When a person dies, it is often a troubling time. When a person finds out they have been left out of a Will it can increase the stress, particularly if that news comes as a surprise. There are two main things to consider if you have been left out, if you are considering what your legal rights are: are you an eligible person and, if so, what are your needs to be provided for?

Who is an eligible person?

A spouse or a child of the deceased are considered to be eligible persons. There is a third category that defines any person who was in a relationship of financial dependence with the deceased to be eligible. We are waiting for a few decisions to be made giving us examples of what types of people may fall into this category. But until it is thought that some types of carers who are paid in kind (perhaps with free food or board) for their assistance and grandchildren who receive financial support from the deceased. But it is still a fairly untested category.

What kind of needs does the Court consider?

When making a claim you will need to provide solid evidence of your financial circumstances: what assets you own, how much super you have, your income, your debts and any future needs (such as medical and education expenses). If you have a spouse, the same information will be required from them too. Then your position will be compared to those named in the Will (the beneficiaries). If you are in substantially worse of position, the Court may order that some of the estate is given to you. The Court will also consider your relationship with the deceased, any of your conduct that may be relevant to why you were left out in the first place and of course, the wishes of the deceased. After all, the fact they choose to disinherit you will not be ignored by the Court.

It is very important to know that you only have 12 months from the date of the deceased’s death to file your Summons, commencing your claim. Although it is possible to commence an action after 12 months has passed, you need to convince the Court that they give you their permission to start your claim.

Because of the strict time requirements imposed by the Court, if you have been left out of a Will you should legal advice as soon as possible with our experienced estate litigation solicitors.

A note to those people who have a Will already or are considering making a Will that will leave someone out. It is very important that you meet with an experienced Will practitioner to discuss your particular circumstances and what can be done to protect your estate against silly claims.

Coutts can help you with your Will or advise you of your rights if you have been left out of a Will. Contact Coutts Solicitors & Conveyancers today.

6 steps to recover financially from a Separation or Divorce

In Australia today around 1 in 3 marriages can be expected to end in divorce. With 77% of Australian couples also living together before getting married (and let’s face it - some don’t go the distance) the real impact of  relationship breakdowns is likely to be much higher than the statistics lead us to believe. 

There is no doubt moving on from any long term relationship, be it marriage or de facto, can attract a heavy emotional toll. But the financial impact can also be far reaching and long lasting.

Finances are often left on the back burner as you focus on the emotional health of yourself and your family. Perhaps it is the fi rst time you have had sole responsibility for your finances? Or maybe you feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start?

The key is to take action early. Here are some steps to get back on track financially after a separation or divorce…

1. Check your credit rating

A vital first step is taking control of your financial future! Check to see if your credit report contains any errors or if any of your partner’s information is listed. If so, have it rectified. There are two main credit reporting agencies - Veda and Dun & Bradstreet

2. Identify your creditors

Make a list of all your creditors, both secured and unsecured. Your secured creditors are those where assets are used as security for the loan, eg house or car. Negotiation of both the assets and the outstanding loans will be required by both parties.

3. Separate all joint accounts

A time consuming but crucial step is to unravel all your joint accounts, including credit cards. Even if the separation is amicable it is best to separate all accounts to avoid future issues.

4. Create a budget

An unavoidable result of separation is a change in lifestyle. An important step in making this adjustment is creating a comprehensive budget separating discretionary and mandatory expenses. To stick to your new budget you may need to make tough decisions on discretionary spending. Of course, if you have children then child support may also come into the equation – one party may be paying child support while the other receives it. Remember that child support payments will cease or may be amended at some point in time. This should be factored into future planning for both parties.

5. Decide on your housing options

In most cases the family home is either sold or refinanced. At least one partner will need to find somewhere new to live. While renting may be a viable short term option, in the long term most people wish to buy a home. You will need expert advice on how to best refinance your home or secure a loan for a new home. If refinancing or applying for a new loan it is important that all required identity documentation reflects your new marital status and/or any change of name.

It is essential you contact your mortgage broker to discuss the process BEFORE lodging any loan application documents.

