Submitted by freelance writer, Olive Smith
A breakdown in a relationship can be stressful and often leaves one uncertain of the future.
It is important to seek expert advice to understand how family law applies to your specific circumstances and get things into perspective to help move on with one’s life. While the legal process of applying for a divorce is quite straightforward in most situations, that is not the case with the far more complex and emotional issues of property and parenting matters.
Choosing to engage a lawyer is an important decision. If your matter is complex, you may be working closely with this person for quite some time. You need to be comfortable with the lawyer’s expertise, experience, fee structure and overall approach to resolving your matter.
If you find yourself recently separated and trying to navigate separation and divorce, know that you are not alone since 1 in every 3 marriages in Australia ends in divorce with 1 in 5 marrying multiple times. A good lawyer will assist you to navigate the legal system and can advise on the dos and don'ts to avoid unnecessary litigation or drawn out and excessively expensive negotiations.
Factors to Consider when Selecting a Divorce Lawyer
Selecting the right divorce lawyer is key to ensuring your best interests are upheld in any negotiations. Hence, it is essential to select someone with the right set of skills depending on your circumstances. Here are a few important factors to consider when selecting a divorce lawyer:
- Lookup on the lawyer's past cases and checkup reviews or testimonials from previous clients.
- Opting for a specialist lawyer, one that is an accredited specialist in family law may be highly beneficial, particularly if your matter is complex.
- If your matter ends up in court and at hearings and trial, you may also need a Barrister. Find out whether the lawyer you are considering will need to instruct a barrister or whether they are comfortable to represent you, and if they prefer to use a barrister, who the usually prefer to brief.
- The lawyer you select should ideally be easily accessible and quick to respond, look for feedback on this in the reviews.
- For those with children, it is best to put the needs of the child first to ensure they do not suffer while both parents are in dispute, you may look to engage a lawyer who is also an Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL) and experienced in children’s’ matters.
- If your financial situation involves complex tax and corporate structures, you may benefit from engaging a lawyer who has a thorough understanding of corporate and commercial matters.
- If your matter has any chance of a reasonably amicable outcome, you may benefit from selecting a lawyer who is also an accredited mediator or Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP).
Common Mistakes to Avoid
- It is not a good idea to hide money or assets in the case when filing for divorce since one can face serious penalties for doing so. Ensure you make full and frank disclosure to you both your lawyer and your ex-partner.
- Having pre-set expectations on how your spouse is going to respond can prove to be a big mistake. They may pleasantly surprise you if you give them the opportunity.
- It is not always desirable to engage the services of a lawyer to embark straight away on settling your matter through the Family Court. Consider the benefits of Medation before proceeding to court.
- Avoid making kneejerk emotional decisions.
- Do not confuse what is unsavoury behaviour by your ex-partner with what is actually relevant in family law. Be sure to follow your lawyer’s advice to avoid spending legal fees chasing irrelevant matters for no return on your investment.
- Talking badly about your ex in the presence (or earshot) of your children is definitely not in their best interests and is a common mistake made by most parents, particularly in the early stages of separation. Do your utmost to maintain respectful communication with each other especially in front of the children.
How to prepare before visiting Family Lawyers
- Make note of the date of separation. It is not necessary for anyone to be at fault to file for a divorce in Australia. Being separated for 12 months and irretrievable breakdown of a relationship are sufficient grounds to applying for a divorce.
- Create a snapshot of your circumstance
- Do a financial stock take at the time of separation by creating a schedule of all your assets and liabilities jointly or separately owned
- Do a similar financial stock take for the assets and liabilities each party had at the commencement of co-habitation.
- Make a list of the contributions each party has made during the relationship – both financial and non-financial.
- Be prepared to negotiate and compromise to avoid making it an expensive and drawn-out legal battle.
Benefits of Consulting a Family Lawyer
A good family lawyer is someone with the skills and experience to help a layperson navigate through a divorce and property settlement procedure. They can assist you to bring your matter to a close more amicably and cost-effectively than self-representing or avoiding addressing the matter at all.
The outcome of a divorce, parenting and property orders have far-reaching effects on your life and the life of those around you including your children. If you are in Sydney Koffels Solicitors and Barristers offer expert legal opinion and representation across a broad range of legal issues including specialist Family Law advice, Family Dispute Resolution and Mediation.
If you have decided to end your relationship, you should start to educate yourself. I know the overwhelming feelings of making these decisions and facing your new realities. My book, The First Steps through Separation and Divorce will guide you through the emotional and practical aspects you may need to address in the coming weeks, months and years.
Get a feel for what's covered: View the Table of Contents.
Do you want to write for Divorce Resource?
Click on the image below to read our submission guidelines