Family Court of WA Confirms that Gay Dads are on an Equal Legal Footing re Children if they separate

In a recent decision Gornik and Thorburn [2022] FCWA 77 the Family Court of Western Australia confirmed that after separation, both the biological and non-biological gay dad start on an equal legal footing when it comes to rights re caring for and spending time with the child. Sometimes, non-biological dads mistakenly feel that they have less legal rights. This case confirms once again that both gay dads start on an equal basis. The test is not who is the biological father but rather, whether one or both dads are “concerned with the care, welfare or development” of the child. That is not to say that equal care will be ordered. That’s a matter of determining what is in the best interests of the child- as in all children’s cases.

The push for fertility law overhaul so gay men can become parents

Did you know WA’s in-vitro fertilisation and surrogacy laws are the only ones in Australia that deny access to same-sex male couples? As reported in the West Australian on 19th of December 2021, more than 68 per cent of West Australians think that should change.

The study, based on a survey by Painted Dog Research, was commissioned by Kavanagh Family Lawyers, which assisted advocacy group GayDads WA in its submission to a 2018 review of the laws, leading to a standing committee concluding they were discriminatory.

Read the full story here.

Family Violence and COVID-19

Staying at home has been touted as the solution to slowing the spread of COVID-19, but this also increases risk for victims of family violence. Yesterday, the McGowan Government acknowledged this heightened risk by passing amendments to restraining order legislation.

These amendments allow the Family Court to make interim restraining orders on an ex-parte basis (i.e. without the person you are seeking the order against being present). Restraining order applications can now be lodged online, and the penalty for a breach of a family violence restraining order has been increased to $10,000.Click here to read the McGowan Government's media release about the amendments for more information.

Making sure your international holiday is lawful when you’re separated

Planning a holiday for yourself and your kids can be fun and exciting – but it can also be illegal if you haven’t obtained the consent of your ex-partner.

Whether it’s a quick long weekend getaway to Bali or an entire summer in Europe, legally you cannot take your children out of the State without consent of the other parent. If there are proceedings in the Family Court, it would constitute an offence under the Family Law Act and you risk being stopped by immigration at the airport and denied permission to board flights, and in rare cases, imprisonment.

Obtaining Consent

Of course, family law disputes aren’t always simple. Your ex-partner might choose to unreasonably withhold consent, they might not be contactable, or there might be urgent circumstances that necessitate the travel. In these circumstances you can apply to the Court for permission to take your children overseas. Applying to the Court for permission to travel can take time. You should always consult a lawyer and plan ahead when making international travel plans whilst Family Court proceedings are on foot.

Please note that the above information does not constitute legal advice and every case turns on its own unique facts. If you would like to obtain legal advice about family law matters, please contact Kavanagh Lawyers on 08 6557 5888 or email

Don’t damage your case online – social media and Family Court proceedings

Whether we like it or not, social media plays a major part in our daily lives. Facebook and Instagram can be useful tools for communicating with your ex or sharing photos of your children. However, if you have ongoing proceedings in the Family Court then you should always be aware that what you share online can make its way into the courtroom and this can have disastrous consequences.

When can my social media presence damage my own case?

Parenting Matters

It is an offence to identify parties to a family law case. Remember those drunken photos you posted to Instagram while you were out with your friends on Friday night? Or the angry status you posted on Facebook after you found out that your ex cheated on you? Or that story you posted on Snapchat where you ranted about the recent court hearing in your matter?

These posts might not be so bad in context, but once they’re annexed to an affidavit and presented to the court, they can be seen as a breach of the confidentially rules and evidence of your character and capacity to parent, no matter how #SorryNotSorry you are.

Financial Matters

Doing something as simple as updating your LinkedIn with your new job or posting a picture of your new #TreatYourself purchase can be hazardous if you post it before first disclosing it to your ex!

How do I use social media responsibly during a family law dispute?

  1. Respect the rules of confidentiality and don’t identify parties to a case.
  2. Think before you click – don’t use social media to blow off steam or comment on Court proceedings. Better yet, consider staying off social media until your matter is resolved.
  3. When in doubt, don’t – if you think there’s even the smallest chance that a post could be misinterpreted and land you in hot water with your ex or the Court, then don’t post it.
  4. Update your privacy settings – whether you’re an Instagram influencer or an infrequent Facebooker, it is always best to try and minimise your presence during Family Court proceedings.

Please note that the above information does not constitute legal advice and every case turns on its own unique facts. If you would like to obtain legal advice about family law matters, please contact Kavanagh Lawyers on 08 6557 5888 or email

When enough is enough: applying for a violence restraining order

There are two main types of violence restraining orders in Western Australia: Family Violence Restraining Orders (FVRO) and Violence Restraining Orders (VRO). Both require an application to your local Magistrates Court or possibly the Children’s Court.

You should apply for an FVRO if you require protection from a person who you are or were in a family relationship with, for example a former husband/wife, de-facto partner, or someone you are related to.

You should apply for a VRO if you require protection from someone with whom you are not in a family relationship, for example a work colleague.

You do not need to have experienced physical violence or the threat of physical violence to apply for a VRO or FVRO. A VRO/FVRO can be made on the basis of other sorts of behaviour that coerce or control you or cause you to be fearful.