6. Prepare a Financial plan for the future

• Start an emergency fund - open a separate savings account for unexpected emergencies. • Update your Will – ensure it reflects the changes that have occurred in your life. • Manage your debt - contact us for a chat about how to reduce your ‘bad’ debt like credit cards and personal loans as quickly as possible. • Plan for your retirement - review superannuation and update beneficiary details if required. • Review your insurance needs - you will need to update policies from married to single status.

This is a guest blog written by Andrew Evans from Mortgage Guy. If you would like to discuss getting your finances on track after a separation or divorce click here to contact Mortgage Guy . If you are thinking of separating from your partner and would like information from the Coutts Solicitors Family Law team click here to contact Coutts Solicitors.

Is Separation hard to do?

As a family lawyer, I see people going through separation every day. Many people ask me "Is Separation hard to do?" , Separation is becoming more common in our society. But just because it happens every day doesn’t mean that it is easy, either emotionally, physically or legally. Even though most people do not realise it, being married or in a de facto relationship actually bears very serious legal ramifications, and so the process of separation is also a complex legal matter.

Background: the marital relationship

Throughout history, marriage has been considered a legal agreement to bind two people into a relationship. From a legal point of view, it is very similar to a contract. As a part of this legal agreement, many rights and obligations are given to both parties particularly in relation to property. Think of these as the ‘fine print’ or the ‘terms and conditions’ of marriage. Once a couple is married, any assets or debts that they have are considered marital assets and marital debts, regardless of whose name those assets or debts are in. Marriage also creates certain rights in relation to a persons estate after they pass away.

Since 2009, the Family Law Act also covers de facto relationships. This means that there are rights and obligations that mirror that of a married couple if two people are in a relationship and have been living together for more than two years or if they have children together.

It is important to remember that just because marriage and de facto relationships are common does not mean that the law treats them with indifference. The rights and obligations that go along with these relationships create serious and quite complex legal issues.

What kinds of rights and obligations are created in these special relationships?

The main rights and obligations that are created are in relation to legal and financial matters.

When a party to marriage or a de facto relationship buys property or acquires an asset, that property or asset becomes property of the marriage, regardless of whose name it is in.

The same goes for debts, all credit card debts, loans and mortgages taken out by either party become debts of the marriage.

There are also rights and obligations created in terms of information. For example, if my husband is in an accident, I have the right to information about his health and condition, and I also have the obligation to make decisions about this treatment if he is not in a position to do so himself.

Marriage and de facto relationships also create rights of survivorship and impact on a person’s estate after they have passed away.

Separation: exiting a marriage or de facto relationship

The act of separation itself does not end the rights and obligations that have been created. So, when separation does take place, proper steps must be taken to end the rights and obligations that have been invoked by marriage or time (in the case of de facto’s).

The steps that must be taken can vary slightly on a case by case basis, but what all separations have in common is this: you must engage in legal processes to end the rights and obligations that have been created by the relationship. If you do not do this, those rights and obligations will continue into the future (for more information about time limits, please click here).

Just as the rights and obligations created are serious and complex, so is the process to undo those rights and obligations. Although it is possible to enter into an agreement about what you want to do with those rights and obligations, for that agreement to be legally recognised it must be done in a certain way.

Legal processes: ending the rights and obligations

While legal processes can often seem confusing and unnecessary, it is important to follow these processes to make sure that you are protecting yourself in the future. If you do not engage in these legal processes after separating, then you are not ending the rights and obligations that the parties have to one another.

To actively sever the rights and obligations created by your relationship in a way that is legally recognised, you will need to either:

  1. Enter into an agreement that is drawn up in accordance with the law. This means using forms and processes that are set out under the Family Law Act and Family Law Rules. A mere verbal or written agreement is not enough to be a legally recognised agreement.
  2. Have an order made by the Court.

It is also incredibly important that you consider doing things like:

  1. Updating you Will, Power of Attorney, and Enduring Guardianship.
  2. Applying for a Divorce.

Protecting myself in the future: what do I do now?

