With the exception of the death of a loved one, the breakdown of a relationship and family unit will likely be one of the most excruciatingly painful and confusing events of your life. Thankfully, most of us have wonderful family and friends to help us get through this difficult time in our lives. However, sometimes our family and friends can cause more harm than good when their efforts to support us border on misguided legal advice. No one family is the same as another. Therefore, just because a family member, or a friend of a friend’s family law matter resolved in a certain way, does not mean that your unique family law matter will resolve in the same way. When a relationship breaks down, this is the best time for you to jump into a new relationship – with your lawyer!
Before making any important decision in your life, you would generally make an effort to understand the subject matter, prior to making your decision. Your family law issues are no different. In order for you to make the best decisions for you and your family, you need to be able to understand what your unique situation involves and what options are available to you. It is only when you have a good understanding of what your family law matter entails that you will be able to make the well informed decisions needed to move forward.
There are so many misconceptions about lawyers and the legal system in general, but more specifically, about how children and property settlement matters are resolved. The reality is it can actually be quite a simple process. Equipped with the right information about how the law operates to resolve these matters, you may be surprised to know that in fact very few matters ever have to proceed all the way to Court to be determined by a Judge. There are several avenues open to parties to negotiate agreements, either informally or formally, without the need to ever step foot inside a Court. The role of your lawyer is to identify the relevant issues involved in your matter and the most appropriate ways to resolve those issues, as quickly and as cost-effectively for you as is possible.
For example, with respect to children’s matters, there is, more often than not, scope for negotiation between parents in relation to the most appropriate living arrangements for their children. Generally speaking, before a parent can apply to the Court for parenting orders, they must make a genuine effort to resolve the dispute by way of primary dispute resolution (or mediation). However, there are some legislated exceptions to this requirement, such as circumstances of abuse, family violence or other urgency issues. Importantly, if an agreement is reached between the parents at this primary dispute resolution stage, then the terms of that agreement may be recorded as an informal Parenting Plan, or formalised by way of the filing of Consent Orders, without there being any need at all for the parties to attend Court. The object of the primary dispute resolution process is to control costs incurred by parties and resolve the parenting dispute as quickly as possible. The paramount concern at all times is to consider what parenting and living arrangements will be in the best interests of your children.
With regards to property settlement matters – again, there is often enormous scope for negotiation between parties as to the division of their property interests. The calculation of a just and equitable division of property interests is a clearly defined and logical process. Primary dispute resolution may include negotiation, conciliation, arbitration and counselling.
If you are contemplating separation, or your relationship has already broken down, consider obtaining some legal advice sooner rather than later. The decisions that you make now about how best to resolve your family law matters will impact you and your family significantly in due course.
Your relationship with your lawyer is an extremely important one. Like with your personal relationships, it needs to be the ‘right fit’. Given that people are often at their lowest point (psychologically, emotionally and physically) when navigating their way through separation, divorce, children and property settlement proceedings, it is essential for you to feel as though you have the understanding, compassion, support and legal guidance of your lawyer. Significantly, you must have faith and confidence in your lawyer’s ability to properly represent your interests and achieve an appropriate outcome.
The best preliminary advice I can offer you is this…Don’t overwhelm yourself or have unrealistic expectations about how your family law matter should play out. Just take it one step at a time. In terms of finding a lawyer, you may like to speak with family and friends as sometimes a recommendation can provide a level of comfort, particularly during a difficult time.
And what can you expect the process to look like? That may differ with each legal firm or lawyer but at Hills Family Law Centre we would have a no obligation initial consultation with you to discuss your matter. During our initial consultation with you, we take the time to understand your unique situation and provide you with preliminary advice in relation to your rights and obligations under the Family Law Act. We will discuss the various options available to you and provide you with an estimate of anticipated legal costs. You will then be in a position to digest that information and make a well informed decision about how best to move forward for yourself and your family.
At Hills Family Law Centre, we practise exclusively in Family and De Facto Law. The more common areas of Family and De Facto Law that we deal with include, but are not limited to, the following:
- De Facto and Same Sex Relationship Breakdown
- Property Settlement
- Binding Financial Agreements
- Parenting Disputes / Agreements
- Child Support / Spousal Maintenance Agreements
- Relocation (Domestic and International)
- Domestic / Family Violence / Child Abuse
- Court Representation.
We understand the complexities involved in these areas of law and we will provide you with informative and focussed legal advice to help you to make the most appropriate decisions for you and your family. Our priority is to provide you with clear and realistic legal advice so that your parenting and/or property settlement matters may be resolved quickly and at minimal cost.