When you apply, you can ask the Court for an interim FVRO, which is a temporary order that is in place while you go through the process of obtaining a final FVRO.

The process usually constitutes:

  1. An application and affidavit in support;
  2. A court hearing for the interim VRO if you apply for one (at which the other party will not be present);
  3. If you are granted a VRO, the police will then serve it on the other party (the person bound)
  4. If the other party files an objection to the VRO, there will likely be a ‘mention’ hearing, followed by a final hearing. The interim VRO remains in place until the final order hearing.

If the other party breaches either the interim of final VRO, it is a criminal offence.

If you would like further information about applying for a VRO, please contact Kavanagh Lawyers on 6557 5888 or email


What is family violence?

When most people think of family violence, they envisage physical harm being inflicted on another person. Under the Family Law Act and the Restraining Orders Act, the definition of family violence is much more expansive and extends to things as emotional abuse, financial abuse, stalking and derogatory remarks. Such definitions focus not only on violence but also the threat of behaviour that coerces, controls, or causes fear.

One of the most common consequences of family violence is low self-esteem and a desire not to be seen as a “victim”. It can be very difficult to reach out. If you are experiencing family violence please seek help. Maybe it’s a friend to start with. In time you may have the strength to contact one of the many agencies that are there to help.

When is family violence relevant?

Family violence in relation to adults is generally dealt with in your local Magistrates Court and the Family Court.


Applications for FVROs should be filed at your nearest Magistrates Court. An FVRO will be issued where the Court is satisfied that family violence has occurred or there are reasonable grounds to believe that family violence may occur. The person protected by the FVRO is referred to as the person protected, and the person restrained is referred to as the person bound.

The Court will usually make an interim FVRO while you await the final order hearing (like a trial) for a final FVRO which will generally last for two years.

Any order of the Family Court that is inconsistent with an FVRO will override the terms of the FVRO in relation to times spent with a child. This means that if a child is protected by a FVRO but is ordered by the Family Court to spend time with the person bound, them spending such time with the child will not constitute a breach of the FVRO.

Children’s matters in the Family Court

The Family Court will take into consideration family violence in determining what is in the best interests of the child. The Court will ultimately aim to prevent the child from being subjected or exposed to family violence in making orders in family law proceedings.

Usually, a rebuttable presumption that equal shared parental responsibility is in the best interests of the child applies in such proceedings. This means that the Court will assume, absent evidence to the contrary, that it is in a child’s best interests for both parents to be equally involved in making long-term decisions regarding the child.

However, the presumption does not apply where there are reasonable grounds to believe that a parent has engaged in family violence. In such circumstances, the Court may no longer assume that equal shared parental responsibility is in the best interests of the children. The Court may order that the other parent have sole parental responsibility for the child. The perpetrator will no longer be entitled to be involved in making long-term decisions regarding the child, such as where they go to school or where the child lives.

If you wish to obtain legal advice in relation to children’s matters, please contact Kavanagh Lawyers on 6557 5888 or email

I’m thinking of separating, what should I do?

The prospect of another year in an unhappy or difficult relationship can be very unsettling.

We know you’d prefer not to be dealing with lawyers, but 1 hour’s professional advice is money well spent. In most cases your questions will be answered in an hour or less. Then you can make informed decisions.

January and February are the months when many people who have not separated, seek legal advice about where they stand if they decide to separate. One of the pleasures of being a Family lawyer is seeing the relief on a client’s face. After years of worrying, many clients are relieved when they get independent advice. Here are a few pointers to get you through the holiday season. This is general information only and should not be treated as legal advice. Every case is different, and you should consult a lawyer before you make any important decisions.

Will I ever see my kids again?

Only very rarely does a parent lose all contact with their children after separation. While you may not see your kids as frequently as you did prior to separation, you will likely reach an agreement that both parties can live with without litigation.

Will I be able to financially support myself?

If there are assets to be divided- regardless of whose name, the assets are in – then you are likely to obtain significant financial support. While this can be a complex area of law, you have many options including:

  • Child support
  • Spousal maintenance
  • Property settlement, either by way of agreement between the parties and approved by the Court, or a Court imposed settlement based on the true financial position of the parties

Do I have to go to Court?

Often, parties are able to negotiate a settlement between themselves and file what are known as consent orders at the Family Court, meaning you never have to see the inside of the courtroom. Legal assistance is recommended- but not essential in drafting orders.

The first port of call should always be mediation- informal or formal. There are many options available to suit your timeline and budget.

Seeing a lawyer doesn’t mean you’re going to Court. In fact, a good lawyer can bridge the lack of trust between you and your former partner, leading to a quicker resolution without litigation.

The process usually looks a little bit like this:

  • basic advice about your legal rights and responsibilities
  • encouraging you and the other party to reach a fair agreement where you or your lawyer drafts and files the necessary paperwork to be filed at the court
  • mediation
  • legal letters to identify issues and make settlement offers
  • negotiation
  • as a last resort, litigation

If you would like some more advice regarding separation and its consequences, please contact Kavanagh Lawyers to arrange an initial appointment on 6557 5888.