Meet Claire Sloane

claire-sloanePosition: Litigation Secretary
How long you have been working here for? Since June 2011
What do you enjoy most about working at STO? The comfortable atmosphere and teamwork involved when we are in our busier times, and as professional as the partners, associates and support staff are, there’s always time for a laugh.
What are your hobbies/interests/favourite music? Running, socialising, travelling (Europe 2013, with plans to see the states 2015), all sorts of music from current to classics.

Brown Brothers 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon

The value end of the wine buying spectrum can, at times, be a little hit and miss, but amongst current releases one genuine “hit” is the Brown Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon 2010.

Brown BrothersThe grapes that were the genesis of this vintage hail from three separate Victorian vineyards of cool climate location.  The unmistakable earthiness of the wine is apparent from the first whiff as the dusty cranberries that show on the nose become herbaceously preserved on the palate and corralled by fine but firm tannins across the finish.  It’s all about complexity as it’s a savoury style of Cabernet that is lean, yet complex, and would be a perfect partner for red meat dishes or that stinky blue cheese that my mother is so fond of.

It may not have the finesse of some of the more expensive Cabernets going around, but at the $15 to $20 a bottle price point, I’m joining the fan club.

Our wine reviewer, Travis Schultz, is managing partner of Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers and lover of fine food and wine


Brokenwood Maxwell Vineyard Semillon 2007

Brokenwood Valley Semillon 2007The Australian summer may be hot, stifling and steamy at times, but it’s also the ideal environment to enjoy seafood on the barbeque and a chilled glass of dry Aussie white.

And if Moreton Bay Bugs or scallops grilled on the barbie are to fly your next culinary sortie, then Hunter Valley Semillon should be the first choice of wingman.  For last Sunday’s lunch of bugs with lemon myrtle, capers and water chestnut risotto, it was the Brokenwood Maxwell Vineyard Semillon 2007 that inconspicuously chaperoned the seafood as they met on the pool deck table. You’d hardly believe that it’s 6 years old as in the glass, the wine is still lightly coloured with a greenish tinge on the edges.

There are green Granny Smith apple and mandarin characters at the front of the palate but a mineral dryness with a slightly toasty taint at the back which is apparently quite happy to play the support act, rather than to be the star of the matinee.

If you’re prepared to be patient, I’m sure it will develop and improve over the next five to ten years but when it’s drinking as well as it is at present, I doubt that my dozen will see out the summer!

Our wine reviewer, Travis Schultz, is managing partner of Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers and lover of fine food and wine

Meet Casey Jeffries

Casey JefferiesPosition: Litigation Secretary
How long you have been working here for? I started in April 2010
What do you enjoy most about working at STO? The firm gives back to the community, the staff are all lovely and the office has a good vibe because of that.
What are your hobbies/interests/favourite music? I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, being active and going to the beach.

Media Release – ACT’s Same-Sex Marriage Legislation Overturned by the High Court

Same-Sex MarriageLess than a week after the gay marriage laws came into effect in the ACT and after almost 30 couples have married in Canberra since Saturday, the High Court of Australia has handed down its decision to overturn the ACT’s same-sex marriage legislation.

The decision was made after the court unanimously ruled that the ACT’s Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013 could not operate concurrently with the federal Marriage Act 1961.

Earlier this week, ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said “we only introduced our bill when the federal parliament failed to end discrimination several months ago.”

Those who were married within the five day window, before this ruling, have now had their marriages declared invalid.

Leisa Toomey, Partner at Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers has said “whilst the outcome was predictable this is clearly an issue that is not going to go away and so there should be more attention paid to it at a Federal level to gauge and act on the wishes of the community on this very sensitive topic.”

Although, the decision has been overturned, it doesn’t look like it will be the end, just a “temporary defeat” as stated by Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome.

Safe holiday travel

When you are travelling this holiday season make sure you continue to follow the road rules.

Safe Holiday TravelOften when you are travelling somewhere on holidays, you visit new places and therefore are likely to be unfamiliar with your surroundings and the local area. Before heading off on your next journey, take some time out to read the road maps so you have an idea of where you are going. Speed limits could be different in other areas so be observant and watch your speed. Indicate when you are changing lanes to let other motorists know what you are doing.

When children are on holidays, they tend to spend more time outside playing in the streets, parks and riding their bikes, roller skates and skateboards. So, be extra cautions when driving near children, you don’t need any injuries to prevent you from enjoying your much deserved break!

If you are off on a long trip, it is suggested that you take a minimum 15 minute break every two hours. According to the Queensland Government, there are plenty of rest areas used as driver reviver sites and they have:

  • picnic tables
  • playgrounds in some locations
  • water
  • toilets
  • bins
  • parking areas
  • shelter
  • Tourist and route information.

You can find out more about driver reviver stops at the Queensland Government Website.

Now, although you are on holidays the same blood alcohol limits apply before driving a car. If you know you have drunk too much, then stay away from driving. You could not only severely injure or kill yourself but you put other motorists’ lives in danger as well. The police are out in force more than usual over the holiday periods so be sensible and don’t drink and drive!

