Whether it has been your decision or the decision made by your partner, the road stretches out at the time of separation and forks off in several directions.
Emotions can run at an all-time high and this can sometimes cloud those first crucial decisions that are made. In more severe cases, people make decisions which can have a long-term impact on their children, their ex, their broader family and how their lives will unfold from there. Decisions where there were better alternatives, and negative outcomes that could have been avoided. That’s where family lawyers can do their best work, preventing potential disasters.
Engaging a good family lawyer at the time of separation can save you a lot of time, expense and pain later by accessing advice you can rely on from day one that sets you up for success. A person’s separation can involve many elements, such as parenting, child support, spousal maintenance, property settlement and domestic violence. There might be more urgent issues that need to be dealt with right away, with others that can be left to a later time once some of the dust has settled. Us family lawyers give advice based not only on legislation and rules, but our experience in the courts knowing how Judges and Magistrates are likely to view the things that people do and do not do when they separate, and how a particular issue might be dealt with.
With this knowledge and experience, the first meeting with your family lawyer should cover how to:
· minimise conflict
· promote your children’s best interests
· protect your assets
· preserve your rights
· ensure that you can provide for yourself and/or your children
· avoid joining the many, many people queued in the court system waiting for decisions to be made about their property and family
· save costs
Armed with this advice and information, you can make solid decisions on which path to take. Straight after separation, many people do not need anything drastic to change. There are certain steps to follow to work through a property settlement and/or an agreed parenting arrangement. While those occur, agreements can be reached along the way to keep joint expenses paid such as the mortgage, utilities, school fees and those related to the running of the home. Ideally, the exchange of documents can take place relatively early so that offers can be made and a binding agreement drawn up once consent is reached.
Some matters though can escalate quickly, landing people in court with legal costs increasing sharply. In many cases, there are alternatives to instituting court proceedings. This can involve raising any urgent or concerning issues as they arise, setting out a pathway to resolve those issues and following through to ensure those issues do not arise again. This is where pragmatic advice is particularly useful. Talking through the issues with you, how things might play out and how this might impact on you is an important part of what we do. We call it reality testing and it is vital.
The involvement of a family lawyer is ideally only a brief part of your story. We should not be the stars of your show. You should be front and centre, making your own decisions and forging your new path. Talk to us today about how we can help you find the right path to suit your circumstances and your family after separation.
First published 9 July 2017