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Cairns Family Lawyers | Family Law

Need a Family Lawyer in Cairns? And looking to keep your issue out of costly court proceedings – so that you’ll settle your dispute as quickly and as affordably as possible?

Nardine Collier has practiced for 30 years and is an accredited specialist in divorce & family law, and has successfully resolved hundreds of cases (focusing on fairly dividing property, divorce and children’s matters).

We know that money is tight, and that you want the best legal advice possible. This is why we offer affordable rates and flexible payment options.

We look forward to speaking to you today.

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Collier Family Law Is Here To Support You

Pre & Post-Separation Care And Legal Advice

How to support yourself mentally after a break up

How to support yourself mentally after a break up

How to protect your assets

The 5 Steps of Separation

3 Things to do Before Leaving Your Relationship

How to Save Time & Money With Your Lawyer

Preparation for Separation

How Mediation Can Help Resolve Conflict

Helping Children Deal with Separation

Starting The Divorce & Separation Process

Need Advice For Your Specific Situation?

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Have a chat with Nardine Collier (Principal Lawyer).
We care about you and we’re here to help.

My name is Nardine, and I am Collier Family Law’s founder and Lawyer.

I not only have over 30+ years of Family Law experience and knowledge, but can truly empathise with the emotional and financial stress you are under – having been through two separations myself.

My team’s mindset is to get your case done quickly and affordably as possible – trying our best to keep your issue out of costly court proceedings. We are here to save you time, money and sanity.

So if you need Lawyers in Cairns, schedule your FREE 15 minute, no obligation chat so we can discuss your family law matter, and give you some guidance on what is involved and expected costs.

Family Law Specialist & Divorce Lawyer Cairns


Arrangements for Children: We know you only want what’s best for your children, and so do we. We will make sure we get the best arrangements possible for your children, so that you can focus on moving to the next chapter of your life.



Separation & Divorce: Recently separated and unsure of what happens next? Looking to have your divorce arranged so you can move forward with your life? Perhaps you just need some guidance on what to do before you make any decisions? We can help.

Separation Lawyer - FIND OUT MORE


DIY Divorce: Are you looking to represent yourself to save money, but need a little guidance? Our affordable ‘Lawyer Assisted’ program offers you the help you need to effectively represent yourself (and we can do this from anywhere in Australia).



Division of assets:  If you’ve had a relationship breakdown or just need to organise a division of finances or assets, we can assist. We handle Property Settlements, Financial Settlements (including Superannuation splits) and Consent Orders.



Mediation: Mediation offers a way which you and the other person in the dispute, can talk to each other in a structured environment, with a trained mediator helping you to discuss your issues. Mediation can help keep your matter out of court, saving you time and costs.



E-Consulting: Enjoy the convenience of accessing legal support without leaving your residence. Simply email us your question, and within 24 hours, expect a detailed response along with an approximate fee quote.



Advice: Discover our wide range of blogs and videos on many interesting subjects. If you have any questions, our friendly staff is eager to assist you.


Meet US

Meet Our Team: Introducing our team who will help you with your needs during this stressful time.


Need help in the post-separation world?

I’ve written this very special book with lots of tips and hints to help you, and it’s all yours for free. The book covers:

  • The nine steps of negotiating a property settlement
  • The law of property division
  • How assets are divided
  • And lots of tips and hints to prepare you before you see a lawyer.
Legal Family Lawyers - Book for Legal Cairns Lawyers

Nardine and the team at Collier Family Law were a dream to work with. They assisted me through quite a trying time with absolute professionalism and I highly recommend their services.

Adam - Alice Springs

Highly recommend Collier Family Law as value for money. Their willingness to advise & communicate on important issues, on occasion outside of normal hours, was greatly appreciated as was their personal touch. Thank You to all those involved for both my Family and recent Conveyancing work undertaken.

Chris - Cairns

I’ve been using Collier Family Law for almost 3 years now and wouldn’t go anywhere else. They are easy to deal with and very affordable. Against an extremely difficult other side when doing my Property Settlement Nardine kept working hard to get me the result I wanted. Thank you and I will be using Collier Family Law when needed in the future.

Joe - Cairns

Cairns Family Lawyers Near Me


Collier Family Lawyers Cairns
3/1 Pyne St
Cairns City QLD 4870
07 4214 5666

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • When should I contact a Family Lawyer?