To find out more about what you need to do next, contact Coutts Solicitors and Conveyancers  to make an appointment on 1300 268 887.

We will be able to provide you with advice about what needs to be taken into consideration in your particular case, and guide you through the processes from there.

Joint tenants and tenants in common

What are Joint tenants and tenants in common ? If you and your partner have just thought about purchasing a property or are in the process of purchasing a property this is a question you will need to know the answer to. When you review your contract with your conveyancer you will be asked if you would like to purchase your property as Joint tenants or tenants in common. Most people are not aware of this until the appointment and do not realise the implications of their choice. We at Coutts endeavour to help you make the best choice for your current circumstances ensuring you have an easy transaction from beginning to end. As like every person, buying a property is quite complex and it can be a stressful period. One of the biggest decisions you both have to make is whether you wish to buy the property as Joint Tenants, Tenants in Common in equal shares or Tenants in Common in unequal shares. In this article I will describe to you the differences between joint tenants and tenants in common.

It is important to pick your shares earlier on in the purchasing transaction. During your Contract Review with your Solicitor or Licensed Conveyancer they will describe the difference. This article is going to give you a clear understanding on the differences and describe what these mean in "layman" terms so that any persons,  purchasing a property can make an easier decision prior to signing on the dotted line.

It is important to understand, discuss and decide on your shares prior to completion date, as if you make the wrong decision it will cost time and money to amend your shares later on down the track. It is not impossible to change your shareshowever, choosing the most suitable option early on will save you time and money and protect your best interests.

Joint Tenants

Usually, married couples are joint tenants. They own 50% of the property each. This means that if one party was to die the share he/she hadat the time of death can be transferred to the surviving partner. Therefore one person would have the whole 100% share.

One thing most people don't know about Joint Tenants is that you cannot "leave" your share to another person. For example if you and your de facto are joint tenants and you pass away you can't leave your share to your children regardless of the terms of your will. Your share will be left automatically to your de facto partner. It is up to them whether they choose to leave part of the property to your children when they pass away.

Tenants in Common in equal Shares

Tenants in Common in equal shares are normally made by couples who purchase who are not married. This means that yourself and your partner own 50% of the property each and if one of the partners were to pass away their 50% share will be left in accordance with the terms of their Will. This is becoming more common with second time around partnerships and couples with children to previous marriages.

It is very important that if you select to be a tenant in common that you prepare a Will immediately. In the Will you can set out how you wish for your 50% share to be divided. So, what does this mean for your partner who is left behind? It means that the people who are entitled to your share can force your surviving partner to sell the property to obtain your share of the property.

I have in previous years seen where this is an issue. An elderly person has been made to sell the property because step children wanted to sell the property to obtain their share of their parents half of the house. In this case we can create a life estate later on to protect the interest of an elderly person to ensure that they can live in the property until such time as they pass away or decide to move on.

Tenants in common in unequal shares

This is the same principal as above the only difference being on how many shares you own.

For example Brother and Sister are purchasing a property. Property is worth $1,000,000. The brother puts in $800,000 of his savings and sister puts in the remaining $200,000 into the property. As you can see the brother contributed 80% of the purchaseprice and the sister contributed 20% of the purchase price. Both wish to be tenants in common in unequal shares. Therefore, they will own the property as "brother as to 80/100 shares and Sister as to 20/100 shares".

As long as the shares add up to the value of 100th or 10th you can have as many people purchasing or as many shares as decided.

Given the rising prices of housing in all of Sydney many parents are choosing to either go guarantor on the children's property or even putting large sums of money towards their children's home. To protect their interest many parents are added onto the Contract and onto the deeds. An example where we can mix joint tenants and tenants in common is: husband and wife buy property, dad contributed a large some of money towards the purchase. Husband and wife own the property as joint tenants 50% and dad owns other half of the property, 50% as a tenant in common. This means that if the husband was to pass his share will automatically go to his wife. However, if the father passes away his 50% share would be distributed as per the terms of his will. If at any stage the husband and wife want to purchase back the fathers 50% then husband and wife would have to obtain a valuation from a registered property valuer and pay 50% stamp duty on the value of the property.

