A simple guide for navigating your first meeting with a family lawyer

Use these tips and tricks to maximise your time at your first family lawyer meeting.

By Julia Frigo, Senior Associate at Australian Family Lawyers

We recognise that relationships are complicated and that, when they end, they can get even more complicated. The legal ramifications are just one aspect of your separation that will need to be resolved. It is natural to feel overwhelmed and concerned about the way forward for you, your family and your financial future.

Ultimately, it takes two to tango; however, there are some steps you can take from the outset to help facilitate a smoother path towards the resolution of your family law matter.   

You’ll certainly benefit from getting legal advice as soon as possible. Keep reading below for our recommendations and tips on an effective first meeting with a divorce lawyer.

1. Gather your ‘intel’ early

First meeting with a divorce lawyer taking notes

Being prepared and ‘getting your ducks in a row’ early will hold you in good stead for what lies ahead. Collating key information and documents at the outset will assist your lawyers and other advisors in formulating tailored, specific advice to your family law situation. It will also assist in facilitating discussions with your former partner and ensure that, at least where you are concerned, those discussions progress in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.

It also helps to write down any questions you have prior to the meeting. Here are some ideas of questions to ask your divorce lawyer, detailed here.

– To begin, prepare a brief chronology of the important dates and details of your relationship and separation.

  • When you began living together.
  • Details of your marriage.
  • The assets you and your partner owned at the start of the relationship.
  • Information about your children (their basic details, education, health, etcetera).
  • Pertinent details relating to the operation of any corporate and trust entities.

Locate your marriage certificate, if you have one. 

If you have children:

  • Keep a record of the parenting arrangements that you and your partner adopted, both before and after separation.
  • Find the children’s birth certificates, passports and any important medical records.

In relation to your assets:

  • Prepare a schedule of your current financial situation, including all assets and liabilities held by you and your partner, individually and jointly. 
  • You should also collate your important financial documents, such as those to do with your personal finances, your home, your various entities and your superannuation interests.

If you are preparing to leave the home:

  • Gather your personal belongings (including your personal paperwork) and, where possible, wait until you have those before vacating the home.
  • If you are in need of urgent temporary accommodation, there are various community initiatives available that may assist you. 

Finally, keep contemporaneous notes of important events and information following your separation. It can be difficult to remember this information down the track and having notes to prompt your memory will assist.

Learn more about preparing for your first meeting with a divorce lawyer here.

2. Gather your support team

The end of a relationship raises a myriad of issues that will need to be addressed. At the outset, consider touching base with your various advisors such as your accountant, your financial advisor, your lender, and your doctor or other health professionals. In many cases, it is beneficial for your lawyer to liaise with your various advisors in formulating a personalised, tailored approach to your family law matter.

Setting up your support network at the outset to advise on various aspects relevant not just to your separation and settlement, but also to your personal health, will help to ease the load and ensure that you are getting the holistic advice you need to navigate the path ahead.

If you are unsure of where to turn, talk to us. We can help. 

3. Keep the end in mind

Preparing early, keeping your team close, and prioritising your key objectives will help you ‘play the long game’ and avoid unnecessary distraction, delay and legal spend.

Take the time, in consultation with your support team, to consider and clarify your objectives. At the first meeting with your divorce lawyer, your lawyer will consider both the minutiae and the ‘bigger picture’, in providing advice that will guide you towards a more certain future.

Read our guide on changing back to your maiden name here.

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