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What does family law cover?

Family lawyers cover a range of legal matters relating to family relationships of people who are married or in de facto relationships, including but not limited to:

  • Divorce;
  • Property and financial settlements;
  • Spousal maintenance;
  • Children and parenting issues;
  • Child support;
  • Relocation, travel and passport issues for children;
  • Children born as a result of artificial conception procedures;
  • Intervention orders and family violence matters;

How much will it cost to engage a family law solicitor?

Engaging a family lawyer or a family law solicitor is usually on a fee-paying basis and not covered by a No-Win-No-Fee arrangement. The cost of engaging a family law solicitor depends on the specific legal advice and assistance your case requires, as well as the solicitor you wish to meet with.

Can I get legal aid for family law matters?

Victoria Legal Aid does cover family law matters and a large part of their practice is in the area of family law and child protection.

Most family law legal aid grants go to parents who can’t agree on parenting arrangements after separation and family violence intervention order matters.

While Victoria Legal Aid provides free legal advice on family law matters for people that qualify to use their service, they can only assist on certain issues governed by federal law where there is a ‘substantial issue in dispute’.

Do I need to have a solicitor, or can I represent myself?

It may be advisable depending on the circumstances to engage a solicitor for your family law matter.

If there are proceedings in Court regarding property settlement or children, parties are able to represent themselves at Court. However, family law can be complicated and it would be advisable to obtain advice from a solicitor before you make a decision to represent yourself.

It would also be advisable to obtain advice about your rights in relation to a property settlement before you start to negotiate a settlement with your former partner. Many people also benefit from obtaining advice about their rights and obligations in relation to the parenting of their children after separation, and to talk through the possible parenting scenarios that may work for their family.

It is highly recommended that you engage a solicitor once an agreement regarding the division of property is reached. In these cases, it is important to have the settlement finalised either by a Court Order or a Binding Financial Agreement.

It is common for people to simply write up an informal agreement at home and sign it. However, without either a Court Order or Financial Agreement, any agreement you reach will not be binding or enforceable. This means that either party can seek to renegotiate the agreement or make an application to the Court for a property settlement at a later date. This can lead to the burden of legal costs and the stress of dealing with a Court proceeding fall on you, sometimes many years after you separate.

Having an agreement formalised once you reach a settlement is highly recommended and will alleviate any concerns about a settlement being challenged at a later date (other than in exceptional circumstances).

It will also give you comfort knowing you are able to deal with any assets having the knowledge that a settlement with a former spouse has been dealt with.

Arrangements regarding your children, do not necessarily need to be by way of a formal binding agreement if both parties can make amicable arrangements for the children. However, there will be occasions when having a Court Order regarding the parenting arrangements for your children may be required, or a sensible way of dealing with the arrangements so there is no doubt about when the children will spend time with both of their parents or other significant people in their lives.

What should I bring to my first consultation with a family law solicitor?

It is useful to compile all the information and supporting documents relevant to your family law matter prior to your first consultation with a family law solicitor.

If you are seeking legal advice regarding separation, you should do the following:

  • Make note of the date you separated from your spouse, as this will be important for your Application for Divorce (for married spouses) and time limits to commence property settlement proceedings (for de facto couples).
  • Collate your relevant financial information, including:
    • Income tax returns;
    • Bank statements;
    • Superannuation statements;
    • A list of all assets and liabilities; and
    • Any other documents that may be relevant regarding your assets and debts that would assist with your property settlement.
  • Keep a diary of all significant events regarding your children and parenting matters.

This information should be presented to the solicitor during the first consultation so they can properly advise on your matter.

When should I make an appointment to see a family law solicitor?

It is advisable to make an appointment to see a family law solicitor at the earliest possible stage where a solicitor can provide concrete advice. We would recommend that you seek legal advice shortly after your separation. This is important so you understand how the law would apply in your particular circumstances to help you have discussions with your former partner directly (if possible) or through family dispute resolution to try and reach an amicable agreement. If your matter is referred to family dispute resolution, we highly recommend that you seek legal advice.

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