Stephanie Hope

Stephanie Hope

Senior Associate

Stephanie comes to Melbourne Family Lawyers with over ten years of experience in family law, including both property and parenting matters. She has a wide breadth of experience, knowledge and success in negotiation, mediation, Family Dispute Resolutions Conference (FDRCs) and litigation (Court proceedings).

Stephanie has been successful in litigated matters but also prides herself in successfully negotiating favorable outcomes for most of her clients; sparing them from the financial and emotional burden of final trials.

Stephanie Hope
Alison Loach

Alison Loach

Senior Associate

Giuseppe Rubino

Giuseppe Rubino

Senior Associate

Stephanie Hope


Senior Associate

Related Articles & Cases

signing a prenup | Melbourne Family Lawyers

Signing a Prenup: 4 Important Factors To Consider When Signing a Prenuptial Agreement

When two individuals decide to enter into a lifelong commitment through marriage, signing a prenup is an option many consider.

In Australia, prenuptial agreements can play a crucial role in outlining each spouse’s financial rights and responsibilities in the event of separation or divorce.

This article aims to provide an overview of prenuptial agreements in Australia, their legal standing, and the key factors couples should consider when contemplating signing a prenup.

Understanding Prenuptial Agreements

A prenuptial agreement is a legally binding contract between couples before marriage or entering into a de facto relationship.

The agreement allows couples to predetermine the division of assets, property, debts, and other financial matters should their relationship dissolve.

Prenups are designed to provide certainty, protect individual interests, and simplify asset distribution in the event of separation or divorce.

Legal Framework in Australia

In Australia, prenuptial agreements are legally recognised and enforced under the Family Law Act 1975.

This act governs the division of property and financial matters in case of relationship breakdowns. While the act does not explicitly mention “prenuptial agreements,” the courts consider them as binding financial agreements under Section 90B (for married couples) and Section 90UB (for de facto relationships).

Factors To Consider When Signing a Prenup

When contemplating signing a prenup, several factors warrant careful consideration:

1. Individual Circumstances: Each person’s assets, debts, and financial situation should be thoroughly evaluated to determine the appropriate provisions within the agreement.

2. Future Needs: Anticipated future needs, such as career aspirations, children, and potential inheritances, should be accounted for to ensure a fair agreement.

3. Flexibility: Prenuptial agreements can be customised to address specific concerns, providing flexibility and control over asset division.

4. Review and Update: Regularly reviewing and updating the prenup is advisable, mainly when significant life changes occur, such as children’s birth or substantial changes in financial circumstances.

Helping Our Clients in Signing a Prenup

As a law firm specialising in family law, we recently had the privilege of assisting a client in signing a prenuptial agreement. Our primary goal was to provide our clients with expert guidance and protect their interests.

From the initial consultation, it was clear that our client was concerned about safeguarding their inheritance before marriage.

Our team provided continuous support and were able to successfully quarantine her future family inheritance from the asset pool.

It is always a rewarding feeling to provide a satisfactory outcome to a client!

Seek Legal Advice Before Signing a Prenup

Signing a prenuptial agreement in Australia can provide couples with clarity and financial security should their marriage end in separation or divorce.

By understanding the legal framework, meeting the requirements for validity, and considering individual circumstances, couples can create a prenup that safeguards their interests while promoting fairness and transparency.

mediation custody

For families going through a divorce or separation, child custody battles may be both emotionally exhausting and legally challenging.

The judicial system in Australia is aware of how crucial it is to put children’s interests first. As a result, mediation has grown to be an important technique for settling custody disagreements.

This article examines the value of mediation for all parties concerned in custody disputes under Australian family law.

Child Custody Mediation Process

An impartial third party, known as a mediator, helps separated or divorced parents communicate and negotiate during the voluntary and private mediation process. The main goal of mediation is to assist parents in coming to mutually agreeable parenting arrangements, such as child custody and visitation rights.

Mediation custody is an essential part of the family law system and is strongly advised before turning to legal action. To advance the best interests of their children, parents are encouraged to actively participate in mediation under the Family Law Act of 1975, which emphasises the value of non-adversarial dispute resolution.


