Do you need to attend mediation or Family Dispute Resolution prior to going to court in relation to parenting matters?

September 25th, 2018

The Family Law Act facilitates what is known as compulsory family dispute resolution.  This requires parents to attempt to mediate their parenting dispute with a family dispute resolution practitioner (“FDRP“), prior to commencing proceedings in court.

If parties attend family dispute resolution and they are unable to resolve the issues in dispute, the FDRP will issue a section 60I certificate, which must be filed with any application made by a parent who asks the court to make orders about parenting arrangements for a child.

There are some exemptions to the requirement to file a section 60I certificate with an application for parenting orders.   Some of these exceptions include:

  1. where the matter is urgent; for example, the child has been relocated or abducted without the consent of the other party;
  2. if the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the child would be at risk of abuse if proceedings were delayed, where there has been child abuse and/or family violence or if there is a risk of family violence;
  3. if one of the parents or parties is unable to participate in family dispute resolution because of some incapacity; and
  4. if the application is in relation to a contravention of an existing parenting order.

If a party is filing an application without a section 60I certificate, they must file with that application an affidavit non-filing of family dispute resolution certificate.

Depending on the circumstances, prior to filing an application for parenting orders without a section 60I certificate, based on the family violence exemption, it may necessary to discuss the potential to attend family dispute resolution with a FDRP.

In some circumstances, a FDRP will issue a section 60I certificate without the need to attend family dispute resolution, if they deem mediation is not appropriate due to family violence considerations.

If you would like further information on the requirement of obtaining a section 60I certificate or attending family dispute resolution, contact our Cairns family lawyers today.


A Strategic Alliance

August 31st, 2018

We are pleased to announce an exciting new strategic alliance between Miller Harris Lawyers of Cairns, and the Brisbane Family Law Centre.

As you know we, at Miller Harris Lawyers, have worked with North Queensland businesses and individuals for over 25 years in a range of legal service areas including commercial, business and property law, insolvency, employment law, environment law, native title and cultural heritage law, tax law, wills and estate matters, conveyancing and retirement living.

Our partnership team consists of senior lawyers with decades of experience in their chosen fields, including Accredited Specialists in Business Law and Property Law.

It is in the area of family law that our firm has recognised an opportunity to form a strategic alliance.

Brisbane Family Law Centre (BFLC)  is a boutique family law firm practising only in family law matters.  The firm focuses on providing their clients with a holistic approach through collaborative law, mediation and out of Court dispute resolution.  It is a multi-disciplinary practice offering clients access to counselling and financial professionals in addition to legal services, ensuring holistic solutions during relationship breakdowns.

Although located in Brisbane, the firm has been servicing clients nationally for quite some time and BFLC’s Director, Clarissa Rayward, welcomed the opportunity to increase their service offering by creating an alliance with us.

As a firm, we are always looking for improvements and better ways to conduct our practice, particularly in the context of sensitive areas involving families.  To increase the depth of legal expertise available to our clients, we have formed a strategic alliance with a speciality family law practice in Brisbane.

We see this alliance is in keeping with the spirit of change that is being embraced by pockets of the legal profession.  Both Miller Harris Lawyers and BFLC are breaking down traditional professional boundaries, sharing knowledge and collaborating for the benefit of their customers and teams.

We have seen significant shifts in the way lawyers and law firms offer solutions to their clients.  The future of law will require us to focus carefully on the needs of our clients in a holistic way and by necessity ‘think outside of the traditional law box’.  In the current business environment, it does not matter whether you are a firm in Brisbane or Cairns, what matters is the ability to provide seamless, tailored solutions to our clients wherever they are.

This alliance is just that- a sharing of knowledge and resources between two firms that might be separated by distance but are aligned through their core values and a desire to offer meaningful legal solutions to their clients, wherever they are located.



Reforms to combat illegal phoenix activity

August 30th, 2018

Illegal phoenix activity is a means by which unscrupulous company directors seek to avoid payment of a company’s creditors.  It typically involves the transfer of a business (or assets) from one company shell to another, without properly recognising the value of the assets transferred.  It leaves company creditors, often including employees, with claims which cannot be satisfied from company assets.

