Alison Loach

Alison Loach​

Senior Associate

Alison Loach joined the firm in 2008, having previously conducted her own general law practice for 15 years in New Zealand having a particular expertise in Family Law including disputes about children and property.

She has been a Member of the District Legal Services Board, a Member of the Women’s Consultative Group to New Zealand Law Society and the Vice-President of the Marlborough District Law Society Council. Alison has many years of experience in resolving parenting disputes and litigating successful outcomes in Family Law court proceedings involving children. She has conducted many successful International Child re-location cases and is an expert in the field.

Alison is a Member of the Family Law Section of the Law Institute of Victoria.

Alison Loach
OUR FAMILY LAWYERS
Alison Loach

Alison Loach

Senior Associate

Giuseppe Rubino

Giuseppe Rubino

Senior Associate

Stephanie Hope

STEPHANIE HOPE

Senior Associate

Related Articles & Cases

changing a consent order | Melbourne Family Lawyers

Can I Change Consent Orders?

Absolutely, changing a consent order is possible, but it’s not a walk in the park. You’ll need to establish that there’s been a significant change in circumstances since the original orders were made.

This could be anything from a change in living arrangements to health issues affecting either the child or a parent.

The court will then consider whether the proposed changes are in the child’s best interests.

How to Change a Consent Order

  1. Mutual Agreement: The simplest way is to agree on the changes with the other party mutually. You can then document these changes into new Consent Orders and apply for these new orders in court.
  2. Mediation: If you can’t agree, consider mediation through a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner. You can document an agreement in a Parenting Plan if it is reached.
  3. Court Application: If all else fails, you must apply to the court to vary the existing orders. This is usually a last resort due to the time and expense involved.

When Can a Consent Order Be Changed?

A Consent Order can be changed when there’s a “significant change in circumstances.” This could include:

Relocation Plans Involving the Child

If one parent plans to relocate to a different city, state, or even country, the existing Consent Order may need to be revised to accommodate this change.

The order might need to specify:

  • New visitation schedules, considering the distance and travel time.
  • How the costs of travel for visitation will be split between the parents.
  • Communication methods and frequency between the non-relocating parent and the child.
  • Any changes in primary custody, if applicable.

Significant Changes in Living Arrangements

Let’s say one parent moves to a smaller home, or a new partner moves in with one of the parents.

These changes could impact the child’s living conditions and may require a review of the Consent Order. Changes might include:

  • Re-evaluation of the child’s primary residence.
  • Modifications to visitation schedules to ensure the child has adequate living space during visits.
  • Re-assessment of financial contributions from each parent, especially if the change impacts the child’s quality of life.

Health Issues Affecting the Child or a Parent

If a child or parent develops a significant health issue, the Consent Order may need to be updated to include:

  • New medical responsibilities for each parent, such as who takes the child to doctor’s appointments or administers medication.
  • Changes in custody or visitation schedules to accommodate medical treatments.
  • Financial adjustments to cover new medical expenses.

Cases of Abuse

In unfortunate cases where abuse is involved, immediate changes to the Consent Order are often necessary for the safety of the child or the abused parent.

These changes could include:

  • Revoking or limiting visitation rights of the abusive parent.
  • Implementing supervised visitations.
  • Changing the primary custody to the non-abusive parent.
  • Including restraining orders or other legal protections within the Consent Order.

In each of these scenarios, it’s crucial to consult legal professionals to ensure that the changes are in the best interests of the child and are legally sound.

The court uses a rule known as the “Rice v Asplund” rule to determine if a significant change has occurred. This rule limits ongoing litigation and its impact on families, particularly children.

How We Can Help: Changing a Consent Order

We recently had the opportunity to assist a divorced father grappling with the complexities of amending a consent order related to his children’s custody arrangements.

Recognising the emotional and legal weight of the situation, we scheduled an in-depth consultation to explore his options.

We clarified that altering a consent order isn’t straightforward and generally requires proof of a “significant change in circumstances.”

We guided him through the required documentation and legal procedures, even offering to represent him in court to ensure his interests were adequately protected.

The complexities of amending a consent order should not be navigated alone. Legal intricacies can become overwhelming, especially when dealing with emotional matters like child custody.

What is a Consent Order?

