Katherine Siotos

Katherine Siotos​

Solicitor

Katherine completed her Juris Doctor degree at Deakin University in 2020 and has worked as a paralegal in Family Law for 5 years before being admitted as an Australian Lawyer and Officer of the Supreme Court of Victoria and the High Court of Australia in 2021.

Katherine is highly dedicated and passionate about Family Law. She possesses sound knowledge in all areas of Family Law, including Property, Parenting and Divorce. Katherine brings a significant level of devotion towards providing professional legal services and is driven by obtaining outstanding results for her clients.
She ensures specialised solutions are provided to manage cases and delivers practical outcomes that are achieved in her clients’ best interests.

Katherine is a member of the Law Institute of Victoria.

Katherine Siotos
OUR FAMILY LAWYERS
Alison Loach

Alison Loach

Senior Associate

Giuseppe Rubino

Giuseppe Rubino

Senior Associate

Stephanie Hope

STEPHANIE HOPE

Senior Associate

Related Articles & Cases

same sex family | Melbourne Family Lawyers

In Australia, about 11% of gay men and 33% of lesbians have children. These children might have been conceived in the context of previous heterosexual relationships or raised from birth by a co-parenting gay or lesbian couple or single parent.

The research significantly challenges the notion that a same-sex family can harm children. Children in such families fare just as well emotionally, socially, and educationally as their peers from heterosexual couple families.

Legal Recognition and Rights

In Australia, a same-sex family set-up has made significant strides in terms of legal recognition. The landmark decision to legalise same-sex marriage in 2017 was a monumental step forward.

Additionally, same-sex couples have the right to adopt children domestically and internationally. This legal framework not only validates the same-sex family unit but also provides legal protections that were previously lacking.

The right to shared property, spousal support, and inheritance are now safeguarded, levelling the playing field and paving the way for societal acceptance.

Key Takeaway: The legal milestones achieved in Australia have been instrumental in normalising same-sex families and providing them with the same rights and protections as heterosexual families.

Parenting Roles

When it comes to parenting, same-sex couples often defy traditional gender roles. In lesbian-parented families, for example, studies have shown a more equitable division of labour than heterosexual couples.

Similarly, gay male couples tend to share domestic and parental responsibilities more equally. This balanced approach to parenting creates a nurturing environment for children, as they are exposed to diverse role models within the home.

Key Takeaway: The absence of traditional gender roles in a same-sex family often leads to a more balanced and equitable distribution of parenting duties, which benefits the child’s development.

Public Perception and Stigma

While Australia has seen a positive shift in the public perception of same-sex families, challenges still exist.

Stigma and discrimination are not entirely eradicated and can manifest in various settings like schools, workplaces, and healthcare institutions.

Public education and awareness campaigns are crucial for dismantling these societal barriers. Initiatives that promote inclusivity and diversity can go a long way in normalising a same-sex family.

Key Takeaway: Changing public perception is a gradual process requiring continuous effort from the community and allies. Education and awareness are vital tools in this endeavour.

Social Support and Services

Australia offers a plethora of services tailored specifically for LGBTIQ families. These range from counselling services to healthcare programs that address mental and physical well-being.

Community programs also exist to provide social support and networking opportunities for same-sex families.

These services are vital for addressing LGBTIQ families’ unique challenges, such as navigating the complexities of adoption or surrogacy and dealing with societal prejudices.

Key Takeaway: Specialised services for LGBTIQ families are essential for their well-being and social integration. Utilising these resources can significantly improve the quality of life for these families.

Lesbian-Parented Families

Lesbian-parent families in Australia seem to be doing quite well. Some researchers have concluded that children raised by lesbian couples experience higher-quality parenting.

Additionally, sons from these families display greater gender flexibility, and both sons and daughters are more open-minded towards sexual, gender, and family diversity.

Families Parented by Gay Men

About 11% of gay men in Australia are parents. These families may have been formed through various means, including previous heterosexual relationships or co-parenting arrangements.