When it comes to resolving disagreements, mediation custody has many benefits, especially when it comes to child custody issues. Here are some of the benefits:

  • Child-Focused Approach: Mediation puts the best interests of the child at the forefront. It allows parents to work together and craft a parenting plan that considers the unique needs and circumstances of their children. The child’s welfare, emotional well-being, and continuity of relationships with both parents are prioritised during the mediation process.
  • Cost-Effective: Compared to litigation, mediation offers a more cost-effective option for resolving custody disputes. Court battles can be lengthy and expensive, whereas mediation provides an opportunity for parents to resolve their issues more efficiently and affordably.
  • Control and Flexibility: Mediation empowers parents by allowing them to maintain control over the outcome of their custody arrangements. Unlike court decisions, which can be rigid and impersonal, mediation provides a flexible environment where parents can tailor agreements to suit their family’s unique needs and circumstances.
  • Preservation of Parent-Child Relationships: Mediation promotes effective communication and cooperation between parents, fostering an environment that supports positive parent-child relationships. By finding common ground and resolving conflicts amicably, parents can create a more harmonious co-parenting dynamic, which can significantly benefit the child’s emotional well-being.
  • Reduced Conflict and Stress: Going through separation or divorce is inherently stressful, especially when it involves child custody matters. Mediation aims to reduce conflict and tension by facilitating open and constructive dialogue. It provides a safe space for parents to express their concerns, identify shared goals, and work towards mutually acceptable solutions, ultimately reducing the emotional strain on both parents and children.

The Role of Child Custody Mediators

Mediators are impartial professionals who play a vital role in guiding parents through the mediation process. They aid in setting expectations, facilitating conversations, and promoting effective problem-solving.

While mediators cannot give legal advice, they can enlighten parents about the legal system and assist them in making wise decisions.

It’s important to note that mediation is not suitable in cases where there is a history of domestic violence or child abuse. In such circumstances, the child’s safety and well-being should be given top priority, and the proper legal steps should be taken to safeguard them.

How We Can Help

Our child custody expert lawyer recently assisted our client, Emma, in resolving a challenging custody battle through mediation. We explained the mediation process to Emma, emphasizing its cost-effectiveness and child-focused approach.

We gave Emma’s rights direction and protection during the sessions. We noticed the transforming influence of mediation as we observed open discourse and efficient communication. Emma and her ex-partner gradually agreed on a parenting schedule that satisfied both parties and made sure their son’s needs came first. 

Our experience has strengthened our belief in the effectiveness of mediation custody, which enables parents to make decisions about their child custody arrangements and encourages positive co-parenting.

Mediation and Child’s Best Interests

Mediation serves as a crucial tool for resolving custody disputes in Australia. Mediation custody has become an integral part of the family law system because it puts the best interests of the child first, encourages communication between the parents, and provides a less expensive alternative to courtroom battles.

While legal counsel may be required in complicated situations, mediation gives parents the chance to remain in control of their custody decisions and foster a supportive co-parenting relationship.

Parents can cooperate to ensure the well-being and happiness of their children both during and after a separation or divorce by being open with one another and negotiating.

child custody under 2 years old

Child custody can be a complex issue, especially when a child is under two years old. In Australia, the Family Law Act 1975 governs child custody matters.

When determining what is in the best interests of a child younger than two years old, the court considers several factors.

This article examines the laws considered in child custody cases involving child custody under 2 years old.

When determining child custody, the court always takes the child’s best interests into account. This means that the child’s safety, well-being, and development are the primary focus. The court looks at a range of factors to determine what is in the child’s best interests, including:

  • The child’s relationships with the parents, grandparents, and other significant individuals
  • The child’s age, development, and level of maturity.
  • The capacity of each parent to provide for the emotional and physical requirements of the child
  • The need for consistency and stability in the child’s care arrangements
  • A history or current of family violence, abuse, or neglect
  • Any additional relevant factors, including the child’s cultural background and special requirements

The Importance of the Relationship

The child custody law law in Australia acknowledges the significance of a child’s relationship with both parents.

This means that the court will consider how much time the child spends with each parent and what the nature of the relationship is like.