    The sooner the better! We have people contact even us before they have separated for advice as to what they can do to start protecting assets in case it all goes pearshaped; or just to find out what they need to do. The sooner you get the advice you need, the sooner you can start getting on with what needs to be done to sort out your family law matters. We will discuss your situation with you and give you a checklist of things to think about and attend to in order to streamline the process as much as possible

  • Do I really need a Family lawyer? Can’t I just do it myself?

    You may be tempted not to get legal advice because you think it is expensive or not really necessary. In the same way you wouldn’t think of building a house unless you had the expertise to do so, you run the risk of getting it wrong if you don’t get legal advice. This could be a costly mistake!

    You really do need to know whether you are on the right track with what you think you are entitled to and what might be done if you end up before a judge. You need to pick your battles sometimes and not waste time and money arguing about something you are just not going to get. With a property settlement you will need to know the process to working it all out and what you are entitled to. You need to know what legal steps have to be taken, and how to go about it.

    Every case is different and just because your mate got a certain outcome doesn’t mean you will. There is also a lot of information out there and just like a medical issue you really shouldn’t self diagnose from Dr Google!! It is worth it, to outlay what is really only a small sum in the scheme of things, to get some good advice to get you started.

  • Can I save money on my legal fees? How do I cope with fees?

    YES! In the lawyer world, our time is your money. Most lawyers charge according to the time they spend in your file. This means, the more time your lawyer spends on your file, the more it costs you.

    At Collier Family Law, we know that money is tight and you want the best value for money. This is why we will suggest to you that you can do some of the legwork yourself – as this will reduce your fees.

    For example, you can write out your story – you might find it therapeutic! If it is a property matter, you can get together all your financial records and prepare them to give to us. We also have an automated letter of instruction which you fill in, and it gives us the background we need from you to give you advice. You doing this yourself will save at least an hour of time.

    As another great time saver I regularly have my clients fill in documents in draft for me to check over; or make their own enquiries where they can – for example, getting three quotes from a valuer. The more you can do, the less I need to, which reduces your fees.

    Remember also – your Cairns family lawyers MUST give you a proper estimate of fees at the start of your engagement with them, and keep giving you further estimates throughout the life of your file. If this isn’t covered with you at the first appointment, ask why.

  • Is a consent order an easy process?

    Yes it really is quite a simple process. The hard part is usually reaching the agreement in the first place! But once you’ve done that, filling in an application for consent orders is reasonably straightforward. There are two places where the ‘do it yourself’ person comes unstuck. Firstly there are a couple of sections in the form that are not as straightforward as other parts of the form and might require some legal advice. The second is that the application for consent orders must be accompanied by minutes of order where you set out the orders you want the court to make. This is the part that does require some legal expertise in order to make sure the orders are worded correctly and you don’t miss things out.

  • How do I work out a fair property division?

    Well this is the million dollar question! There isn’t really a formula as such, it is more a set of principles that lawyers apply when giving advice. These principles come from the family law act and from caselaw. There is a five step process. The first step is to look at what you each currently have and decide whether any further adjustment of property is necessary. If so, the next step is to identify and value your assets and liabilities. The next step is to work out what contributions you each made towards the property (financial, non-financial, direct and indirect). At this step, we talk about a percentage, for example 50% to each spouse. That isn’t the end of it however, the next step is to look at each person’s future needs and applying family law principles and sections of the act, decide whether the percentage that was reached in the contribution stage needs to be adjusted up or down. The final stage is to work out what property you will actually receive, in order to achieve the percentage that is a fair outcome for you both.

  • How do I value my property?

    Firstly – it’s current values not what it was worth at separation. For “Real” property (houses etc) get a real estate agent to give you an appraisal. It will do to start with and it’s free. For cars, bikes etc go to; or; for boats, caravans etc, look online at similar sales – or take these items to a dealer locally.

    Bank accounts are easy, you just need a printout of all bank accounts.

    Furniture, tools, jewellery etc – it’s a second hand value not replacement/insured value and don’t get too excited about it, it’s often worth much less than you think! Try and come up with a global value; again by looking on Gumtree, experts in or Marketplace for an idea.

    For superannuation, take in the most recent statement but also see if you can get a current balance.

    Valuing a company and/or business is a bit more involved and may require a formal valuation.

  • What if I want to leave town with the kids?