The research indicates that children in these families are just as emotionally, socially, and educationally well-off as those in heterosexual families.

Children’s Wellbeing in Same-sex Parented Families

Maintaining a child’s well-being in a same-sex family isn’t much different from any other family.

Open communication is key. Ensure a supportive environment where the child feels loved and secure.

Having a strong social support network, including friends, family, and healthcare providers, is also important.

Educational institutions should also be inclusive and supportive of diverse family structures.

Seek Legal Advice

Like any other, same-sex families contribute to society’s richness and diversity and deserve the same rights, recognition, and respect.

While Australia has made significant progress in legal recognition and social acceptance, it’s crucial to remember that each family’s journey is unique.

Given the complexities that can arise in family law, especially for non-traditional families, seeking gay divorce lawyer advice is highly recommended.

Legal counsel can provide tailored guidance on adoption, surrogacy, and parental rights, ensuring you’re well-informed and protected.

In an ever-changing world, being legally savvy is not just an option; it’s a necessity.

how to get a divorce | Melbourne Family Lawyers

Ending a marriage is always a challenging decision. Still, if you’ve come to the difficult conclusion that divorce is the best option, it’s essential to understand the process and legal requirements on how to get a divorce.

Divorce is the legal process of ending a marriage, dissolving the legal bond between spouses, and allowing them to live separately and independently.

What Is A Divorce Order?

A divorce order is a legal document that a court issues to end a marriage formally.

It confirms that the marriage between two individuals is legally dissolved, and they are no longer considered husband and wife in the eyes of the law.

Once a divorce order is granted, both parties are free to remarry if they choose to do so.

It is an essential document that signifies the finality of the marriage and the beginning of a new chapter for the individuals involved.

How To Get A Divorce in Australia?

Divorce can be a complex and emotional journey, but understanding how to get a divorce can help ease the burden.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get a divorce in Australia, including the legal framework and essential considerations.

1. Meet the Legal Requirements

In Australia, you must meet certain legal requirements before applying for a divorce. These requirements include:

a. Jurisdiction:

At least one spouse must regard Australia as their home and intend to live in Australia indefinitely or be an Australian citizen by birth, descent, or grant of citizenship.

b. Separation:

The marriage must have irretrievably broken down, demonstrated by a period of separation lasting at least 12 months. This means you and your spouse have lived separately and apart for the required duration.

Also read: How Long Does a Divorce Take in Australia

2. Seek Legal Advice

Divorce can involve complex legal issues, especially regarding property settlement and child custody arrangements. Before initiating the divorce process, seeking legal advice from a family lawyer is advisable.

They can provide personalised advice based on your circumstances and protect your rights.

3. Prepare the Divorce Application

To begin the divorce process, you must complete and lodge a divorce application form with the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. You can apply jointly with your spouse or separately if your partner is unwilling to cooperate.

4. Serve the Divorce Application

If you file for divorce jointly, there is no need to serve the application on your spouse. However, if you file separately, you must arrange for a copy of the divorce application to be given to your spouse according to court rules.

5. Attend the Divorce Hearing

In some cases, a divorce hearing may not be required. However, if there are children under 18 involved or the court requires further information, a hearing date will be set.

Both parties must only attend the hearing if they have filed a joint application. If everything is in order, the court will grant the divorce, and a divorce order will be issued one month and one day after the hearing.

6. Consider Child Custody and Property Settlement

It’s essential to note that a divorce only legally ends the marriage. Child custody arrangements and property settlements are separate matters that require careful consideration.

If children are from the marriage, you must address custody, visitation, and child support arrangements.

For property settlement, reaching a mutually acceptable agreement or, if necessary, seeking court intervention to divide assets and liabilities fairly is recommended.

How To Oppose A Divorce?

Legal Representation: It is essential to seek legal advice from a family lawyer to understand your rights and options. An experienced lawyer can help you prepare and represent your interests effectively.

File a Response: When you receive the divorce application from your spouse, you will have an opportunity to file a response with the court. In your answer, you can state why you oppose divorce and present your arguments.