When a child is under the age of two, the court will consider the principal attachment figure or figures, who are typically the primary carer or carers.

This implies that the court will consider the child’s strongest attachment and primary carer.

Recommended Arrangement

Research indicates that frequent and consistent contact with both parents is generally considered beneficial for the development and well-being of infants and toddlers.

This is because infants and toddlers are still forming attachments to their primary caregivers, and maintaining these attachments is advantageous.

In their care arrangements, parents must also consider the child’s need for stability and continuity.

This implies that the infant must have consistent routines for them to feel secure and safe.

An example of a parenting arrangement for a child under 2 years old would be like this:

  1. The child lives with one parent and sleeps in one place;
  2. The child spends 3 hours a day, once every 2 or 3 days, with the other parent that the child does not live with.

In many instances, parents are encouraged to construct a parenting plan outlining the custody arrangements that are in the best interests of the child.

This plan can be formulated with the assistance of a mediator or child custody lawyer to ensure that it is fair and practical for both parents.

The Role of Parenting Plans

Parents who are separating can create a parenting plan to assist in determining child custody arrangements.

A parenting plan is a written agreement between parents outlining how they will divide parental responsibilities and make decisions regarding their child.

The Role of Mediation

Mediation is a common method of resolving child custody disputes in Australia. An impartial third party assists the parents in reaching an agreement during mediation.

When parents can not agree on arrangements for child custody under 2 years old, mediation can be especially beneficial, as the mediator can help them consider what is in the child’s best interests.

The Role of the Court

Alternatively, if parents cannot compromise on child custody, the family court can decide.

The court will consider the aforementioned factors and may appoint an independent attorney for children to represent the child’s best interests.

The optimal child custody arrangement for a child under the age of two will ultimately depend on the family’s specific circumstances and must prioritise the child’s protection, well-being, and development.

Disputes over child custody can be complicated, particularly when the child is younger than two years old.

The Family Law Act of 1975 governs child custody disputes in Australia and takes the child’s best interests into consideration.

For child custody under 2 years old, the court looks into the child’s primary attachment figure or figures and the need for stability and continuity in their care arrangements.

Parents can develop a parenting plan and engage in mediation to assist in resolving child custody disputes.

If parents cannot reach an agreement, the court will determine what is in the child’s best interests.

do consent orders need to be signed | Melbourne Family Lawyers

Do consent orders need to be signed?

Yes, consent orders need to be signed.

A consent order is a formal and legally binding document detailing an agreement regarding parenting and/or finances during a separation. It’s essential for both parties involved to sign the consent order to make it enforceable. The Court then stamps and seals the order, making it legally binding.

Is there a waiting period for signing a consent order?

There is no specific “waiting period” for signing a consent order. However, once you apply for a consent order, it currently takes 3 to 6 weeks to be considered by the Court.

What are the factors to consider before signing a consent order?

Before signing a consent order, especially in family law, it’s crucial to be fully informed and consider various factors. Here are some key considerations:

Understanding of the Order: Ensure you fully understand the terms and implications of the consent order. It’s a legally binding document, so knowing what you’re agreeing to is vital.

Legal Advice: Obtaining independent legal advice about the effect and consequences of the order you propose is advisable. A lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and responsibilities.

Best Interests of the Children: If the consent order involves children, consider whether the terms are in the children’s best interests. This is a primary consideration in family law.

Financial Implications: Understand the financial implications of the order, especially if it involves property or financial settlements. This includes considering assets, debts, superannuation, and future financial needs.

Enforceability: Consider how the terms of the order will be enforced and what happens if either party breaches the order.

Flexibility: Consider the future and whether the terms of the order provide enough flexibility for changing circumstances, especially if children are involved.

Alternative Options: Are there other options available, such as parenting plans or mediation, that might be more suitable for your situation?

Duration and Finality: Understand the duration of the order and whether it’s intended to be a final order or if there’s scope for review or variation in the future.

Emotional Well-being: Consider the emotional implications of the order. Ensuring the decision isn’t made under duress or emotional stress is essential.

Tax Implications: Tax consequences, such as capital gains tax or stamp duty implications, might be associated with property transfers under a consent order.

