Protecting your property

Leisa Toomey Leisa Toomey, Practice Group Leader of STOLaw, part of the Slater and Gordon Group explains the importance of engaging a lawyer when separating and that not all matters will end up in court if all appropriate avenues and steps are been taken.

Q1. Why is it important to engage a lawyer in the early stages of separation?  To understand your rights and obligations and to ensure you make an informed decision on matters regarding children and property settlement.

Q2. How can a lawyer assist someone going through a separation? By providing relevant advice and guide them through those things that have to be considered to ensure a fair and just outcome for them.

Q3. What is the most important factor/s to consider when separating? Seeking out skilled and informative advice from a lawyer that specialises in this type of work to understand what options are open to you to resolve your matters.

Q4. There is a common misconception that seeing a lawyer will mean you will have to go to court. Is that correct? No, this is not correct. Lawyers in this area of law should always investigate settlement prospects through mediation to avoid unnecessary expense and the wasting of valuable time for the client.

Family Lawyer – Position Available

Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers are seeking an energetic and motivated Lawyer with both experience and a passion for Family Law to commence at their Sunshine Coast office (located in Birtinya).

Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers is the Sunshine Coast’s largest legal firm with offices also located at North Lakes and Kedron.  For more information on the firm, please visit

The position is full time and the successful applicant will need to have 2 to 3 years post admission experience in Family Law.

File load will be a mix of Legal Aid and private work.   Travel to and from Brisbane will be required for Court appearances, mediations etc.

You will need previously demonstrated experience in:

•    Conducting initial consultations;
•    Advising clients in Family Law matters;
•    Court appearances;
•    Drafting documentation;
•    Negotiating matters to settlement;
•    Attendance at formal mediations;

You will be supported by a dynamic Family Law team, led by one of the Partners of the firm who is an Accredited Specialist – yet still maintain the flexibility to “manage yourself”.
The salary package is negotiable and will be commensurate with the experience of the successful applicant.  You will also be able to participate in a bonus scheme for your efforts.

To apply for this position, please forward an up to date resume to our Practice Manager, Wendy Faithfull, at

Sexually Transmitted Debt – don’t be caught out!

Leisa ToomeyAs a Family Lawyer two of the most common questions I am asked when a relationship breaks down, and there are assets and debts to be sorted, are “who is responsible for the debt?” and, “why should that responsibility be shared?”

Debts of a relationship can be packaged into many forms but the key principles are these:

  1. when the debt was incurred
  2. for what reason
  3. the debt that existed at separation and those incurred after separation.


If your partner had debt before you met him/her and that debt carries on into the relationship and still exists at the time of separation it may be omitted from the pool of net assets.  However if you both take that debt, and add to it during the relationship, then both parties become responsible for it and it can be taken into account at the end of the relationship.

If debt is created during the relationship, regardless of what name it was created under, or for what reason, the court usually says it’s a debt of the relationship that both become responsible for.


People usually incur debt in a relationship to buy a house or car or on credit cards.  However, if debt was incurred and only one party to the relationship benefited, the Court will treat is as a joint debt.

The purpose of the loan/debt is not relevant in most cases. The key is the timing of the debts and if they were incurred during the relationship, it is more than likely to be deemed a joint debt.


At separation debt on mortgages and credit cards have to become someone’s problem.  If you continue to use the credit card post separation, the debt you have incurred can become your sole responsibility. This is a very different principle to debts incurred in marriage.

When you start talking division of assets, the debts that exist at the time of separation are the relevant debts to be taken into account and it is important when establishing debt levels, post separation, that those loose ends are met with an agreement sooner rather than later.  Ideally, you should consult a lawyer as soon as practicable to understand the implications of debt and how it may affect you in the wash up of a property settlement.  Every case is different so it is vital you seek advice to help you understand what applies in your particular circumstances.