Contest the Grounds: If the divorce application is based on specific grounds (e.g., separation), you can contest the accuracy or validity of those grounds. Provide evidence and facts to support your position.

Attend Court Hearings: If the court schedules a hearing, attend and present your case. This is an opportunity to explain your reasons for opposing the divorce and respond to any questions from the court.

Gather Evidence: Collect any evidence or documents that support your position, such as financial records, communications, or evidence of attempts to reconcile.

Child Custody and Property Division: If you have children or significant assets involved, address these issues separately from the divorce proceedings. Present your preferences for child custody arrangements and property division.

Seek Legal Remedies: If your spouse is not meeting their obligations, you can pursue legal remedies for specific issues (e.g., non-payment of child support).

How We Assist Our Clients: How To Get A Divorce

Stella and Jordan, a couple who recently decided to end their seven-year marriage, approached us as a law firm.

We listened to their concerns during the initial meeting and outlined the divorce process, explaining the legal requirements and potential outcomes.

We began preparing the necessary divorce paperwork upon their agreement, ensuring accuracy and completeness. We guided them through the documentation.

After presenting their case, the court granted their divorce. We successfully helped Stella and Jordan navigate the divorce proceedings, ensuring their rights were protected and enabling them to move forward positively with their lives.

Remember to Seek Legal Advice

Getting a divorce in Australia involves several legal steps and requirements that must be met. It can be emotionally challenging, but understanding the legal process can provide clarity and guidance.

Remember to seek legal advice, file the necessary documentation, and consider the implications for child custody and property settlement.

With the proper support and knowledge, you can navigate through this challenging period and move towards a new chapter in your life.

child custody when mother is breastfeeding

Child custody disputes can be emotionally stressful and legally complicated. When a mother is breastfeeding, it may be necessary to take additional factors into account.

The Family Law Act 1975 governs child custody issues in Australia, recognising the necessity of breastfeeding for infants’ health and well-being.

Here is a closer examination of how Australian law deals with child custody when the mother is breastfeeding.

Practical Considerations

Breastfeeding can pose practical challenges for shared care arrangements, such as when the child needs to be fed during visits with the non-resident parent.

In such cases, the court may order that the mother provides expressed breast milk or formula for the child during visits or that visits take place around feeding times.

Visitation Schedule for Breastfeeding Infant

If the mother is breastfeeding, there are several parenting arrangement options available that can take into account the needs of both the mother and the child. Here are some possible arrangements:

  • Sole custody with regular visits: The mother may have sole custody of the child, but the father can have regular visits with the child. The visits can take place at times that do not interfere with breastfeeding, or the mother can provide expressed breast milk or formula for the child during visits.
  • Joint custody with breastfeeding-friendly arrangements: The parents can agree to joint custody, where the child spends time with both parents. The parenting arrangements can be breastfeeding-friendly, such as having shorter but more frequent visits with the father or having visits during feeding times.
  • Temporary custody arrangements: If the child is still a newborn or infant, the mother may need temporary custody until breastfeeding is established. After this period, the parents can revisit the custody arrangements and adjust as needed.
  • Mediation and negotiation: If the parents cannot agree on the custody arrangements, they can seek the help of a mediator to facilitate discussions and come up with a mutually agreeable arrangement that takes into account the needs of the child and the mother’s breastfeeding needs.
  • Court-ordered arrangements: If the parents cannot agree on the custody arrangements, they can seek the court’s intervention. The court will consider the best interests of the child and may order arrangements that take into account the mother’s breastfeeding needs.

In any event, it is essential to prioritise the child’s needs and guarantee their safety and care. The parents can work together to create a parenting plan that benefits everyone, or they can seek professional assistance of custody lawyers if necessary.

Presumption of Shared Parental Duties

One of the most important goals is to ensure that children have meaningful relationships with both parents when it is safe and in their best interests.

There is a presumption of shared parental responsibility, which means that both parents should have an equal voice in significant decisions concerning the child’s upbringing, such as education, healthcare, and religion.

