Divorce affects many aspects of your life and hiring the right professionals will smooth the way through this difficult time. From experts who can help you financially to emotionally. Here’s why going solo should be a team effort.
A family lawyer
Obviously, a family lawyer will be the first professional you think about when you are considering who to engage for your family law matter. But even though divorce is a legal process, you won’t always need a family lawyer to handle absolutely everything. Especially if it’s not a complex contested divorce.
Yes, you can legally “do it yourself” for many simple divorce matters. The family law courts have many helpful brochures and even a YouTube video on how to get divorced! Sometimes you and your ex will agree on most things and it all feels very amicable. But know that the tide can turn at any time (people really do change). It’s really important to know your entitlements under the law. Therefore, it’s a good idea to always get professional help from a family lawyer. Even if it’s just initially to scope out your situation. (Remember, at Alliance Family Law you can access a short, free, no-obligation first conference by telephone. Just give us a call to make an appointment.)
The help from expert financial professionals really shouldn’t be underestimated. The financial aspects of your divorce and property settlement could have lifelong repercussions for you and your family. So having a clear understanding of your finances as you enter the divorce process is critical. Use an expert to model scenarios depending on different kinds of outcomes. This will be really illustrative to you too, as to the best possible way forward. Hiring professionals will help eliminate guesswork about your practical current and future needs and obligations. And they are especially important to engage if you have a more complex financial situation. Like running your own business, operating a family trust or directing a company. This ensures you protect both yourself and your business. In general, the wealth-building strategies you’ll learn from finance professionals will help you take advantage of this crossroads in your life. They will help to reset your finances and put you in a better place for a healthier, more stable financial future.
An estate lawyer
An estate lawyer will help you create a new Will, and make sure your power of attorney designations are correct. This includes health care proxies and enduring guardianships, and they can handle anything to do with creation of a trust. This is very difficult to do on your own. Make sure you hire someone experienced in the relevant niche. Someone who is familiar with your family law issues.
A tax lawyer
If your matter is complex and has difficult tax implications, also see a lawyer who specialises in tax. This will be very useful and prevent you making poor property settlement decisions.
Therapists, counsellors and psychologists
Sure, friends can offer shoulders to cry on and well-meaning advice, but professional therapists and counsellors can offer you both guidance and tried and true tools for improving your mental health and giving you strength to cope with the traumatic stressors of divorce. Having access to an unrelated third party who is both supportive and guaranteed to be confidential can help you make much better decisions going forward, and if dealing with a toxic ex is an issue, experienced counsellors are a godsend. Many therapists have training to deal with the specific issues around separation including good communication between separated parents, how to meet the children’s needs including enrolling them in programs for children of separated parents and so forth. Therapy provides a safe outlet for your kids who may not appear to be having issues with a family breakup, but in fact are. It’s a good idea to seek out therapists who are experienced in family therapy.
If children are involved you’ll be pointed in this direction “by law” before you can start any court action. You will need to have a ‘section 60 I certificate’ providing you have attempted ‘family dispute resolution’. You will need this before you can start a court case. Mediators might also be able to help you if you are going through divorce issues unrelated to children. For example, you may be generally in agreement with your ex on a property settlement, but have reached an impasse. Reaching out to a mediator can be a useful way to get a property settlement discussion back on track. This can help you feel more in control. It can also help you to reach agreement without it escalating, and save you legal fees.
Engaging collaborative lawyers is a way for you and your spouse to hash out your divorce and settlement without going to court. In fact, if you sign up to collaboration but the process fails, the collaborative lawyers you engage must cease to work for you. The lawyers’ role is to work hard with both of you to achieve an out of court settlement. They cannot threaten court or litigation when the going gets tough. When you go down the route of collaboration, you will be assisted to utilise a range of other neutral professionals. This can include child specialists and financial experts who are officially brought onto your team to try and achieve a ‘win win’ outcome. As with the lawyers involved, the engagement of these professionals also terminates if the matter does end up going to court. This is a huge incentive to all members of your team to help you avoid litigation.
Real estate agents and valuers
These seasoned pros who are familiar with your area are necessary for property settlements where there are disputes over asset values. For more, read our blog on the importance of obtaining a valuation in property matters.
You’ll be able to get advice relating to your own and your ex’s superannuation interests from your family lawyer who is expert in super issues. However, valuing super for family law means much more than reading a statement, so particularly if you have a defined benefit fund like MSBS or CSS, you’ll probably be directed to an actuary who is expert in valuing super for a family law matter.
Forensic accountants and investigators
In some contested matters, there may be concerns that an ex is not fulfilling their legal duty of full and frank disclosure, and it may be necessary to hire other professionals who can find hidden assets and so on. For complex financial arrangements, forensic accountants can make sense of voluminous bank statements and carry out asset tracing exercises. Occasionally, referrals even have to be made to graphologists (handwriting analysts) who can determine if a signature on a document is forged.
Experts in international family law
If you were a member of an international couple, complex international family law issues are likely to affect you. For example, enforcing court orders, property settlements with international aspects, international spousal support or child support, etc. So you will need to ensure you receive the appropriate legal advice relevant to more than one country. For instance your family law matter may involve two countries and jurisdiction is an issue. Here, you will need to find a local lawyer in each jurisdiction. You need to understand whether a ‘simple divorce’ in a foreign country puts you in a difficult situation regarding children or assets. This may differ from the Australian situation. You can read more on our blog about international family law matters.
A little help
Other members of your ‘team’ might also include people who can handle the little things. These can become an issue in your single life, such as mechanics, lawnmowing services, babysitters, repair people and so on. Having a nurturing support system of family and friends may mean you can get some help now and then. This is not always an option, and you may not want to regularly lean on loved ones for help. Luckily, it’s not hard to find local help with the internet. But try to find service directories and markets which offer rated listings, for example a services market like Airtasker.
When it’s a good idea to look for a new service provider
Even if you already had engaged a particular professional during your married life, sometimes you still want to seek out a new service provider. This may be because there might be a potential conflict of interest if you keep using the family’s usual lawyer. At other times it may be because you feel their familiarity with your past relationship might colour their advice going forward. Alternatively, you simply may not have been that happy with the choice of professional you’d previously engaged. Especially if your ex chose them. Or you might not be able to afford the existing professional anymore, or their services might no longer be comprehensive enough to cover your new situation. For whatever reason you may need to get professional help with any of services mentioned below, do not hesitate to ask Alliance Family Law for a referral to a trusted professional.
Do you need to engage every single one of the above mentioned service providers? Of course not. Some will be completely irrelevant to your situation. But it’s good to know that you can find help from all these sources, and to know your options.
For referrals to professionals who Alliance Family Law trusts, or if you’d like to know more about Collaborative Divorce, please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.