Once you have enjoyed your holiday there is always the drive back home. The return trip is just as important as getting to your destination. The Queensland Government has said to remember to:

  • plan
  • prepare
  • have a break for 15 minutes every 2 hours
  • buckle up
  • slow down
  • drive sober
  • be careful when driving through residential streets as certain areas may still be on holidays

Also, as a reminder, a number of accidents occur when travellers are within 50km of home. So just because you know you are almost home, it doesn’t mean that you can relax and become less focused.

You want to be able to remember the great time you had on your holiday so follow these steps to ensure you have a safe and happy holiday!

You might also like ‘buying a safe car‘ if you are looking at travelling.

Are you a ‘Granny Nannie?’

Grandmother with baby on patioA new study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) has found that the baby boomer grandparents are taking care of 40% of babies, toddlers and preschoolers while the parents go to work.

Labelling these grandparents as the “granny nannies” they have become just as important and relied upon as formal day care.  Parents are opting for the “granny nannie” because they are family, trust them and the kids are cared for in a home environment. Also, in the long run helps the parent to save money because it is a cheaper or free alternative to daycare.

However, Seniors Australia chief executive has warned against taking grandparents for granted. Although grandparents are family and love spending time with their grandchildren, parents do have to remember that the grandparents have their own lives and things to do.

Some grandparents feel obligated to looking after their grandchildren due to the busy work life their adult children have and find it hard to say no.

It is important to ensure there is a balance for parents, grandparents and children.             If you would like to discuss a family situation and what your rights and responsibilities are as a parent or carer, contact our family law team today.

Tips for going to court – Family Law

If you are representing yourself in court, the below list of tips might be of some use to you with preparing for your court hearing. It also provides some information as to what you should and should not do inside the courtroom.

  • Be prepared – if you have never been to court before then it might be helpful if you attend a hearing the day before to gain an understanding of what takes place. At your own hearing, ensure you are prepared with all your documentation and you have done as much research as possible. Take a notepad and a pen with you in case you need to take some notes to help you.
  • What to wear Although there are no set rules about what to wear, the court is a place of formality so it is suggested you dress accordingly.
  • Children at courtSometimes children need to attend court however; it isn’t a usual place that you take your children to. It is highly recommended to make other arrangements for your child if you have to go to court.
  • Safety at courtDepending on the type of court hearing you will attend, you may experience some concerns about your safety. If this is the case, be sure to contact the court prior to your hearing or appointment so they can discuss with you safety options they can put in place.
  • Arriving at courtArrive at least 30 minutes prior your hearing or appointment is due to commence. This will allow enough time for you to find the courtroom and prepare yourself. Sometimes it is a good idea to bring a family member or friend to give you support (they must be over 18). However, unless approved by the judicial officer, they are not allowed to sit with you at the bar table and cannot speak on your behalf.  Turn off all electronic equipment and remove hats/sunglasses (unless prescriptions of for religious reasons) before you enter the courtroom and do not bring in any food or drinks.
  • Inside the courtroomBefore entering, you must give your name to either the court officer or associate and tell them that you are representing yourself and ask them where you need to sit and what to do. There will be a number of cases that will be called before you, so while you are waiting avoid making any noises that maybe a distraction to others in the courtroom. It is also your duty to stand each time the Court is adjourned or commences.
  • Your case is called, what to doStand up, take your paperwork and the officer or associate will lead you to the bar table. Do not put your bag on the bar table.  If you are unsure of where to sit, ask the court officer or associate. There is no rule about where you should sit but commonly each party and their lawyer (if they have one) will sit at opposite ends. If an independent child’s lawyer is involved, they will usually sit in the middle. When asked to announce yourself, make sure you state your name clearly and whether you are the applicant or respondent.
  • When orders are madeMake sure to listen carefully when the judicial officer announces their decision and write down the orders made. If you didn’t understand the orders or missed any of them, ask to have them repeated so it is clear. A sealed copy of the orders will be sent to you once it is all signed by the judicial officer. At times, the decision maybe reserved until another date and time. You will be advised of this by the Court and you must then attend court again until a decision is handed down.  If orders are made on the day of your hearing, your case is finished and you are free to leave. However, before you exit it is common courtesy to pause at the door and nod to the judicial officer.
  • Speaking to the judicial officer – At a hearing in the Family Court, your case will be heard by a judge or registrar. In the Federal Circuit Court, you will be heard by a judge and for cases of divorce hearings, a registrar. If your case is being heard by a judge be sure to address them as ‘Your Honour’ and a register as ‘Registrar’. Please take into account the following:
    • Unless you have been advised otherwise, you must stand when spoken to or when speaking and
    • Ensure you speak politely and clearly
    • Do not address comments to others in the courtroom
    • Do not use offensive language or point
    • Do not shout or raise your voice

If the judicial officer asks you a question listen carefully and answer clearly.

Legal advice
The above information a guide only and you should seek legal advice before deciding what to do. Contact our lawyers today and find out how they can help you understand your legal rights and responsibilities.