People often ask themselves ‘Do I need a family lawyer’, when it comes to sorting out the ending of their marriage or de facto relationship, especially if they have an amicable relationship with their ex. Is it OK to go through a divorce without getting legal advice? In what circumstances does it make more sense to hire a family lawyer than not? Let’s take a quick look.
There’s lots of reasons why people don’t hire a lawyer for their family law matters–money of course being a major factor. People aren’t sure of the actual cost of legal representation, or what their budget really is, or if it will all be worth it in the end. (You’ll find there are lawyers across the spectrum to suit most budgets, with some offering the option of fixed fees so you know what your costs will end up being.)
You can run your own family law matter and many people do choose to self-represent. So why should you hire a lawyer? There’s a whole range of legal issues around marriage, de facto relationships, children and property. While you have the right to represent yourself, self-representation simply doesn’t suit all aspects of family law, which can be very complex and daunting.
There may be some aspects you can ‘do it yourself’, but there may also be a range of legal issues that you hadn’t considered and which could alter outcomes greatly. Family law practice requires a thorough understanding of Australian family law and an awareness of loopholes that exist and could be used against you. You need to be certain you can deal with all the legal issues yourself or you should hire a family lawyer.
A skilled family lawyer not only understands the law and navigating the judicial system (including federal and state laws and procedures), he or she knows your entitlements and is on top of issues you may not have thought of. A good lawyer knows the outcomes to expect, and the things that might weigh in your favour.
A good family lawyer is all about reaching non-litigated settlements and resolving disputes quickly and cost-effectively. This means canvassing your Alternate Dispute Resolution options to help you avoid court. They also known when to refer you to other professionals if necessary, for example, an accountant regarding tax implications that may arise from your financial settlement.
What is your ex up to?
Does your ex have a lawyer? If you know your ex has retained a family lawyer and is receiving legal advice, you may be at a disadvantage if you didn’t ‘lawyer up’ as well. It sets things up to be very uneven if your spouse has sought the protection of legal advice and is looking out for their interests, but you have not.
Even if things aren’t contentious and are amicable, things can quickly unravel. Or, you may already know that your ex is the type to play hardball. Either way, hiring a family lawyer can take the emotions and stress out of interaction with your ex, allowing the lawyers to take on the job of arguing points—negotiation is often much easier through a third party. This can be really useful if abuse was present in the relationship, as family lawyers can act as another layer of protection, keeping victims at arms’ length from abusers.
Getting it right from the start
Even obtaining only initial legal advice can get you headed in the right direction from the start and head off any mistakes you may be about to make. Here are just a few examples:
- Your ex is disposing of assets
Sometimes exes attempt to liquidate or transfer assets to third parties or overseas. Our courts can make orders regarding overseas property but this can be hard to enforce in some countries. Early legal advice could prevent a spouse from selling, transferring or liquidating assets by freezing them.
- You just want to make consent orders
If you make consent orders with your ex about your assets, the agreement is still not binding on either party. If parties aren’t divorced, either of them can apply to the courts for a property settlement, even a long time after the ‘agreement’ was reached with the consent orders.
Note also that the courts will look at the assets existing at the time of the application, not the time the consent orders were entered. This might mean division of fewer or more assets down the track, and could adversely impact a party. To avoid this, consent order agreements should be formalised with an Application for Consent Orders in the court.
- Your ex says they’re going to relocate with the kids
Sometimes parents were unaware they could stop their ex from unilaterally relocating a child, falsely believing the other parent has the right to do so. If attempting to have a relocating parent ordered to return, time is of the essence, because courts have shown unwillingness to repeatedly uproot children if they have already settled somewhere new. Early legal advice can make all the difference in a situation like this.
- You didn’t even know you were legally “de facto”
This is another area where unrepresented people are sometimes caught out. They may not view themselves as having been in a de facto relationship even if under the eyes of the law, they actually were. They may then be subject to laws around de facto relationships and property settlement. This can come as a shock and would have been picked up by a family lawyer.
There are many more instances where “a stitch in time saves nine” when it comes to obtaining legal representation.
Can you take the risk?
What it will boil down to is how much of a risk you wish to take. Although risk assessment is part of many important decision-making processes in life, when you are risking things like custody of children, your property and your financial stability, the stakes are especially high. This is even more so when you add in factors such as parties with high net worth or parties owning their own separate property or having significant sums of superannuation.
Since family law deals with life-changing decisions about your family and future, making uninformed decisions can be extremely costly (both financially and emotionally). It’s common sense that hiring an expert professional will ensure you get the job done right and will likely save you money in the long run.
To discuss your family law needs, please give Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors a call here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information about how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.