Separation is stressful enough without legal problems complicating it further. Here are eight things you should consider if you want the process to go as smoothly as possible.
1. Use a specialist family lawyer
There are many sources for information about your legal rights following separation. Well-meaning relatives, friends and some lawyers whose specialty is not family law may give you advice about your issues. However, problems arise because the law and procedure can be complicated and your friends’ solutions are unlikely to have factored in your unique situation. Likewise, a lawyer whose speciality isn’t family law may not be aware of the latest precedents that might affect your matter.
Treat your legal problem as you would a medical problem. Engage a lawyer that specialises in your area.
2. Prepare a list of questions
You engage a lawyer seeking a solution and specialist lawyers are adept at listening to your story and then providing “the answer.” If you’re unfamiliar with the vocabulary of family lawyers, that answer can be overwhelming. You’ll receive an overview of the law, be asked lots of questions and probably be requested to obtain more information after you leave.
When your lawyer asks if you have any questions, you don’t want to have a mental blank on the big issues that have been causing you anxiety. In this scenario, the dullest pencil is better than the sharpest memory. Write a list of questions and bring it with you so you can get the answers, or at least get your lawyer working towards finding the answer for you.
3. Blame – it’s not helpful
As has been written elsewhere, Western Australia is a no-fault jurisdiction. Subject to some exceptions, bad behaviour by your former partner usually does not influence the outcome of your dispute. If your decision-making and judgment become blurred by notions of fault, or worse; principle, you could miss opportunities to end your conflict and move on with your life sooner.
Whatever the reasons for your separation, don’t get caught in the blame game.
4. Irrelevant matters – your lawyer shouldn’t be your counsellor
A subject that can be uncomfortable: cost. Regardless of their field, specialists command a premium for their expertise. While certain subjects are truly important personally and morally, a feature of sound advice is telling you what is not legally relevant to resolving your dispute.
It is a bad use of your time and money to use your lawyer for things we are not trained to help solve. Rely on your family, friends and appropriate specialists (such as therapists and counsellors) to help you with those aspects that lawyers can’t.
Unless you and your former partner are close to a settled deal, don’t expect a rapid resolution. Some of the periods are prescribed by legislation (for example, 12 months’ separation before filing for divorce); there are well-publicised delays in the Family Court and sometimes slow or inadequate compliance with obligations stalls progress.
But, don’t assume that just because you see a lawyer you’re going to war. Both the Court and we strive to settle your dispute through negotiation, if possible. As soon as you have enough information to make an informed and prudent decision, you should consider reasonable proposals to finish your matter.
There are countless factors that affect how long the process takes so to avoid disappointment we seldom offer estimates. We simply endeavour to resolve the conflict as soon as possible.
6. A&L and Form 13 – prepare a draft of these out as best you can
Download a Form 13 – Financial Statement from the Family Court of Western Australia’s website and complete it to the best of your knowledge.
Similarly, draft a list of all your known assets and liabilities. It doesn’t need to be pretty or complicated and thinking about it before you meet your lawyer means you can give more accurate, fulsome instructions.
7. Disclosure documents
It is trite to observe that the legal system relies on evidence. The evidence in family law cases is usually documents and, unless you’re an expert, your opinion is not evidence. We can give you a list of every conceivable category of material that might be relevant to your case, but it’s too cumbersome for this article. In broad terms, you need to prove the values for each item of property in the following categories:
- Real Estate;
- Bank accounts / loan accounts / credit cards;
- Taxation / income;
- Shares / investments;
- Companies / Trusts; and
- Valuable personal property such as motor vehicles and artwork.
You can obtain and organise a lot of these documents ahead of your first appointment so that you’re ready when they’re required.
8. Authorise your professionals to share information with your lawyer
If you have professional advisors that prepare relevant information for you, it’s easy for us to request these directly from your advisors and it takes some of the load off you. We need your written permission and that’s something you can provide before the first meeting.
Carr & Co practice exclusively in family law. Our peers highly regard our small and select team and we work together to obtain the best results for you. Phone (08) 9322 8000 to arrange an appointment with one of our lawyers today.