In the 2018/2019 budget, the Commonwealth Government announced a package of reforms to the corporations and tax law to combat illegal phoenix activity.  The government has now released an exposure draft of proposed legislation.  The proposed reforms include:

1.  introducing new phoenix offences which target both those who conduct and advisors who facilitate the illegal phoenix transactions including:

1.1.  making it an offence for company directors to engage in creditor defeating transfers of company assets;

1.2.  making pre-insolvency advisors and other facilitators of illegal phoenix activities liable to both civil and criminal penalties; and

1.3.  extending and enhancing the existing liquidator “callback” powers;

2.  preventing directors from resigning in some situations;

3.  extending Director Penalty Notice provisions to include GST and related liabilities; and

4.  restricting the voting rights of related creditors at meetings considering the appointment or removal of an external administrator.

An exposure draft of the proposed legislation has been released for public consultation.  The final text of the reforms is yet to be revealed.  The draft legislation can be accessed here.

For more information, please contact partner Tim McGrath.


The new GST withholding obligations for buyers

June 28th, 2018

From 1 July 2018, purchasers of new residential property across Australia will need to withhold the GST component of the purchase price of their property and remit it directly to the ATO as part of the settlement process.

The changes introduce fairly onerous obligations on buyers of new property and new residential land to ensure that even if they are not notified, if there is GST payable on a purchase, they provide it to the ATO.

There are also very large penalties for failure to comply.

The changes have been introduced to capture GST payments from property developers directly as part of the sale process.

What do sellers need to do?

Sellers of all residential property will be required to provide a notice to prospective buyers telling them whether they will be purchasing new residential property, and whether or not they will need to withhold an amount for GST at settlement.  This means that not only property developers will be affected by the changes, but all sellers of residential property.

A failure to provide this notice can attract a penalty for the seller of up to $21,000.00 per occurrence, and failing to provide an accurate notice can attract the same penalty.

There are some obvious flow on effects for sellers that will have their GST withheld at settlement.  Cash flow will be impacted and where a mortgagee is involved, they will have to take less than the full purchase price at settlement.

What do buyers need to do?

What is onerous for buyers is that their obligation to withhold GST is not in any way effected if the seller fails to give a notice about the GST withholding obligation.

This means that if a notice is not given by the seller, buyers will need to make their own determination about whether the property is new residential property, and whether withholding is required.  A failure to withhold could result in a penalty of an amount equal to what the buyer was required to withhold (10% of the purchase price).

If a notice from the seller is provided about GST withholding, the buyer is entitled to rely on that notice, provided it is reasonable to do so (i.e. the buyer is not aware of any circumstances that might indicate they are required to withhold when the seller has told them they do not have to).

It also may not be easy to determine whether residential property is new or not: what if it has been rented for a number of years?  Is it an independent living unit in a retirement village?

New standard contracts will be issued prior to the changes coming into effect, so Real Estate Agents and sellers should be very aware of the new changes when entered into or negotiating contracts closer to 1 July.

Make sure you don’t get caught out!

If you have any questions about the changes, or would like assistance with your conveyance please contact Lauren Doktor at Miller Harris Lawyers.


World Elder Abuse Awareness Day – 15 June

June 15th, 2018

Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Elder abuse is a global issue which affects the well-being and human rights of our older generations.  It is an issue that deserves worldwide attention.

Elder abuse is any act that that causes harm or distress to an older person by someone they know and trust.  Elder abuse can take various forms such as physical, psychological, financial, emotional or sexual abuse. It can also be the result of intentional or unintentional neglect.

Elder abuse is not always easy and obvious to detect.  Behaviours a person may exhibit when experiencing elder abuse include:

  • withdrawing from normal activities;
  • making roundabout statements or excuses, for example “My son does not like me going out on my own”;
  • being unable to talk on the phone or only being able to talk on the phone when someone is present;
  • suddenly moving away;
  • avoiding eye contact; or
  • becoming irritable or easily upset.