As you see from the examples whenbuying a property things can get quite complex. So ensure that you have discussed these matters with your partner prior to signing on the dotted line. If you would like any more information about your shares in a property please contact Coutts Solicitors & Conveyancers on 1300 268 887.

When is an Independent Contractor Really an Employee?

Independent contractors can be a cost effective way to structure or even supplement your workforce, for when times get busy. A business that has famously used independent contractors is Uber. They are currently the talk of the town. They use a concept that matches people who need a lift somewhere.... with a regular Joe who has a spare seat. Its critics will say it is just like a taxi service, but without any regulation or safety for passengers. Whatever you think of Uber (or don’t think of it, as the case may be) the startup has again made the headlines, this time some of its drivers have commenced an action in California claiming that they are employees of Uber, not independent contractors and should be paid reimbursements, such as fuel. The question of whether a person undertaking work for another is an employee or an independent contractor is one of the most frequently ask questions in employment law. From an employers point of view, using independent contractors over a traditional employee/employer relationship can be quite attractive- although often paid more on an hourly or piecemeal rate, there is no PAYG, compulsory superannuation contribution or insurances obligations. They can be utilised when the work is there. From an independent contractor’s point of view, it can be more flexible as a contractor can name their rate, hours and can knock back work if they chose to.

So what is the catch? Why don’t more work places use contractors? Not all industries have fluctuations in work load and need a steady work force. Contractors can cost more. And if an employer gets things wrong, by hiring contractors, that are essentially working as employees, things can get very expensive very quickly. The ATO will come knocking for PAYG, interest and possibly fines. APRA will also seek employee superannuation from you and when that is late, the fines can be steep. Because of uncertainty about when a contractor will actually be deemed an employee, many workplaces are hesitant to use contractors, however, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!

When using independent contractors, there are a few things that employers can do to make sure those contractors really are contractors:

  • Get legal advice tailored to your industry and specific work place. Maybe independent contractors are not going to work for you.
  • Use a detailed agreement that clearly sets out the employment relationship. This must be done by a lawyer who is up to date with employment issues and decisions.
  • Once you have your agreement in place- stick to it! It can be easy to fall into a employer/employee relationship.
  • Make sure your contractors have their own public liability and professional indemnity insurances and workers compensation insurance.
  • Don’t try to out-fox the tax-man- if the ATO thinks that there is a sham going on, they have wide reaching powers to decide that you are using employees and the range of penalties on offer can be great.

Do you need advice on a current independent contractor or hiring a new contractor? Talk to Coutts Solicitors & Conveyancers. Coutts have the experience and expertise to help your business get the most benefit out of hiring contractors.

Call Now on 1300 268 887 your first appointment is FREE (excluding contract reviews).

Separated? ....... how do your kids feel?

Whether you have just decided to separate or have been separated for some time, you and the other parent obviously need to think about and agree on arrangements about the children. Many children worry about what will happen to them when their parents split up, and it can be a big relief to them if the arrangements become clear and predictable.

How do I make a parenting agreement?

A parenting agreement is an arrangement that separated parents make about how their children will be cared for and supported. One of the things about coming to a parenting agreement that many parents are particularly worried about, is working out where their children will live and how much time each child will spend with whom.

There are usually strong emotions around this topic for parents, these strong feelings can lead people to act in ways that they might not usually act, or may not even agree with. Some parents can get focused on who will 'win’, they may have long debates about where children live and how much time each parent should get. Arguments between the parents can continue for long periods without a resolution.

Before getting caught up in conflicts about what is fair and unfair for each parent, you could get ready to make a parenting plan by focusing your thinking on what will be best for your children.

What actually are my parental responsibilities?

  • Consider your children’s needs as a priority and make arrangements for your children that are in their best interests.
  • Protect your children from physical or psychological harm or the risk of harm.
  • Encourage your children to talk to and see the other parent regularly, unless this would place your children at risk of harm.
  • Not say or do things that stop your children communicating with the other parent, or  that might harm their relationship with the other parent.
  • Encourage and assist your children to enjoy their culture.
  • Maintain your children financially.
  • In most cases, participate in major long-term decisions about your children.