Third Parties: Consider their roles and rights if the order involves third parties (e.g., grandparents or new partners).

Costs: Understand any costs associated with implementing the order, such as transfer fees or other administrative costs.

Potential Conflicts: Anticipate potential areas of conflict or disagreement and address them to prevent future disputes.

Clarity and Specificity: Ensure that the order terms are clear and specific to avoid ambiguity and potential disputes in the future.

Remember, every situation is unique, so it’s essential to consider your circumstances and seek appropriate advice before deciding. Consent orders are significant legal documents, and it’s crucial to approach them with care and thoroughness.

What happens if you don’t sign a consent order?

If one party doesn’t sign the consent order, it won’t be legally binding.

This means it will not be approved by the court and is unenforceable.

Both parties must sign the consent order to ensure that the agreements are upheld and can be enforced if necessary.

Can someone else sign on your behalf?

Given the legal nature of consent orders, signing them personally is advisable. If there’s a genuine reason for being unable to sign, it would be best to seek legal advice.

Consent orders are legally binding documents that can affect one’s personal, financial, and familial circumstances.

By consulting with a legal professional, individuals can ensure they fully understand the order’s terms, implications, and potential consequences.

This informed approach safeguards one’s rights and interests and provides clarity and confidence in making decisions that can shape the future.

gay surrogacy australia | Melbourne Family lawyers

What is surrogacy: Gay Surrogacy Australia

Surrogacy is the practice where a woman carries and gives birth to a baby for another person or couple.

In recent years, gay couples in Australia have increasingly turned to surrogacy as a viable option to start a family.

Key Takeaway: Surrogacy offers a path to parenthood that is becoming more common among gay couples in Australia.

Why Do Gay Couples Prefer Surrogacy?

Surrogacy has become an increasingly popular option for gay couples for several reasons.

It allows for a biological connection to the child, circumvents the challenges of adoption, and offers a unique bonding experience from the start.

Additionally, surrogacy provides a level of control and involvement that isn’t always possible with other methods, allowing intended parents to be closely involved in the pregnancy and birth process.

It also opens up possibilities for family planning, such as choosing the sex of the baby or screening for genetic conditions.

Lastly, surrogacy can be a faster route to parenthood than adoption, involving lengthy waiting periods and uncertain outcomes.

Key Takeaway: Surrogacy offers gay couples biological connections, fewer bureaucratic hurdles, and a more involved parenting journey.

The Legal Landscape for Gay Surrogacy in Australia

Surrogacy was legal in some Australian states even before the legalisation of gay marriage, which was approved in December 2017 through the amendment of the federal Marriage Act.

The laws surrounding surrogacy differ from state to state, and some states have permitted altruistic surrogacy for some time.

However, it’s worth noting that the eligibility criteria for intended parents, including whether gay couples could access surrogacy services, also varied by state.

For example, in New South Wales, altruistic surrogacy was legal before the legalisation of gay marriage, and it was accessible to people “regardless of their marital status or sexuality,” according to the Surrogacy Act 2010.

In contrast, in Western Australia, surrogacy was only available to heterosexual couples and single women, effectively excluding gay couples and single men.

So, while surrogacy itself was legal in some form or another in most states, the legalisation of gay marriage has helped to normalise further and potentially expand access to surrogacy services for gay couples.

Key Takeaway: Surrogacy was accessible in some Australian states before gay marriage was legalised, but its legalisation has helped to standardise and potentially expand surrogacy options for gay couples.

Finding a Surrogate

Finding a surrogate often relies on word-of-mouth or social media. Support services like Surrogacy Australia Support Service can assist with screening.

A good surrogate mother is someone who has had problem-free pregnancies, completed her own family, is financially stable, and has strong social and emotional support.

Key Takeaway: A suitable surrogate is crucial; consider her health, financial stability, and emotional support network.

Psychological Aspects

Surrogacy can be emotionally draining. Mental health professionals can assist gay men in navigating the emotional aspects of surrogacy.

Financial Considerations

Surrogacy involves various costs, including legal, travel, IVF fees, and surrogate expenses.