However, this does not imply that equal time or shared care is suitable for all families.

The family court will consider a variety of factors, such as the child’s age, the relationship between the parents, the child’s wishes (if they are mature enough to express them), and the practicability of proposed arrangements.

Also read: Does the Mother Always Have Automatic Custody?

Breastfeeding and Its Importance

The court must consider the significance of breastfeeding to the child’s health and well-being when a mother is breastfeeding.

Antibodies and essential nutrients in breast milk protect infants from illness and infection.

Additionally, breastfeeding facilitates bonding between mother and infant, which is essential for emotional development.

If the primary caregiver is the mother and the child is still breastfeeding, the court will likely prioritise the child’s need for continuity and stability in their care arrangements.

Breastfeeding may have a significant impact on the duration and frequency of visits with the non-resident parent.

In some instances, the court may order that the non-resident parent’s visits be supervised or occur at specific times to minimise disruption of the child’s breastfeeding routine.

Breastfeeding and Winning the Custody Battle

Can a mother use breastfeeding to win child custody battle? No, a mother cannot use breastfeeding to automatically obtain custody of her child in a custody dispute with the father.

Decisions regarding child custody when mother is breastfeeding. are based on the child’s best interests, and factors such as the child’s relationship with each parent, their physical and emotional well-being, and their ability to satisfy the child’s needs are considered.

Although lactation is regarded as essential for the health and well-being of infants, it is not a factor in custody decisions.

If the mother is the primary caregiver and the child is still breastfeeding, the court may consider the child’s need for continuity and stability in care arrangements, as well as the feasibility of proposed custody arrangements.

However, this does not automatically grant custody to the mother.

Also read: Does the Mother Have Full Custody?

Conclusion

In conclusion, child custody when mother is breastfeeding is a complex issue that requires careful consideration of the child’s best interests. The court will take into account the importance of breastfeeding for the child’s health and well-being and strive to ensure that both parents have a meaningful relationship with the child.

will a family trust protect my assets | Melbourne Family Lawyers

Will a Family Trust Protect My Assets?

In asset protection and estate planning, family trusts often emerge as a beacon of hope for safeguarding one’s wealth. But the burning question remains: Will a family trust protect my assets? The short answer is yes.

A family trust can offer a robust layer of protection for your assets. Still, it’s crucial to understand the nuances and conditions under which this protection operates.

What is a Family Trust?

A family trust is a legal arrangement where assets are transferred to a trustee, who manages them to benefit the trust’s beneficiaries.

This setup provides a flexible way to control and protect family assets while also potentially offering tax advantages.

However, the effectiveness of a family trust in protecting assets depends on several factors, including the trust’s structure and the timing of asset transfers.

🔑 Key Takeaway: Family trusts can protect assets by legally separating ownership, but their effectiveness depends on proper setup and management.

How Does a Family Trust Work for Asset Protection?

Family trusts create a legal distinction between the person who owns the assets (the trustee) and those who benefit from them (the beneficiaries).

This separation can protect assets from personal liabilities, creditors, and sometimes even during divorce proceedings.

However, it’s important to note that a family trust does not offer absolute protection. For example, assets moved into a trust shortly before a legal claim may be perceived as an attempt to evade creditors, which could result in the trust’s assets being vulnerable to legal action.

🔑 Key Takeaway: The protection of assets in a family trust hinges on the trust’s structure and the timing of asset transfers.

Family Trust Excludes Wife

When a family trust explicitly excludes a spouse, it is often a strategic decision aimed at protecting or managing assets in alignment with the trust’s objectives.

This exclusion could be for various reasons, such as tax planning, asset protection from potential future legal claims, or simply personal or family dynamics.

However, it’s crucial to understand that such exclusions can have significant legal and related implications. In Australia, for instance, the Family Court may still consider the trust’s assets in divorce settlements, especially if the trust’s structure or operations demonstrate an intention to defeat a spouse’s claims.

This underscores the importance of careful planning and legal advice when establishing a trust to ensure that it aligns with the creator’s intentions and complies with legal standards.

