Vanessa Leishman


Vanessa Leishman is an experienced family law and domestic violence lawyer.

Vanessa practiced as a barrister and solicitor for many years in New Zealand where she headed a large family law team in an Auckland commercial law firm.

Since relocating to Brisbane, Vanessa has built a boutique family law practice where she represents clients from all backgrounds with a diverse range of family law needs.

Vanessa continues to practise family law in both Australia and New Zealand and has developed a niche practice area relating to Trans-Tasman family law issues. Vanessa has a global client base and represents clients who are located in New Zealand, Australia and around the world.

Areas of Expertise
Property Settlement

Vanessa advises clients in relation to all issues arising from the breakdown of a marriage or de facto relationship including complex property settlements involving trusts, companies, tracing of assets and cross-border issues, binding financial agreements, asset planning, spousal maintenance and child support.

Vanessa acts for the complete spectrum of clients including high net worth individuals, primary producers based in rural areas, clients who need advice in relation to how to deal with property division involving a small property pool, or a single asset such as a house or a business, as well as clients facing extremely challenging and difficult domestic circumstances.

Vanessa has acted for clients in property matters involving the following issues:

  • Consent Orders or Binding Financial Agreements following the end of a relationship
  • Advice on Binding Financial Agreements before marriage or cohabitation
  • Disputes as to the existence of a de facto relationship
  • Where property has been disposed of to a Family Trust or other entity or transferred off-shore
  • Where the property pool involves assets in numerous different entities and where assets are located in both Australia and overseas
  • Disputes as to the appropriate jurisdiction to determine a property division
  • Cases where the appointment of a litigation guardian is necessary
  • Procedural disputes such as whether a proceeding had been commenced out of time or whether leave to commence a proceeding out of time should be granted
Parenting and Children’s Matters

Vanessa is very experienced in handling children’s issues and has had extensive experience representing children in both parenting and child protection proceedings and is passionate about children’s rights.

Vanessa has acted for clients in children’s matters involving the following issues:

  • Consent Orders and Parenting Plans
  • Disputed care arrangements including where a grand-parent or other family member seeks to have primary care of the child or children or to spend time with them
  • International relocation where one parent wants to move the children’s residence from one country to another
  • Hague Convention cases involving the abduction overseas or retention of children in an overseas jurisdiction without the other parent’s consent
  • Removal to or retention of children in another State or city without the other’s parent’s consent
  • Disputes as to the exercise of parental responsibility involving matters such as medical treatment, school enrolment, religious ceremonies, overseas travel
  • Cases where there has been abuse or neglect of children
  • Enforcement of child support agreements
  • Appeals
Domestic Violence

Vanessa represents clients who have experienced domestic or family violence as well as those who are responding to allegations of violence against them.

Vanessa has practised in this area for her entire legal career and demonstrates empathy and understanding while also providing practical, realistic advice to clients about their options and the legal process.

Vanessa has a particular interest in cases involving cyber-abuse, stalking, coercive and controlling behaviour and other forms of psychological abuse. Her attention to detail and the collection of relevant evidence in these kinds of matters often makes a real difference to the outcome of the case.

Vanessa is also an experienced courtroom advocate and represents clients throughout the legal process including at final hearing stage.

Vanessa has acted for clients in domestic and family violence matters involving the following issues:

  • All forms of physical violence and psychological abuse
  • Tracking devices and spy-ware
  • Financial Abuse
  • Coercive and controlling behaviour
  • Intimidating behaviour
  • Cyber and social media abuse
  • Stalking and harassment
  • Verbal abuse

Vanessa is also a long-term volunteer legal adviser at Women’s Legal Service Queensland.

Trans-Tasman Legal Issues

Vanessa has particular expertise in family law matters that involve issues pertaining to both Australia and New Zealand as she practises family law in both countries.

As a result of the special Trans-Tasman visa arrangements that exist between Australia and New Zealand, New Zealanders and Australians can easily travel to and work and live in each country under the automated visa approval arrangements.

Due to the ease of movement between the two countries, parties who separate often have family law issues in both jurisdictions.

This is where Vanessa’s expertise in both jurisdictions is key. Through her Trans-Tasman dual qualifications and experience she can assist clients with their family law issues whether they are based in Australia or New Zealand and clients can be assured they are receiving accurate advice as to their legal position in either jurisdiction.

Vanessa often provides legal opinions to clients or their legal advisers in Australia and New Zealand as to which country is the more appropriate forum to resolve their legal issue, including matters that may involve a court application and can provide advice on the likely outcomes.

Vanessa has acted for clients involving the following issues:

  • Applications to stay proceedings under the Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010
  • Applications for relocation of children from Australia to New Zealand or vice vera
  • Abduction or retention of children without the other parent’s consent in either Australia or New Zealand where the Hague Convention is invoked
  • Disputes as to domicile
  • Property located in both jurisdictions including assets in Trusts or owned by other corporate entities while parties are living predominantly in one of the jurisdictions
  • property settlements with a former spouse or partner where independent legal advice on an agreement being completed in either Australia or New Zealand is required
  • Independent legal advice required for a pre-nuptial or cohabitation agreements under either the applicable Australian or New Zealand legislation
  • Independent legal advice required for Powers of Attorney
Advocacy and Court Appearances

While Vanessa always endeavours to resolve family law issues for her clients without the need for litigation, there are instances where the involvement of the Courts is necessary or unavoidable.

Where court proceedings are necessary, Vanessa’s wealth of advocacy experience as a barrister and solicitor in New Zealand means she is well equipped to represent clients in Court in both Australia and New Zealand including at interim and final hearing stage.

Vanessa’s Court experience also includes significant appellate court experience.

Key Achievements

Examples of Vanessa’s family law experience includes:

  • Conducting the first appeal on behalf of children against final parenting orders in the High Court of New Zealand
  • Successful application on behalf of a client for leave to appeal out of time
  • Successful appeal on behalf of client against summary dismissal of an initiating application
  • Applications for a party to relocate from one country to another with their children or where this is opposed
  • Application to have a marriage declared void
  • A number of successful applications on behalf of grandparents to have grandchildren live with them or spend time with them
  • Applications to have proceedings stayed under the Trans-Tasman Proceedings legislation
  • Proceedings involving successful tracing of assets offshore

Vanessa regularly presents at conferences and seminars on family law issues and has recently been engaged to write content for a global legal publisher.

  • Bachelor of Arts (1994) (Auckland University)
  • Bachelor of Laws (1994) (Auckland University)
  • Master of Applied Family Law (2012) (College of Law)

Vanessa practises as a solicitor throughout Australia and a barrister and solicitor in New Zealand. Her formal admissions include:

  • Legal Practitioner in the Supreme Court of Queensland
  • Legal Practitioner in the High Court of Australia
  • Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand
  • QLS Proctor Editorial Committee
  • Queensland Law Society
  • New Zealand Law Society
  • Family Law Practitioners Association (QLD)
  • Australian Family Law Section
  • New Zealand Family Law Section