If you are Married or De Facto, sole parent or same sex couple and are now experiencing the beginnings of a separation or divorce, you can expect a challenging experience ahead, and during this time, you will need clear unbias advice and practical solutions from an experienced family lawyer you can trust.

In this often stressful and uncertain time, we can provide you with clear and concise guidance as to what steps are to be taken to finalise your separation, property, divorce and children matters expediently and cost effectively.

We can assist you with:

  • the separation and divorce process
  • property settlement process
  • parenting issues, orders and plans
  • spousal maintenance
  • alternative dispute resolution
  • financial agreements
  • court appeals and reviews
  • relationship issues relevant to your specific needs, including issues that can arise from domestic violence, international relationships and same sex relationships.

Although this will be an emotional time for everyone involved, it is important to keep a level head and take steps to finalise the matter as quickly as possible to ensure a positive end to your relationship.

In Family Law, there is no fixed framework for a resolution as every case is different and is usually decided on the merits and the best interests of both parties. This is achieved through a fact finding mission with the intention to reveal who contributed to the relationship and in what capacity, this can be a time consuming expensive process.

It is possible to save time and money by being prepared before you meet with a family lawyer. Here are some tips to help ensure you get the most out of any meetings you have with a family lawyer:

  1. Identify what you want to achieve
  2. Understand your family lawyer’s role
  3. Source appropriate emotional support
  4. Prepare a chronology of important dates and information
  5. Be prepared – this is not an easy process for anyone, is often emotive and usually uncomfortable

What do you want to achieve ? What will it take to ensue that you (and any children) are properly “equipped” to move on to the next phase in your life – this can take the form of money, assets and peace of mind. You should make a note of what you need (as opposed to what you want) to move on taking into account the needs of any child of the relationship. This is often something that people do not know how to work out. To assist you in working this out, we will ask you a series of questions and perhaps answer some questionnaire’s. This of course takes time and you can assist your family lawyer, and save some time and money, by pre-filling them in prior to any consultation.

Understand your family lawyers role – your family lawyers role in your matter is to advise you as to the best possible outcome that can be achieved for you within the confines of the law. This is an important piece of information to understand and appreciate. Your family lawyer cannot go outside of the confines of the law and you should never instruct that lawyer to do so as it undermines the role of the lawyer and can result in severe repercussions, not only for the lawyer, but also yourself and your case. Your lawyer will achieve the best possible outcome when you are honest and diligent in your answers to questions and giving instructions even when you think that those answers will affect you. For example, if you are asked about family violence, you need to give an honest and an accurate answer. The same applies to property and children related matters.

Source appropriate support – there is a difference between appropriate support and meddling support. Some people find support from a person who agrees with everything they want (as opposed to need) and would rather follow the advice of that person as opposed to heeding the advice of their lawyer. Usually appropriate support is finding a relative, sibling or parent, that knows them well enough to care and  provide rational unemotive support. Everyone has that person in their life that acts as their “rock” – that is the person you need to provide the support – your “rock” is usually the person who you can tolerate telling you that you need to think rationally and you are willing to listen too, whether it is constructive criticism or otherwise. We do however come across people that do not have a “rock” in their life and in that regard we urge those people to seek counselling from a appropriately qualified counsellor, usually a psychologist specialising in family related matters.

Chronology – a chronology is a document which documents important pieces of information for your case. It is a useful tool for both yourself and your lawyer. An accurate concise chronology helps your lawyer understand the sequence of events and the dates attributable to those events and will usually demonstrate the level of support that you have provided, both financial and non-financial, which in turn allows your lawyer to fulfill their obligations to you in advising you as to the range of possible outcomes in your matter.

Think of a chronology as a way of sharing your story in detail that will provide a roadmap of the relationship and breakdown, providing all the important dates, events and brief summaries of what occurred on those dates, with some evidence on how you propose to prove it. A sample Chronology that you can fill is available for download and editing by clicking here. This example is in Microsoft Word Format, if you require another format, such as Excel, please contact us and request a copy be emailed to you.

Being prepared –  if you follow the above tips, you will be prepared. However, sometimes the emotion of it takes hold and if you are not careful it can sneak up on you and take an extreme toll on both your physical and mental health. For that reason, you should take what we coin as “me time” – time alone in a quiet pleasant space, in good company, to reflect on what has happened and how you propose to move on with your life – decisions of this nature cannot be rushed and must be made in an informed manner and of course you can only be “informed” when you are not in an emotive state of mind. For that reason your support person, counsellor or other significant person needs to be involved, to assist in picking up the pieces and ensure that you are in the best position as possible to deal with the matter – it will not be easy.

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Further reading …

Most commonly after separation, couples try to sort out their entitlements to property and part ways financially. Some couples can do this selflessly and fairly – others cannot. For your protection, even if you agree how to work out and distribute your property, you should engage a family lawyer to properly document and put into effect your agreement.

There are time restrictions on when you can bring any property proceedings. If you

  •  are married and have separated, you need to bring your property proceedings within 12 months of separation.
  • were in a defacto relationship, and have separated, you must bring an application for property settlement within 2 years of separation.

The role of your family lawyer is to guide you through the process and advise you of what is the best outcome for you. To achieve this, a myriad of enquiries need to be made and a Balance Sheet developed, which usually indicates the outcome for both parties. If the balance sheet is agreed, then you can document your settlement. If no agreement can be reached, then of course proceedings issue and that can be a costly process in terms of both money and mental well being. For more information on Property Settlement, read our article.

If you have been married and have been separated for 12 months or more, even if Property Proceedings are on foot, you can apply for Divorce. For more information on Divorce, read our article.

Children’s related matters are usually resolved during the Property Settlement or Divorce Proceedings because the welfare of the children is of paramount importance and decisions relating to those two subjects cannot be resolved without reference to the well being of the children. However there are some matters involving children which need to be addressed in the immediate future following a relationship breakdown – for example, the children’s living arrangements, maintenance, education and so forth. There are two many variables when it comes to children to write a decent informative article here and it is more beneficial for you to follow our tips above and make an appointment to discuss the matter further.

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