What family lawyers do

The discipline of ‘family law’ traditionally dealt with issues associated with a relationship break down between a man and a woman. Family law was usually confined to divorce, property settlements and children’s issues with a heavy emphasis on Court orders. In modern day Australia however, family law deals with an essentially limitless range of matters including defacto or same-sex partnerships, binding financial agreements, child support issues and parenting plans. Family law is continuously evolving and can be a tricky area of law to navigate. It is therefore no surprise that family lawyers require specialist skills and knowledge of the law.

A family lawyer can take on a variety of different roles to suit a situation. They may only be required to provide advice as to your options and rights and responsibilities and assist you with formalising any consent arrangements reached. Sometimes however, the communication between former partners may have irrevocably broken down or there may be an intervention order in place restricting contact. In a situation like this, a family lawyer can act as an objective third party to conduct negotiations. Where Court attendance is required, a family lawyer can provide expert representation on behalf of a client before a Judge.

Recently, there has been a shift toward alternative dispute resolution and collaborative practice in the family law jurisdiction. This is due to many factors, not the least of which that avoiding going to court can save a client time and money. It is now expected that former partners make a genuine effort to resolve a disputes before commencing an action in court . It is further a pre-requisite to the filing of disputed children’s matters that mediation has been attempted and a certificate produced to the Court in verification, unless certain limited exceptions applies, for example due to allegations of family violence or when there is a level of urgency and a child would be at risk . A family lawyer can facilitate these meetings and even appear on behalf of a client where necessary.

Seeking professional legal advice in relation to family law issues can also clarify any mis-information or assumptions that are held in the wider community. This is particularly common in regards to shared care arrangements for children or property settlements, where it is often thought that each former partner is automatically entitled to a 50% share.

When dealing with a family law issue, whether it be children’s issues or a property settlement, it is important that you find a lawyer you trust. By the time someone consults with a family lawyer they may be in a particularly vulnerable situation and dealing with feelings of anger, frustration or hurt. Aside from being empathetic and respectful, a good family lawyer will provide their client with rational and objective advice suited to their situation.