A Consent Order is a legal document that formalises an agreement between two parties in a family law dispute.

It’s often used to settle property division, spousal maintenance, and child custody matters. The purpose of a Consent Order is to provide a legally binding resolution without the need for a court trial.

Both parties must agree to the terms, and the order is then approved and issued by a court, usually the Family Court of Australia or the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

A specialised law firm can provide invaluable insights, ensuring that all necessary procedures are followed and your interests are effectively represented in court.

Suppose you find yourself in a similar situation. In that case, we strongly recommend consulting with legal professionals who can guide you through each step, empowering you to make informed decisions that are in the best interests of you and your family.

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Here’s a quick rundown of what happens at interim hearing family court:

Pre-Hearing Preparation

Before the interim hearing, both parties must prepare their case meticulously.

This involves filing an application for the hearing and gathering all necessary documents, such as affidavits, financial statements, and other evidence supporting their case.

It’s crucial to consult with a legal advisor during this stage to ensure that all paperwork is in order and that you’re presenting the strongest case possible.

The Opening Statements and Objections

Once the hearing begins, each party or legal representative will make an opening statement.

This is a brief overview of what they hope to achieve with the interim hearing.

It sets the tone for what’s to come and gives the judge an idea of what each party seeks.

There will also be a list of objections that each party will go through to try and remove any inadmissable evidence.

Presentation of Documents and Submissions

After the opening statements, both parties present their documents and make their submissions.

This is where the judge reviews the affidavits, financial statements, and any other evidence provided.

Each party will also have the opportunity to make oral submissions to clarify their position further and request specific interim orders.

No Cross-Examination

Unlike final hearings, interim hearings do not involve cross-examination of witnesses.

The judge relies solely on the documents provided and the submissions made by each party.

This is why the pre-hearing preparation stage is so crucial; the documents you present will be the judge’s primary information source.

Judge’s Deliberation and Interim Orders

Once all documents have been presented and submissions made, the judge will take some time to deliberate.

They will consider the urgency of the matter, the best interests of any children involved, and the fairness of the proposed interim orders.

The judge will then issue an interim order, which could range from child custody arrangements to financial maintenance orders.

These orders are temporary and will remain in effect until the final hearing or further notice.

Post-Hearing Actions

After the interim orders are made, both parties must adhere to them strictly.

Failure to comply could result in legal consequences and negatively impact the final hearing outcome.

It’s also an excellent time to regroup with your legal advisor to discuss the next steps in your case and prepare for the final hearing.

How Long is an Interim Hearing?

Interim hearings are generally short, often allocated a maximum of 2-4 hours. They are designed to resolve urgent issues quickly, so they don’t have the same procedural depth as a final hearing.

How Do Interim Orders Work?

Interim orders are temporary solutions to urgent problems. They can relate to child custody, spousal maintenance, or property issues.

These orders are effective until the final orders are made. For example, an interim order might grant one parent sole custody of the children or allow one spouse to remain in the marital home until the final hearing.

Also read: Pros and Cons of Collaborative Family Law

When Is an Interim Hearing Required?

Interim hearings are usually required when urgent matters need to be resolved before the final hearing.

This could include issues related to the safety of children, urgent financial matters, or disputes over the marital home.

What if My Matter is Listed for an Interim Hearing?

If your matter is listed for an interim hearing, it’s crucial to prepare thoroughly.

You must apply and prepare supporting documents like affidavits and financial statements.

Both parties must attend the hearing, and it’s advisable to consult a legal advisor to improve your chances of a favorable outcome.

Professional Legal Advice Is Essential

An interim hearing in family court is a quick but crucial event aimed at resolving urgent issues, be it child safety or financial matters.

Every step carries weight, from the initial paperwork to the judge’s final interim orders.

Given the complexities and the absence of cross-examination, professional legal advice isn’t just a good idea—it’s essential.

So, if you’re facing an interim hearing, ensure you’re well-prepared and consider consulting a legal expert to guide you through this pivotal process.

at what age can a child decide who to live with | Melbourne Family Lawyers

In Australia, there’s no specific age at which a child can unilaterally decide who to live with.

The Family Law Act focuses on the “best interests of the child” as the primary consideration in custody arrangements.

