“A person A who resides in Eastwood lent the amount of $8,000 to his friend B. B promised that he would repay $1,000 per month for eight months and at the end of the last month, B would pay interest of $400. However, B has not repaid any money for five months, and ultimately, he started ignoring A’s contact at all. As such, A wishes to bring a court action against B for the debt recovery.” 1. Mediation through Community Justice CentreBefore commencing a legal proceeding, parties are recommended to resolve their issues through mediation service provided by the local Community Justice Centre. Disputes are sometimes resolved and settled in this stage, and these procedures are beneficial to the parties in disputes in order to ascertain each other’s positions. One of advantages for mediation in the Community Justice Centre is that it does not require any legal assistance by lawyers. Mediation procedures generally take two hours and are free of charge. If A and B execute a settlement document through the mediation and register it to the court, such a document will have legally binding effects. A settlement through mediation procedures is particularly efficient in the sense that parties do not need to spend time and costs for legal proceedings. It is generally known that around 80% of cases are settled in this stage. To get more information, please contact 1800-990-777. 2. Letter of demandIf parties are unable to reach an agreement in mediation, party A may send a letter of demand to party B. That letter may include an amount of debt and a due date, and that A would initiate a court action by submitting a complaint to the court unless B repays the debt by the due date. For instance, A can send the letter stating that “I hereby demand that you repay me $8,400 by 30 April 2018. Otherwise, I will commence legal proceedings against you to recover the debt without any further notice”. It would be good to include in the letter that both legal costs and an interest on the debt would be charged. Although sending a letter alone to B’s address by post is the best way, sending an email or a facsimile together with the letter is even more effective. 3. Court proceedingsIf B doesn’t repay the debt by the due date indicated in the letter of demand, A can initiate a court proceeding in the Small Claims Division of the Local Court given that the amount of debt is less than $10,000. One of the benefits of lodging a claim in the Small Claims Division is that the rules of evidence do not apply, and a trial is conducted faster and simpler than by a judicial panel. Hence, a claimant can be self-represented without appointing a lawyer if he or she has no difficulty speaking in English. If the amount of debt is more than $10,000, a claimant should bring an action in the General Division of the Local Court, and if it is more than $750,000, he or she should bring an action in the Supreme Court. In litigations that are not in the Small Claims Division, it is commonplace for claimants to appoint lawyers in trials due to the complexity of facts and numerous potential sources of disputes. On this occasion, claimants should be noted that a limitation period for a debt recovery is six years from the date of accrual of a debt. If more than six years has already elapsed, a claimant may be unable to bring a court action for a debt recovery against a debtor. 4. Statement of ClaimA has to attest an object of and a reason for a claim in a complaint called the Statement of Claim and submit the document to the Local Court Registry with a filing fee of $99, which begins an official court proceeding. In the Statement of Claim, a claimant can also demand the other administrative fees incurred for a proceeding including a filing fee as well as a legal interest (the average interest rate from January 2018 to June 2018 ranged from 5.50% to 7.50% and can vary before and after a trial). Also, if a lawyer represents a claimant in a court proceeding, A can also demand a legal fee in the Statement of Claim. Once A completes the Statement of Claim and submits both the original copy and two replicated copies (total three copies) to the Local Court Registry, A will be immediately granted a confirmation stamp and a case number. The original copy would be stored at the court, and the other two replicate copies would be returned to A. A has to serve one of the two replicate copies which have the court’s stamps to B within six months thereafter. The most recommended way of a service is either in person or via post by the court. When intending to use the court’s postal service, A can apply for it upon the submission of the Statement of Claim, and the application fee for the service is $42 as of now, the amount which can be also claimed from B by including the amount in the Statement of Claim. 5. Default JudgmentB has to submit a Defence to the court within 28 days of being served with the Statement of Claim. If B fails to do so, A can apply for a Default Judgment. A Default Judgment is when the court unilaterally makes a judgment against a defendant without a hearing, and this judgment concludes with final costs inclusive of an amount of debt, legal costs and interests. When applying for a Default Judgment, A has to submit to the court both an Affidavit of Service which proves that the Statement of Claim is properly served to B either in person or via post by the court and a Notice of Motion-Default Judgment for liquidated claim.
Q： 10歳以上年上のオーストラリア人の恋人との間に結婚話が出ています。彼には経済力があり、持ち家やある程度の財産があります。彼から結婚の条件として、「離婚するような事になった場合に備えて、婚姻財産の分配について予め決めておくための契約書にサインして欲しい」と言われています。前妻と離婚した際、財産分与で相当もめたので、二度と同じような思いはしたくないそうです。この書類はどういうもので、どんな効果があるのでしょうか？ A： この書類は、一般的に“プレナップ契約”（Prenuptial Agreementの略）と言われている、Family Law ActのPART VIIIAに定められている、Financial Agreementという契約書です。その主たる目的は、結婚をしようとしているカップルが事前に、将来もしも離婚する事になった際に、どのように財産を分配するかについて取り決めをするものです。例えば、もし結婚する時点で一方が既に家を持っていたり、親から譲り受けた家宝のような高価な美術品等があるような場合、「その家や美術品は離婚の際に婚姻財産とはせず、分配の対象外となる」といった事前合意です。Financial Agreementは、婚姻財産の分配についてだけでなく、扶養費や子供の養育費についても定める事ができます。但し、子供の養育費については、基本的には子供の権利であり、その妥当性につき争われる可能性が非常に高く、一般的にはFinancial Agreementの対象とはしません。尚、Financial Agreementは婚前だけでなく、婚姻期間中及び離婚後にも締結することが出来ます。 理想的には、Financial Agreementを結ぶことにより、離婚の際に争うことなく（無駄な法務費用や労力を費やすことなく）離婚をスムーズに成立させられるという事です。 しかし注意したいのは、結婚前の時点ではそのFinancial Agreementがフェアな取り決めだと思われても、将来的にそれがアンフェアな取り決めになってしまう可能性があるという事です。例えば、結婚前は「婚姻財産は50/50で分配する。婚前に所有していた不動産は婚姻財産に含まない」という一見フェアな取り決めであっても、例えば10年後、子供が生まれていたり、長い間専業主婦をしていた結果、いい仕事に就けないような状況下では、果たして上述の条件で納得できるでしょうか？この点、Family Law Actは、状況の変化によりFinancial Agreementがもたらす効果があまりにもアンフェアと判断される場合も含み、Financial Agreementを無効にできる条件がいくつももうけられています。 Financial Agreementの有効性を確保するためには、持っている資産の詳細等、重要と思われる全ての情報をお互いに開示する必要があります。また、Financial Agreementを締結する事の長所と短所、その効果、そして当事者らの権利についてアドバイスをした旨を記した証明書を、当事者それぞれ別の弁護士から取得する必要があります（同法第90G条(1)(b)項）。