Effective Asset Protection Strategies

  1. Early Establishment: Set up the family trust well before any potential legal issues arise, not as a last-minute effort to shield assets.
  2. Correct Structure: Ensure the trust is structured correctly to meet your specific asset protection needs and objectives.
  3. Compliance with Laws: The trust must operate within the framework of Australian laws, including adherence to trust and tax legislation.
  4. Professional Advice: Consult with legal and financial experts in trust and estate planning to tailor the trust to your situation.
  5. Regular Reviews: Periodically review the trust structure and operations to adapt to changes in laws or personal circumstances.
  6. Clear Documentation: Maintain thorough and precise documentation of all trust activities, asset transfers, and decisions to support the trust’s legitimacy.
  7. Separation of Assets: Separate personal assets from those held within the trust to reinforce legal protection.
  8. Educate Trustees: Ensure trustees understand their roles, responsibilities, and the legal implications of their actions within the trust.
  9. Tax Planning: Incorporate tax planning into the trust’s structure to avoid unexpected liabilities and maximise tax efficiency.
  10. Asset Transfer Timing: Transfer assets into the trust at a time that cannot be construed as an attempt to defraud creditors or avoid legal responsibilities.

🔑 Key Takeaway: Effective asset protection through a family trust requires foresight, meticulous planning, and ongoing management, underpinned by professional advice to ensure compliance and maximise the trust’s protective capabilities.

Seek Professional Advice

A family trust can be a powerful tool for protecting your assets, provided it is set up and managed correctly.

It offers a layer of separation between the owner and the assets, potentially safeguarding them from various claims. However, the level of protection depends on the trust’s structure, the timing of asset transfers, and adherence to legal and tax obligations.

Seeking professional advice is crucial to navigate the complexities of family trusts and maximise their benefits for asset protection.

is mediation legally binding | Melbourne Family Lawyers

Is Mediation Legally Binding?

Mediation is a voluntary process in which a neutral third party, known as a mediator, helps disputing parties reach a mutually acceptable agreement.

It’s a flexible and confidential way to resolve disputes without court intervention.

But a common question arises: “Is mediation legally binding?” The short answer is, it depends on the outcome of the mediation process.

In the realm of family law, if both parties can reach an agreement and decide to formalise this through a Binding Financial Agreement or Consent Orders, once signed, the document becomes legally enforceable.

🔑 Key takeaway: Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process to find a mutually acceptable solution.

The Legal Status of Mediation Agreements

In Australia, the transition from a mediation agreement to a legally binding contract is contingent upon its formalisation.

This crucial step entails creating a written document summarising the agreed-upon terms during mediation and getting everyone’s signatures.

This document must clearly outline the rights, responsibilities, and obligations that each party has consented to, ensuring clarity and precision to avoid future disputes.

The formalisation process transforms the agreement from a mere understanding into a contract enforceable by law.

Legal advice is often sought in this phase to guarantee the agreement’s compliance with legal standards and its enforceability.

Once formalised, the agreement stands as a legally binding contract, capable of being enforced in Australian courts should any party fail to meet their agreed obligations.

🔑 Key takeaway: In Australia, a mediation agreement becomes legally binding through formalisation, requiring a written, signed document that aligns with contract law principles and is thereby enforceable in court.

Enforceability of Mediation Agreements

For a mediation agreement to be enforceable, it must meet specific criteria.

It should clearly outline the terms agreed upon by both parties, be signed by them, and ideally be drafted with legal guidance.

🔑 Key takeaway: When properly formalised, mediation agreements are enforceable under Australian law like any other contract.