    In Cairns Family Law terms this is called a relocation. If you have court orders in place that provide for the children to live with or spend time with the other parent, you would not be able to re-locate if by doing so, those orders were not able to be carried out any longer.

    You have to apply to the court for orders a variation of the court orders if the other person didn’t agree to let you relocate with children.

    If there are no court orders in place then of course relocating without the other person’s consent is not a breach of court orders but you run a real risk of the court ordering the children to be returned back to the place where they were taken from, if they were taken without the other person’s consent. The starting point is always mediation to see if you can resolve whether the relocation can be agreed. If not then unfortunately you really must seek the approval of the court before relocating.

  • What time should kids spend with each parent?

    The Family Law Act says that when a court is looking at parenting orders, and when parents are negotiating them, the starting point is a “shared care” arrangement. However, the shared care arrangement must be in the best interest of children and be ‘reasonably practicable’ which means, able to be carried out. Whether or not a shared care arrangement is in a child’s best interest depends on many factors. Age of the children is relevant; as is whether there has been any family violence; and whether there are other concerns. The general rule of thumb is that a shared care arrangement doesn’t work well for children under school age and it certainly doesn’t work well for any children when there is a great deal of tension between the parents.

  • How do I get a divorce? How do I cope?

    You make an application to the court. The application for divorce is a fairly straightforward form that can be downloaded from the Internet and filled in by people without necessarily needing family lawyers to do it for you. You do need to be aware that you must be separated for at least 12 months before you can file your application. You can be separated but still living under the one roof however, you will need to file an affidavit setting out all the things that Court needs to know to be satisfied that you are in fact separated. There are some tips and tricks in relation to filling in an application for divorce correctly, and serving it. It is always worth getting some legal advice about the process.

  • What is equal shared parental responsibility?

    The first thing is what it is not. It is not shared care. Equal shared parental responsibility is the concept that parents will consult with each other about major long-term issues to do with the children. A major long-term issue is things like a child’s religion, education, medical things that are important, not just a day today trip to the doctor. It also includes changing the child’s name, and changing where the child lives such as to substantially affect the other person’s ability to spend time with the child.

  • How do I get a passport for a child with the other person won’t sign?

    If you have a court order that provides that you have sole parental responsibility of the child you should be able to get the passport without the other person’s signature. You can also apply to the passports office on the grounds that you are unable to get the other person’s signature because of an accepted reason such as, you are unable to find the person or there is family violence. If all this fails, you will need to make an application to the court for the passport to issue without the other person’s consent.

  • How do I change my child’s name without the other parent’s agreement?

    Even if you have sole parental responsibility under a court order, the Department of Births Deaths and Marriages will require the other parent’s signature. Without that, the only thing you can do is make an application to the court. The court will look at things like the age and wishes of the child; how the change of name will affect the child; what relationship the child has with each parent and in particular, whether changing the child’s name will affect the relationship the child has with the parent whose name they would be forgoing.

Our Blogs and Videos

Here are some helpful blogs and videos where we answer the most common but tricky questions about family law.


Do grandparents have rights to spend time with children?

By News

Yes, however the first thing we need to clarify is that when we talk about rights, it is the right of a child to have a meaningful relationship with a grandparent, not the right of the grandparent to have a relationship with the child. This might sound pedantic but it is an important distinction and one that you will need to know if you end up being self-represented.

The good news is, the Family Law Act specifically recognises that children have a right to spend time on a regular basis with, and communicate on a regular basis with, both their parents and other people significant to their care, welfare and development such as grandparents and other relatives. s60B(2)(b).

Grandparents are specifically included in the list of people who can apply to the court for a parenting order. S65C(ba).

Everything that is done for children in the family law context is in accordance with what is in the child’s best interests. The Family Law Act tells us how the court determines what’s in a child’s best interests and the factors that specifically mention grandparents are:

  • the nature of the relationship of the child with other people including any grandparent. s60CC(3)(b)(ii);
  • the likely effect if any change in the child’s circumstances including the likely effect of any separation from a grandparent with whom he or she has been living: s60CC(3)(d)(ii);
  • the capacity of a grandparent to provide for the needs of the child including emotional and intellectual needs; s60CC(3)(f)(ii); and
  • the court must consider the child’s right to enjoy his or her culture including the right to enjoy that culture with other people who share it, which is often grandparents. s60CC(3)(h)(i);

One of the things a court will also decide is parental responsibility, in other words making decisions in relation to major issues for a child. The court will make an order for a grandparent to have parental responsibility, if that is in the child’s best interests.