While a child’s views are considered, the weight given to those views depends on factors like age, maturity, and understanding of the situation.

For children aged 12 and above, their opinions are generally given more weight, but it’s not a guarantee that the court will abide by their wishes.

Legal advice is often recommended for navigating these complex issues.

The question “At what age can a child decide who to live with” is a complex and often emotionally charged issue many separated or divorced parents face.

This article aims to clarify this topic, drawing insights from various legal experts and family law practices.

The Best Interests of the Child: The Overarching Principle

Before we delve into age-specific guidelines, it’s essential to understand that the Family Law Act places the “best interests of the child” as the paramount consideration in any custody arrangement.

In Australia, the paramount factor in child custody decisions is the child’s best interests. This principle, enshrined in the Family Law Act of 1975, directs judges and family law practitioners to prioritise the child’s welfare, protection, and development when determining child custody. While the law recognises the significance of a child’s viewpoint, it also acknowledges that children may not always be able to make completely informed decisions.

The Age Factor: Not a Clear-Cut Answer

Contrary to popular belief, there is no specific age at which a child can unilaterally decide who they want to live with.

However, the court does give weight to a child’s views depending on their age, maturity, and understanding of the situation.

Age 12 and Above

Children aged 12 and above are generally considered mature enough to express their views. In identifying when can a child make custody decisions, the child’s age and maturity are crucial in determining their capacity to participate in custody decisions. While there is no specific age at which a child can automatically make custody decisions, Australian courts generally perceive children aged 12 and older as having a greater capacity to express their opinions. It is essential to note, however, that the weight given to a child’s opinion is ultimately up to the court, which considers the child’s maturity, comprehension, and reasoning ability.

However, this is not a hard and fast rule, and the court may still override the child’s wishes if they conflict with their best interests.

Below Age 12

For children below the age of 12, their opinions may still be considered but are less likely to be the determining factor.

The court will look at other elements like the child’s emotional well-being, the parents’ ability to provide for the child, and the child’s existing living arrangements.

The Role of Independent Children’s Lawyers

Australian courts have the authority to appoint independent legal representation for minors involved in custody disputes to ensure fairness and safeguard their rights. The court-appointed representative, known as an Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL), operates in the best interests of the child and facilitates the child’s participation in the legal process. The ICL aids the court by communicating the child’s desires and providing information about their welfare. Independent Children’s Lawyers (ICL) play a crucial role in representing the child’s interests.

Co-Parenting and Flexibility

Flexibility in co-parenting arrangements is vital. As children grow and their needs change, parents should be willing to revisit and adjust custody arrangements.

Open communication between parents can often lead to the best outcomes for the child.

Family Reports and Expert Assessments

In instances where children’s custody preferences are sought, family reports and expert evaluations are frequently used as decision-making aids. Psychologists, social workers, and other specialists in child development and family dynamics have compiled these reports. They provide an impartial assessment of the child’s circumstances, including their perspectives, emotional well-being, and relationships with parents and other significant people. These reports are considered by the court in determining custody arrangements.

Legal Advice and Mediation: At What Age Can a Child Decide Who to Live With

Parents should seek legal advice and consider mediation as a first step in resolving custody issues.

Mediation often leads to amicable solutions that serve the child’s best interests without the need for court intervention.

We recently had the opportunity to assist a client, a mother, who was deeply concerned about her daughter’s well-being amidst a complicated child custody battle.

The mother was particularly anxious about her young daughter being asked to decide which parent she’d prefer to live with.

Understanding the emotional toll this could take on both the mother and her child, we immediately set to work.

Firstly, we educated the client on the Family Law Act, emphasising that the court’s primary concern is always the “best interests of the child.”

We clarified that while a child’s opinion might be considered, it’s only one of many factors the court evaluates.

To alleviate her concerns, we suggested the appointment of an Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL) to represent her daughter’s interests in court.

This would ensure that her daughter’s voice would be heard but not be the sole determining factor in the custody arrangement.

We also guided the client through mediation processes, aiming for an amicable resolution that would spare her daughter the emotional strain of a court battle.

The mediation was successful, leading to a co-parenting arrangement that both parties were satisfied with and, most importantly, served the child’s best interests.

The question of “at what age can a child decide who to live with” doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer.

