The First Meeting with your Family Lawyer
What to Consider
People in need of family law advice often come to family lawyers with a range of concerns. Many people are unsure about their legal rights and concerned about the family law process. For example, how to end a dispute with their former partner such as how to negotiate and formalise an agreement. Not all concerns can be dealt with by a family lawyer, however an experienced family lawyer will identify the concerns that they are able to advise on, and may be able assist you with referrals where needed.
Where the issues relate to property or financial matters, it is important to identify what information about your circumstances you have, what you can find out and what you don’t know. You may be in the dark about the financial details relevant to your circumstances. You might not have access the information required to resolve the issues. In circumstances where a client has detailed knowledge, the situation may be complex, and other professional services such as accountants or other speacialist legal advice (e.g. tax), may be required to make sense of the situation and therefore develop options for a potential resolution.
What to Bring
If you are considering seeking family law advice, you should come to the first meeting prepared with as much of the following information as you are able to obtain or recall:
- A timeline of events, such as dates of birth, date of marriage or the date you started living with your ex partner, the names and dates of birth of the children, and dates when assets were acquired and/or sold.
- A list of questions or concerns you wish to have addressed by your family lawyer organised by topics. For example questions about custody, about financial support, about travel arrangements with children, or questions about the assets or debts that exist, how regular debts will be paid.
- A list of the assets, liabilities and superannuation entitlements, that currently exist. If known, how each asset or liability is owned (whether they are owned by you, or your partner, or through a trust or other business entity controlled by either you and/or your partner). The list should include bank account details and current balances if known.
- A list of all known sources of income that are available between you and your ex partner, and a list of the regular household expenses.
- If available, documents that can assist your lawyer gain knowledge of your financial circumstances where the issue relates to property settlement, such as your recent tax returns, group certificates, family trust deeds, recent superannaution statements, and a list of bank accounts and balances.
- Where the issues relate to children and parenting, documents such as recent school reports, and medical information (if relevant) can assist your lawyer.
What to Read
For general information about the family law process, the Family Court of Western Australia website has as brochures, kits and forms relating to divorce, separation, and children and related information such as dispute resolution and services, disclosure (the information that each party is obliged to provide to enable meaningful negotiations to occur even in situations where court is not contemplated or necessary) and other steps you can take in relation to legal matters for separating couples.