Benefits of Mediation

Mediation stands out as a highly beneficial approach to dispute resolution for several reasons:

  1. Cost-Effectiveness: Mediation significantly reduces legal fees and other expenses associated with litigation. By resolving disputes outside of court, parties can save substantial money.
  2. Speedy Resolution: Unlike the often lengthy court processes, mediation can lead to a quicker resolution of disputes. This efficiency stems from the ability of the parties to schedule sessions at their convenience and work towards a resolution without waiting for court dates.
  3. Preservation of Relationships: Mediation fosters a cooperative environment, encouraging parties to work together to reach a mutually acceptable solution. This approach can help preserve personal or business relationships that adversarial legal battles might otherwise damage.
  4. Confidentiality: Mediation sessions are private, allowing parties to discuss their issues openly without fear of public disclosure. This confidentiality can be paramount in sensitive matters.
  5. Control Over the Outcome: In mediation, the disputing parties have more control over resolving their conflict. Unlike a court decision, which is determined by a judge or jury, mediation allows the parties to negotiate terms tailored to their needs.
  6. High Success Rate: Mediation has a high success rate in resolving disputes, with many cases ending in a mutually agreed-upon settlement. This success is attributed to the process’s collaborative nature and mediators’ expertise in facilitating productive discussions.

🔑 Key takeaway: Mediation offers a range of benefits, including cost savings, quicker resolutions, relationship preservation, confidentiality, control over outcomes, and a high success rate, making it an attractive alternative to traditional court proceedings.

Seeking Legal Advice

While mediation itself is not legally binding, the agreements reached through this process can be, provided they are formalised correctly.

Mediation offers a flexible, confidential, and efficient way to resolve disputes, making it a desirable option for many Australians.

Understanding its legal implications and seeking legal advice ensures that parties can approach mediation with clear expectations and work towards a resolution that mirrors their intentions and holds legal validity.

do consent orders expire | Melbourne Family Lawyers

Do Consent Orders Expire?

Consent orders do not have a specific expiration date unless stipulated within the consent order itself.

If the consent order pertains to parenting and children matters, it may expire when the child turns 18 and becomes a legal adult.

However, the consent order remains in place in most cases until the parties involved apply to terminate the agreement.

Reasons for Changing a Consent Order

Consent orders are designed to finalise the financial relationships between parties after a separation or divorce. However, there are circumstances where the court may vary these final property orders. Here are the reasons why a consent order can be changed:

  1. Miscarriage of Justice: This can arise due to fraud, coercion, suppression of evidence, giving false evidence, or other circumstances that lead to an unfair outcome.
  2. Impracticability: Situations may arise post the order, making it impracticable for the order or a part of it to be carried out.
  3. Default in Carrying Out Obligations: If a party defaults in fulfilling an obligation imposed by the order, and as a result, it becomes equitable to vary or set aside the order.
  4. Child’s Welfare: In cases related to the care, welfare, and development of a child, if circumstances of an exceptional nature arise post the order, and the child or the applicant (who has caring responsibility) will suffer hardship, the order may be varied.
  5. Proceeds of Crime Order: If such an order has been made covering the parties’ property or against a party, the consent order can be changed.

How To Amend a Consent Order?

To update a consent order, the parties involved should draft the terms of the new agreement, known as the “Minute of consent orders.”

An application for consent orders form needs to be completed, and affidavits from both parties should be prepared.

Once all documents are ready, the application can be filed with the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

How To Terminate a Consent Order?

If you wish to terminate a Consent Order, you must first have valid grounds, such as a significant change in circumstances or a breach of the order’s terms.

To initiate the process, you must submit an application to either the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, accompanied by an affidavit detailing the reasons for the desired termination.

While navigating this process, engaging a family lawyer for guidance is highly recommended. Once your application is filed, the court will schedule a hearing to review and decide on the order’s status.

Depending on the court’s decision, the order may either be terminated and no longer enforceable or remain in place.

It’s crucial to seek legal advice before taking any steps to ensure you’re well-informed of the potential outcomes and implications.

Seek Legal Counsel

Consent orders play a crucial role in ensuring that agreements made between parties post-separation are legally binding and enforceable.

While they offer a structured way to finalise financial and parenting matters, it’s essential to be aware of the circumstances under which they can vary.

Given the complexities involved, seeking legal counsel when dealing with consent orders is always advisable to ensure that one’s rights are protected and legal responsibilities are met.

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