Our Associate Solicitor Chanel Martin explores what you should look for when choosing a divorce/family lawyer if you have recently, or are considering, separating from your spouse.

1 Get in early

Separation from your partner can leave you feeling confused and uncertain about your future.  Seeking advice as to your rights and obligations as soon as you can, even if you are your partner are on amicable terms or attempting reconciliation, is highly recommended as it is likely to have a positive impact on your finances and can ensure that proper care arrangements are in place for your children.  It may also empower you to make those tough decisions that you have perhaps been grappling with for some time.

In anticipation of formalising your property settlement with your spouse meeting with a family lawyer can ensure that you protect and preserve your assets.  Several considerations, just to name a few, are important, for example:

  • Whose name your property is in, and does your spouse have the ability to sell the property without your knowledge?
  • Do you have a strong enough understanding of your spouses’ financial position and the assets, entities and trust structures in which you or your spouse may have an interest?
  • Are you entitled or obliged to pay spousal maintenance?
  • Who is responsible for the ongoing expenses as they relate to the children/household post separation and until settlement is achieved?
  • Do you need to appoint a binding death nominee for your superannuation or life insurance?
  • Are there any time limitations, and what will be the impact on my finances and children if I wait?

As to the care arrangements for your children, it is important that you keep in mind the children’s best interests in all decision you make as to their care arrangements.  If you have concerns for their welfare in the care of your spouse, but continue to allow the children to spend time with your spouse, it could be difficult for you to change the arrangement later on.

These considerations are only preliminary and do not reflect a complete list of the issues you should have at the forefront of your mind if you have recently separated.  That is why it is important to speak with a family lawyer, even if it is just for preliminary advice, to ensure that you protect your family dynamic and your financial position.

2 Use an expert in family law.

The law as it relates to divorce, families and property settlements is forever changing.  Thousands of cases are determined each year by judges in the family court system, and this impacts the way in which the law is practiced throughout Australia.

It is important that the lawyer you choose is well versed with the legislation and ever changing case law.

That is why considering a specialist family lawyer is so important.  You are more likely to get the right advice, the first time.

Resolve Divorce Lawyers is equipped with Accredited Family Law Specialists.  Having undergone the rigorous assessments, the legal profession has recognised Accredited Family Law Specialists as experts in their field.  It is also an obligation that a Specialist regularly participates in professional development training, so they up to date with what’s what when it comes to practising family law.

3 Make sure you feel comfortable

It is crucial that you engage a lawyer that is empathetic, someone who helps you to feel comfortable, understood and well informed.

It is best to meet your lawyer face to face.  Not only it is meeting with your lawyer face to face more cost effective than corresponding via email or phone, but it gives you an opportunity to assess whether this is the right lawyer for you.

4 Ensure that all process options are available to you

The practice of family law can be varied.  It is important that you choose a lawyer who can offer you different models and methods for resolution.  These might include collaborative law, mediation, traditional negotiation as well as litigation.

Finding a lawyer that will attempt to resolve your dispute outside of the court room is important, as litigation can be costly, drawn out and ultimately have a negative impact on your family and your finances.   The practice of collaborative law as an alternative is focused on not exacerbating the conflict and takes a cooperative approach to dispute resolution.  It can be less intrusive and more cost effective than jumping straight into litigation.

When choosing a family lawyer consider how they choose to practice, and whether they are willing and able to engage in a variety of dispute resolution methods in order to reach a positive outcome for you.

5 Consider the cost; focus on value and not hourly rates

Finally, the cost of your family lawyer’s services will inevitably impact how you feel about your matter upon its conclusion.  For that reason, costs cannot be ignored and must be a consideration when seeking out the right family lawyer for you.  It is important that your lawyer discusses with you fees and estimates as they relate to the progression of your family law matter.  While at the outset, the cost may seem surprising, using a lawyer with a higher hourly rate may ultimately see you save money as your matter progresses.  An experienced lawyer, who is efficient and effective in how they operate, and who has your financial interests in mind, may produce a final bill that is less than a lawyer with a lower hourly rate.

If you take into consideration these five points in choosing a family lawyer as early as possible you can achieve a positive result in a timely and cost effective manner.