Elder abuse is everyone’s business and I strongly believe that community awareness is the key to reducing elder abuse.  I urge you to engage in discussion with your family and friends and continue the dialogue.  Look out for the elderly members of our community and don’t be afraid speak up if you suspect abuse is occurring.

If you or someone you know is experiencing elder abuse, please contact the Elder Abuse Prevention Helpline on 1300 651 192.

For more information on elder abuse, please contact our Associate, Bianca Stafford on 4036 9732.


Reduction in first home owner’s grant

June 14th, 2018

Attention first home buyers!


The government has recently announced that on 1 July this year the first home owner’s grant will be reduced from $20,000 down to $15,000.  Any contracts entered into after 30 June will only be eligible for the reduced amount.

In order to be eligible for the grant you must meet the following criteria:

  • you must be at least 18 years of age;
  • you must be an Australian citizen or permanent resident;
  • you or your spouse must not have previously owned property in Australia that you lived in;
  • you must be buying or building a brand new home;
  • the value of the home, including land, must be less than $750,000; and
  • you must move into and live in the home within 1 year, and stay there continuously for at least 6 months.

If you meet the above criteria, in order to take full advantage of the first home buyer’s grant you should strive to enter into a contract before 1 July.

If you have any questions about eligibility for the grant, or conveyancing questions in general, please feel free to contact us on 07 4036 9700.


Major changes to the BCIPA and QBCC Act remain on hold

June 12th, 2018

Major changes to the Building and Construction Industry Payments Act 2004 and QBCC Act which were expected to commence as early as July this year remain on hold.

Minister for Housing and Public Works, Mick de Brenni, has made a media release today announcing further amendments to the Building Industry Fairness (Security of Payment) (BIF) Act which are expected to commence operation from 17 December 2018.   A discussion paper will be released for industry consultation in coming weeks.

The Minister has also announced the appointment of four professionals to the panel assessing and evaluating the implementation of the new legislation: Ms Bronwyn Weir, Ms Jennifer Robertson; Mr Troy Lewis and Ms Fiona Aitchison Reid.

For more information on the Building and Construction Industry Payments Act, please contact our Senior Associate, Rowan Wilson of the Building and Construction team on (07) 40 36 9725 .



Lauren Doktor joins QLS Early Career Lawyers Committee

April 24th, 2018

Congratulations to Lauren Doktor on becoming a member of the QLS Early Career Lawyers Committee



Natural Disaster Assistance Loans

April 17th, 2018

Following the disaster of last month’s flooding, the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority have announced two types of low interest loans to assist small businesses and primary producers in Far North Queensland.

The Natural Disaster Assistance loans are available to eligible businesses and primary producers who were affected by the flood event of 6 – 10 March in North Queensland. Small businesses are also able to apply if they were affected by flooding associated with Severe Tropical Cyclone Nora in the period 24 – 29 March.

Eligibility for these loans is assessed on a case by case basis. Local regional area manager Sam Spina is available to aid in eligibility and application enquiries. More information can be obtained from the government’s website at or by phoning 1800 623 946 and booking an appointment with Sam.

This initiative is a joint Queensland and Commonwealth assistance program. Further enquiries should be directed to the website or phone number above.


National Advance Care Planning Week – Plan for tomorrow, live for today

April 16th, 2018

Australia’s first ever Advance Care Planning week begins today, to raise awareness and encourage Australians, young and old, to engage in conversation about their preferred health care, if they were too sick to speak for themselves.  Advance care planning ensures that your voice is heard if medical decisions have to be made for you.

Figures show that less than 15% of Australians have an advance care plan in place.  In Queensland, an advance health directive is a document where you can record your wishes and directions regarding your future health care for various medical conditions, in the event you were incapable of making those decisions for yourself.  Having an advance health directive in place reduces stress for your loved ones as it allows your family, friends and doctors to understand what is important to you and what is an acceptable outcome for your life.

The first step to an advance care plan is talking to your friends and family about your wishes.  We encourage you to join in the conversation.

For more information about Advance Care Planning week visit or contact our Wills and Estates Solicitor, Bianca Stafford on 07 4036 9700.