The court’s primary concern is always the child’s best interests; various factors, including age and maturity, play into this.

Parents should seek legal advice and be prepared for a nuanced and sometimes complex legal process.

received family law court application | Melbourne Family Lawyers

Sometimes, the first you know about your spouse or ex-partner taking Family Law Court action against you is when a process server knocks on your door to serve you with a Court Application. 

Whilst a natural reaction for you may be to avoid being served with the court document, this may end up being to your disadvantage.

Family Law Court Application Common Scenario

  1. Receipt of Court Application: Once your ex’s lawyer initiates court proceedings and issues a Family Law Court Application, you’ll receive it.
  2. Court Allocated Date: The Court will have already assigned a specific date for an interim court hearing or a Case Assessment Conference as soon as they issue the Application.
  3. Mandatory Court Procedure: The court procedure is scheduled to proceed on the allocated date, regardless of your preferences.

Strategies After Receiving Family Law Court Application

When faced with a Family Law Court Application, individuals may initially find it distressing as it signifies the termination of a marriage or relationship. However, it is crucial to recognize that it also marks the beginning of the dispute resolution process. Here are the necessary steps to take if served with a family law court application.

Serve Court Application Quickly

The longer you avoid being served with the Court Application, the less time you and your divorce lawyer will have to prepare for the court date.

At Melbourne Family Lawyers, if we are already acting on behalf of a client, our lawyers would usually accept service of the court documents on the client’s behalf.  This results in the family Lawyer and the client receiving the Court Application without delay, thus enabling us to provide advice at an early stage and obtain the necessary instructions from the client in defence of the Court Application. 

Bear in mind that the more notice your lawyer has of the pending court date, the more time he/she has to prepare for the court hearing;  also, the greater the likelihood that he/she will be able to fit your case in to a busy lawyer’s court schedule. The client also gets the advantage of receiving early legal advice as to what to expect, rather than having to endure days of anxiety not knowing.

If both the Applicant’s Lawyer and the Respondent’s Lawyer are fully appraised of the relevant facts, it may even be possible to negotiate an out of court settlement on the first court hearing date.

Consider an Adjournment

While it may be possible to request an adjournment of the first court date, judges are often hesitant to grant them. Keep in mind that obtaining an adjournment can lead to delays and unnecessary expenses for both parties, and it may not be easily granted by the court.

How We Can Assist

Our top priority at Melbourne Family Lawyers is finding a resolution for your dispute. If you’re dealing with a Family Law Court Application, you can trust us to know the appropriate steps to take. Contact us for assistance.

who keeps the engagement ring after a divorce australia | Melbourne Family Lawyers

Who Keeps the Engagement Ring After a Divorce Australia?


In Australia, the question of who keeps the engagement ring after a divorce hinges on several factors, including how the ring was acquired and the intentions of both parties involved.

While the question of who retains ownership of the ring may seem straightforward, the legal landscape offers nuanced considerations that require careful examination.

This article delves into the intricacies of engagement ring ownership within the context of divorce proceedings in Australia, providing clarity on this often contentious issue.

🔑 Key takeaway: Ownership of an engagement ring after a divorce in Australia is determined by various factors, including the circumstances of acquisition and the intentions of the parties involved.

Understanding the Legal Framework: Factors Influencing Ownership

The legal framework considers principles of property law and equitable distribution, often viewing engagement rings as gifts.

However, whether these rings are classified as matrimonial property depends on specific circumstances.

Factors such as the timing of the gift, any prenuptial agreements, and the intention behind the exchange play pivotal roles in determining ownership rights.

🔑 Key takeaway: Ownership of the engagement ring is influenced by factors such as the timing of the gift, prenuptial agreements, and the intention behind the exchange.

Examining Precedents and Case Law: Legal Precedents in Engagement Ring Disputes

Australian courts have grappled with numerous engagement ring disputes, setting precedents that inform subsequent cases.

While there is no definitive ruling, courts typically consider the nature of the gift and the parties’ conduct when adjudicating ownership rights.


In cases marked by deceit or breaches of trust, the balance may shift in favor of the aggrieved party, underlining the significance of transparency and honesty in addressing disputes.

🔑 Key takeaway: Legal precedents highlight the importance of transparency and honesty in disputes over engagement rings, with courts considering factors like the gift’s nature and the behavior of the parties involved.