Financial planning is essential, and some financial institutions offer specialized loans for surrogacy.

Budgeting carefully can help you avoid unexpected financial strains.

Support for Surrogates

Surrogates gain support through social media forums from their intended parents and their own families.

This support network is crucial for the emotional and physical well-being of the surrogate. It also fosters a positive environment for the child to be born into.

Key Takeaway: A strong support network benefits both the surrogate and the intended parents.

Consult Legal Experts: Gay Surrogacy Australia

Gay surrogacy Australia is a complex but achievable path to parenthood.

Key steps include understanding the legal landscape, finding the right surrogate, preparing psychologically, and planning financially.

It’s crucial to consult legal experts to guide you through this multifaceted journey.

how to prepare for separation | Melbourne Family Lawyers

Separation is a life-altering decision that can be emotionally, financially, and legally complex.

In Australia, where family law has its unique intricacies, knowing how to prepare for separation is not just advisable—it’s crucial.

We aim to guide you through the steps on how to prepare for separation, ensuring you navigate this challenging time as smoothly as possible.

How to Prepare for Separation

  1. Understand Your Financial Situation: Before you take any significant steps, get a clear picture of your financial situation. This means understanding your assets, liabilities, and monthly income. Knowing where you stand financially will help you make informed decisions about your future.
  2. Consult a Family Lawyer: Legal advice is invaluable when you’re considering separation. A family lawyer can guide you through the legal entanglement, helping you understand your rights and responsibilities, which can save you both time and money in the long run.
  3. Seek Emotional Support: Separation is emotionally taxing. Whether it’s a therapist, a counselor, or a close friend, having emotional support can help you navigate the emotional rollercoaster that often accompanies a separation.
  4. Gather Important Documents: Collect all the essential documents like birth certificates, marriage certificates, and financial records. Having these at your fingertips can make the legal process smoother and quicker.
  5. Plan Living Arrangements: Decide where you’ll live after the separation or divorce. Whether one of you moves out or you sell the family home and both move, having a plan in place can reduce stress and make the transition easier.

Why Should You Prepare for Separation?

Legal Clarity

Being prepared means you’ll better understand your legal rights and obligations. This can significantly reduce uncertainty and help you navigate the legal process more confidently.

Financial Security

Financial preparation is not just about understanding your current situation; it’s about planning for life after separation. Knowing your financial standing can help you set a budget and make necessary adjustments to your lifestyle.

Emotional Well-being

The emotional toll of a separation can be overwhelming. Preparing emotionally, perhaps through counseling or therapy, can provide you with coping mechanisms to better handle the stress and emotional upheaval.

What Changes When You Separate?

Living Arrangements

One of the most immediate changes is your living situation. One or both partners may need to find a new place to live, which can also mean changes in your daily routines.

Financial Responsibilities

Your financial landscape will change dramatically. Joint accounts may need to be closed or divided, and you’ll need to reassess your budget to accommodate your new single-income household.


If you have children, their well-being is a top priority. Custody and visitation arrangements must be discussed and agreed upon, affecting how you and your partner co-parent moving forward.

What is Separation?

In Australian law, separation occurs when one partner communicates to the other that the relationship has ended, and both begin to live separately and apart. Both partners don’t need to agree to the separation; they can be considered separated even if they live under the same roof.

We Can Help Answer Your Questions: How to Prepare for Separation

We recently assisted a dedicated nurse facing a personal crisis—she discovered her husband’s infidelity.

She came to us wanting to understand how to prepare for separation and the separation’s legal and emotional intricacies before confronting him.

In our initial consultation, we assessed her financial situation and provided legal advice on her rights and responsibilities under Australian law.

We also explained how separation could change their relationship, outlining the steps she’d need to go through, such as asset division and potential spousal support.

To help her emotionally, we recommended therapists specialising in relationship issues.

Consult A Family Lawyer

Preparing for separation in Australia involves multiple steps, each crucial for different reasons.

From understanding your financial situation to consulting a family lawyer and seeking emotional support, each phase is designed to help you navigate the complexities of separation.

Remember, knowing how to prepare for separation is not just about making the process easier—it’s about setting the stage for the next chapter of your life.

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