Grandparents have a very important role to play in the life of a child. If parents are unable to care for a child for any reason, the next best option is often a grandparent.

The usual cases we see is when the parent of your grandchild is not your son or daughter. The other common scenario is when you have taken on the role of caring for your grandchild because of either your own child’s inability to do so or the other parent or both, and then they consider they are now able to resume care of the child and you do not think it is in your grandchild’s best interests.

It is important to seek legal advice if there’s any family law dispute involving your grandchild.


Can your legal fees come from the joint money of the relationship?

By Articles

When that first bill comes in from your solicitor, how do you pay it? When you are in a relationship money is joint and bank accounts are joint. Where does that money come from to pay your first solicitor bill after separation? It is very tempting to take that $20,000 from the joint savings account to pay your solicitor fees.

The legislation provides a starting point for parties to consider where the money comes from to pay your solicitor bills. Section 117 provides that each party to a proceeding is to bear their own costs. Meaning that the money to pay your solicitor shouldn’t come from the property pool that needs to be divided. ie, your solicitor costs can’t come from the joint bank account.

But what happens when it is taken from the property pool (say that $20,000 sitting in a joint savings account), the case law says that money needs to be added back into the property pool.

  • In Chorn & Hopkins (2004) FLC ¶93-204, the Full Court of the Family Court at [57] said “If the funds used existed at separation, and are such that both parties can be seen as having an interest in them (on account, for example, of contributions), then such funds should be added back as a notional asset of the party, who has had the benefit of them.”
  • In Farnell & Farnell (1996) FLC ¶92-681 the husband used $20,000 he withdrew from a joint account at separation on legal fees. The wife gave no evidence as to her legal costs. The trial judge treated the $20,000 as a notional asset which he added back to the total property pool. The Full Court dismissed the husband’s appeal.

What if you choose to take a loan out to pay your solicitor bills. Can that be included in the balance sheet as a liability? The case law very clearly says no. It cannot be included as a liability in the property pool:

  • In Chorn & Hopkins (2004) FLC ¶93-204, the Full Court of the Family Court said, “nor would any borrowing undertaken by a party post-separation to pay legal fees be taken into account as a liability in the calculation of the net property of the parties.”

The simple answer is legal fees cannot come from the property pool, or you risk having to account for them as an add back to your detriment.


DEMANDS FOR PARENTAGE TESTING – “that child is not mine”

By Articles

What happens when your previous partner says, “I don’t believe that child is really mine”. Of course, there are a great deal of emotions during separation. Even where there was never infidelity, the question of parentage can be raised by the other party out of hurt feelings. Other reasons might be that a claim is made for the payment of child support.

The person questioning the paternity of a child have not considered how that question could affect the child in question. If the child is well into teenage years or a pre-teen, the relationship of parent/child is well established. The question we would pose to the person wanting the test is “have you considered the child and how they will react?” How will you explain your reasons for the testing to the child? and “what is it that you will do if they are not your child?”. When a parent has been a parent for a long time, do they want to sever that relationship? Are they proposing to remove that child from their life? What will happen in the event that the child is not yours? 

These issues must be considered before asking for or agreeing to the DNA test.

Be aware that proper DNA testing isn’t taking a hair from a hairbrush and sending it to a lab. It requires a blood test from a child which is usually traumatic in itself but how will it be explained to an older child/teenager as to why this test is required?

The court take a strong view in relation to parentage testing and say that there must be evidence to put parentage in issue – mere doubts are not sufficient.

The starting point is the presumption of parentage under the Family Law Act.

For married couples, under section 69P, if a child is born to a woman while she is married, the child is presumed to be a child of the woman and her husband.  

For de facto couples, under section 69Q, is that if the child was born to the woman AND at any time during the period beginning not earlier then 44 weeks and ending not less than 20 weeks before the birth, the woman cohabited with a man to whom she was not married then the child is presumed to be a child of the man.

Further, there is a presumption that if a person’s name is entered as a parent of a child in a register of births or parentage information then the person is presumed to be a parent of the child (s69R).

Further, there is a presumption as to artificial conception procedures under s60H(1).