Navigating Legal Proceedings: Strategies for Resolving Disputes


When facing a dispute over an engagement ring, resolving the issue amicably through mediation or negotiation is typically preferable to protracted and costly litigation.

Collaborative approaches minimise emotional strain and provide the parties with greater control over the final resolution.

🔑 Key takeaway: Pursuing amicable resolution through mediation or negotiation can alleviate emotional strain and provide greater control over the outcome of engagement ring disputes.

Seeking Legal Counsel: The Role of Family Law Practitioners

Navigating the complexities of engagement ring disputes requires expert legal guidance from experienced family law practitioners.

A skilled lawyer can offer invaluable advice on the legal implications of ownership rights and advocate for their client’s interests during negotiations or court proceedings.

🔑 Key takeaway: Consulting with a knowledgeable family law practitioner can ensure ownership rights are protected.

Balancing Legal Considerations and Emotional Closure

The resolution of engagement ring disputes in Australia demands a delicate balance between legal considerations and emotional closure.

While the legal framework provides guidelines for determining ownership rights, the emotional significance of engagement rings underscores the need for sensitivity and empathy in resolving disputes.

By prioritising open communication, seeking legal advice, and engaging in respectful dialogue, couples can navigate this challenging aspect of divorce with integrity and compassion.

🔑 Overall key takeaway: Balancing legal considerations with emotional sensitivity is essential for resolving engagement ring disputes with fairness and compassion.

ending a defacto relationship vic | Melbourne Family Lawyers

Ending a defacto relationship Vic can be a complex process.

While it may not involve the formalities of a divorce, there are still legal considerations to keep in mind.

It’s a big step, and while it might be emotionally draining, there are some practical things you need to sort out.

Here are the things you need to do should you consider ending a de facto relationship.

Ending a DeFacto Relationship Vic

Step 1: Communication is Key

The first step in ending a de facto relationship is communication. One party must inform the other that they wish to end the relationship.

Unlike marriage, there’s no formal process like divorce for de facto relationships.

Step 2: Seek Legal Advice

Before you start dividing assets or making big decisions, it’s a good idea to consult a family lawyer.

They can guide you through the legal aspects of ending a de facto relationship, such as property division and child custody.

Step 3: Financial Inventory

Make a list of all shared and individual assets and debts. This includes bank accounts, property, vehicles, and personal items like jewellery.

This will be crucial when it comes to dividing assets.

Step 4: Property and Financial Settlement

You can either agree on how to divide assets and debts amicably or seek legal intervention. If you opt for the latter, you may need to formalise the agreement through a financial agreement or a consent order from the court.

Step 5: Parenting Arrangements

If you have children, you’ll need to sort out custody arrangements. This can be done amicably through family dispute resolution or court orders.

The focus should be on what’s best for the children.

Step 6: Update Legal Documents

Remember to update your will, power of attorney, and any other legal documents that may be affected by the end of your relationship.

Step 7: Maintenance Requests

If one partner is financially dependent on the other, they may be entitled to maintenance. Discuss this openly or consult your lawyer for advice.

Step 8: Time Limits

Remember, you have two years from the date of separation to apply for property and financial settlements.

After this period, you’ll need the court’s permission to apply.

Step 9: Emotional Support

Ending a relationship is emotionally taxing. Don’t hesitate to seek emotional support from friends, family, or professional counsellors.

What Constitutes a De Facto Relationship?

A de facto relationship is defined as two people living together on a genuine domestic basis but are not legally married.

The relationship can be between heterosexual or same-sex couples.

Courts consider various factors like the duration of the relationship, financial dependence, and public perception to determine the existence of a de facto relationship.

Legal Rights and Obligations: Ending a DeFacto Relationship Vic

Even if you’re not legally married, you’re still protected under the Family Law Act 1975.

You may need to divide property, assets, and debts. Both parties may be entitled to a share of the assets if the relationship lasted two years or more or if children are involved.

Always Consult Legal Professionals

Ending a de facto relationship in Victoria involves more than just emotional separation. Legal aspects like property division, child custody, and financial settlements can’t be ignored.

It’s advisable to consult legal professionals to ensure the separation process is as smooth as possible.

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