How a Solicitor can help you to reach an agreement

Not all separated parents are able to agree on parenting arrangements, or the agreements they have made are not kept. The highly charged emotional nature of the decision making in regard to the children can cause massive stress, especially if arguments have become aggressive and unreasonable.  In some cases it may not be safe to try to reach agreement, or there may be other difficulties or urgency that prevents parents from agreeing to arrangements. If this applies to you, you may need to go to court. A Family law Solicitor is an expert in this field, they can advise you on your rights as a parent and the family court system. They will guide you through the legal process and how it relates to your families circumstances.

If you go on to court, the court will have to consider the terms of the most recent parenting arrangements and make a parenting order in relation to your children, if they believe that is in the best interests of your children. A Solicitor will be on hand to give you the advice and support you will need while going to court.

Information was sourced from HERE.

If you would like to talk to a Family Lawyer call Coutts Solcitors & Conveyancers on 1300 268 887 for a FREE Initial Consultation for up to 1 hour.

Will you sleep tonight? Without a Will, your assets are at risk.

Thinking about the worst is not something that any of us like to do.  But unfortunately, life doesn't always turn out the way we had planned. Preparing a Will isn't just for those at retirement age. If you have any assets or money at all, you should have a bulletproof Will in place to make sure they are left with the right beneficiaries. In the absence of a Will, your home, savings and more importantly - the financial security of your family is at stake. We've seen it all too often and it’s heartbreaking.

The number of people contesting Wills today is much higher than it used to be, which provides another compelling reason to put your Will in place. Firstly, people are becoming wealthier, so there is more wealth to leave behind.  Secondly, the rising divorce rates are creating complex family structures that aren't as straightforward as they were in the past.

Preparing your Will

If you haven’t yet prepared a Will, consider the following questions:

  • How much is your estate worth and who will be your beneficiaries?
  • Do you wish to include any specific charities?
  • Who will execute your Will after you've gone?
  • Do you need to name legal guardians for children under 18?
  • Do you need to mitigate any inheritance tax liability?

Already have a Will?

If you already have a Will prepared and haven’t looked at it for a while, it might be a good idea to go through it again and make sure you've left no stone unturned. Perhaps your situation and circumstances have changed and you wish to make some adjustments. There’s no better time than today.

Ensuring there are no discrepancies in your Will is not a simple task.  We can work with you to ensure your Will covers all facets of your estate, to reduce the likelihood of any legal dispute. If you need some expert help on preparing or reviewing your Will, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

House price high set to continue

We were amazed to hear that a normally slow period for the housing market has turned out to be a bumper one. Supported by the lowest interest rates in decades, a rise in investor confidence and a solid economic performance, Australian home buying activity is progressing towards record levels. And there doesn't seem to be any slow-down in the coming months.

In the June quarter, National house prices have risen by 2.8 per cent and an astonishing 5.4 per cent this year to date. This level of growth has not been seen since March 2010, according to the Australian Property Monitors (APM) quarterly housing report. But what is so interesting, is that this boom hasn't been created through any Government intervention or stimulus package.

Prepare to cash-in on a hot winter for home owners

The current housing boom is so significant, it’s set to be one of the hottest winter property seasons on record. If predictions are in fact correct, buyer activity is set to accelerate through the remainder of 2013 with the expectation that market momentum will continue in full-swing and prices will keep on rising until the year end.

If you’re thinking of selling your property, you might want to think about it sooner rather than later, to take advantage of a supply and demand situation that’s currently in favour of those selling up. Before your house goes on the market, you’ll need to swiftly get a Contract for Sale prepared by a Solicitor or Conveyancer.

If you need some advice or assistance in getting your property market-ready, we can help with an affordable, fixed-price service that’s quick and convenient. Don’t hesitate to call us on 02 4647 7577 to get started.