There appears a vast amount of presumptions and the onus is on the person who says the child is not theirs, to rebut that presumption. However, case law has very much made it clear that parentage is no longer determined by legal presumptions. In G v H [1993] FamCA 39; (1993) FLC 92-380 Fogarty J noted at 79,942: “Paternity is now a medical and not a legal issue.”

A DNA test will confirm paternity, not 100% but with such a strong likelihood of paternity that it can be said legally that the child is the child of the father. A DNA test will exclude a person being the father of a child with 100% certainty. It is a very simple answer to the question of paternity to do the test.

But firstly, consider the child.

I want to change the locks –
The Good, the Bad and the Frustrating

By Articles

One of the questions we are asked at the first appointment with a client is “can I change the locks”.

After separation, it is common that one party stays in the matrimonial home. Either they ultimately want to keep it from any property settlement or they want/need to remain there until the house is sold.

The good reasons to change the locks is “I am scared of them returning”. Change the locks! Your personal safety is paramount.

The bad reasons to change the locks is to stop the other person from entering the residence to collect personal possessions. It is always best to arrange for these possessions to be collected from an agreed safe location.  Unless of course, you have an objection to the items they are wanting to collect.  Arranging a time and location to make an exchange is the best solution.

The frustrating reasons to change the locks “I think it will annoy them”. Frustrating negotiations is never the answer. Another frustrating reason is when parties are living separated under the one roof. Don’t change the locks to “lock them out”. If living separately under one roof is not working, lets discuss how best to move forward and negotiate who is to remain in the residence.

Who’s name is on the property can also change the answer.

  • If the property is held solely in your name, then go ahead and change those locks. It is your rights over the property.
  • In general, matrimonial property is held in joint names.  Both are entitled to access the property. But when there are genuine concerns for safety. Your safety is the first concern! Change the locks.
  • What if you are in rented housing? You must first obtain the consent of the landlord. And in doing so, you need to look into your options to remove your previous partner from the lease.

The court can make orders about who can occupy the family home and restraints on the other party from entering the property.

Our thoughts on changing the locks is that it is reasonable in many situations. To ensure you know what is best for you, obtain legal advice first.

Cairns Family Lawyers Solicitor | Family law cairns

Separated, and don’t know where to start?

By Articles

We appreciate it is very overwhelming when you don’t know where to begin to start sorting out the division of property following a separation. Here is our process.

The starting point is for us to gather information from you so that we can give you an advice as to what would be a fair outcome for you. We need to know things like, what all of your assets are and what you think they’re worth; how much debt do you have; what did you have at the start of your relationship; What contributions did you each make during the relationship both financial and as homemaker and parent if applicable; What’s your current financial situation and what does the future hold for you.

Once we have this information we are on our way to giving you an advice about what your proposal might be to resolve the division of property between you and your former partner.

We charge according to whatever time is spent on a file and it is at an hourly rate of $400 per hour plus GST. In order to try and save you at least an hour of fees we have a questionnaire that we send for you to fill in, in your own time, which asks all of the questions above.

When the questionnaire is returned to us, we have a look at it and make a time to go through it with you. It might be the case that we need some more information in which case we will tell you what that is and how we go about getting it. If there is enough information from the questionnaire for us to give you an advice about a good proposal and outcome for you, then we will talk about that at an appointment. We will also talk about how we can put your proposal to your former partner, will it be by way of you talking to your former partner, us writing them a letter, you both attending a mediation, or a combination of all of these things? There is no right or wrong method and we will talk to you about what is the best for you.

Once a proposal has been put to your former partner, we wait to their response. Their response will let us know the future pathway for your matter. For example, the response might indicate that you and your former partner are quite close to reaching an agreement. Or it might be the opposite. Either way, we will let you know what the next steps are and give you a further estimate of fees.

At all times what we are working towards is having you and your former partner reach agreement about the division of your property and having that agreement documented in a legally binding manner, usually, by way of an application for consent orders although a financial agreement is also an option. We will talk to you more about this when the time comes.

We will tell you what to expect, what we require of you, and what you can do to assist us to minimise your fees. Hopefully this will make your pathway through the process a lot easier!

31 Pyne St - Collier Family Lawyers Cairns

We are moving offices

By News

31 Pyne St - Collier Family Lawyers Cairns

It’s only one minute’s walk from the old office, making it easy for
current and new clients to find us.

Collier Family Lawyers Cairns
3/1 Pyne St
Cairns City QLD 4870
We look forward to serving you there.