What does a divorce lawyer do?
A divorce lawyer can provide assistance in relation to separation, dissolution of marriage, parenting, child custody and property disputes.
Divorce is a trying and emotionally draining time, as well as a legal process. It is important to have legal advice to guide you through the process.
It’s no secret that relationship breakdowns are tricky. Still, when it happens within your own family, the extent of the attendant difficulties – whether emotional, social, financial, or logistical – can come as a rude shock.
Rarely do people enter into marriage or a relationship in the expectation that it will culminate in intractable conflict – perhaps even litigation – over “who gets what” in terms of assets of the relationship, who the children should live with, and how and in what amount child support and/or spousal maintenance should be paid.
Navigating such complex legal issues, or even just figuring out where to start, can be both daunting and risky.
For these reasons, it is crucial to seek the services of a specialist family or divorce lawyer – a professional who can lead you through the process step-by-step, provide advice tailored to your specific situation, and help you to identify and protect your interests.
What kinds of matters can a divorce lawyer help me with?
A divorce lawyer can provide advice and assistance in relation to a range of family law matters, from separation and dissolution of marriage (whereby a legal marriage is brought to an end), to parenting and property disputes. The following are examples of matters which a divorce lawyer can help you with.
A divorce lawyer can guide you through the process of filing an application for divorce.
Your lawyer will ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria to apply for a divorce (including, for instance, that your marriage has broken down irretrievably and that you have been separated from your spouse for a minimum of 12 months), help you to gather all necessary supporting documents, prepare a sworn statement to accompany your application, and attend court with you if there is a divorce hearing.
Ideally, separating spouses will settle upon arrangements in respect of their children via agreement.
A divorce lawyer can help negotiate an agreement by liaising with your ex-partner and/or their lawyer, or, if they have the necessary qualifications and training, by facilitating Family Dispute Resolution (a form of mediation).
In the event that agreement as to who the children should live with and how often the children should spend time with the other parent cannot be reached, a family lawyer can assist a party with applying for parenting orders (legally binding orders about the care and welfare of any children of the marriage).
Identifying and dividing up all matrimonial assets and debts can be a complicated process, especially where one or both of the parties own property offshore (see article about Overseas Assets in a Property Settlement), or have debts that cannot fairly be regarded as “shared” (see article about ‘wastage’ in property settlements).
A divorce lawyer can assist you in various ways, including by helping you get a clear sense of your entitlements and obligations (for instance, concerning financial disclosure), drafting binding financial agreements prior to marriage or separation, and in preparation for proceedings in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFOA), should you decide to seek property settlement orders.
A family lawyer can help you formulate a child support agreement, being a written agreement fixing terms as to when, how, by who and in what amount payments are to be made to the parent who assumes the role of primary caregiver in the wake of separation or divorce.
Importantly, a family law expert can discuss and determine, on the basis of your individual circumstances, what sort of agreement – binding or limited (see article: ‘What is a child support agreement?’) – is likely to be the best fit for you.
If you are unable to support yourself financially in the wake of separation or divorce, a divorce lawyer can provide you with advice as to accessing financial support from your former partner.
Conversely, a divorce lawyer can alert you to any potential obligation on your part to contribute spousal maintenance, based on your capacity to pay.
Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence
A divorce lawyer can give you peace of mind that you and your children will be protected from harm arising from any actual or threatened domestic violence perpetrated by your former partner.
What kind of assistance does a divorce lawyer provide?
As indicated above, a divorce lawyer can assist you with multiple matters, in multiple ways. The role of a divorce lawyer is by no means limited to simply representing you in court – although advocacy is a fundamental aspect of their work.
Generally-speaking, a specialist family lawyer can be expected to do the following in relation to your matter:
- Review all relevant evidence and documentation at the outset;
- Identify and clarify key issues to be resolved, on the basis of the applicable law;
- Act as an intermediary between you and your partner/ your partner’s lawyer;
- Explore and explain your options, both in-court and out-of-court;
- Help you to negotiate and/or formalise an agreement that meets your needs.
When should I speak to a family lawyer?
It is a good idea to speak to a family law expert:
- Prior to or during marriage – where you wish to be proactive and protect your interests in the event of relationship breakdown, for instance by creating and entering into a binding financial agreement providing for the division of marital property upon separation or divorce.
- During or after relationship breakdown – where separation or divorce is being considered and you need information or advice as to how best to protect your financial and non-financial interests.
Speaking to a specialist divorce lawyer early can save you time and money, and can mean avoiding the emotionally and financially-taxing, time-consuming process of litigation.
A divorce lawyer can help you clarify all issues at the outset and set you on the quickest, least painful path to a resolution.
Our team of friendly divorce lawyers are here to help. If you need advice on any family law matter, call us or complete the form and we’ll be in touch with you.
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