When someone is separating, they will understandably have many questions running through their mind.
Our post aims to address some of those potential key questions. The below questions and answers are based on what we are regularly asked at Martens Legal.
(1) I am separating, what is my first step?
You should arrange to meet with a lawyer who is experienced in separation law (AKA family law) to receive advice about your rights, obligations and options to achieve your desired result.
Each separation is different. So, what might have worked for your friend or family member may not for you. You should therefore ensure any advice you receive is tailored to your situation.
The types of issues you may need to receive advice about as part of separating include:
– the division of assets (known as a property settlement);
– spousal maintenance; and/or
A lawyer can also provide you with many practical tips at this first meeting, such as who stays in the home, who the children will live with as well as how access to funds and expenses are ordinarily managed pending an agreement.
Getting the right advice early on will give you the confidence you need to move forward.
(2) Do I need to get a lawyer involved?
Yes. However, it will depend on each separation case as to how involved your lawyer may need to be to achieve your desired result.
Some misconceptions that we hear often surrounding lawyers and separation include:
“Getting a lawyer involved in my separation will always lead to conflict”
This is certainly not true for the majority of us; however, unfortunately the ‘bull-dog’ or ‘cowboy/girl’ lawyers do still exist out there. So, you need to choose your lawyer carefully!
“A lawyer is not needed in my situation because we are amicable”
This is not true in almost all cases. In fact, the majority of people we assist at Martens Legal are amicable separations.
In an amicable separation, the lawyers are not as involved in contrast to a disputed separation; however, they are still involved. For example, if you and your ex are amicable and have reached an agreement, you will still need to have a lawyer prepare the proper legal documents to formalise that agreement. The documents used in the majority of cases are called Consent Orders.
(3) What will separating cost me?
The cost to take the first step, which is to have an initial meeting with us, is fixed at $300 including GST.
Once we work out your desired result during that meeting, we then provide you with a Scope of work and Fee Proposal that is tailored to your situation, your needs and available options.
In the majority of our cases we are able to offer fixed fee options which provide our clients with greater certainty moving forward.
(4) How long will it take to resolve my matter?
Each case will be different, so it’s difficult to give a specific answer.
If you are able to reach an agreement
It will depend on your case as to how long it takes to reach the agreement with your ex and to prepare and sign off on that agreement in Consent Orders.
However, once you and your ex have signed the Consent Orders, they will be filed in the Court via an online portal (no court appearance is even necessary these days!). The Court will then review the Consent Orders and give it the stamp of approval. This Court approval process generally takes between 4 to 6 weeks.
If you are not able to reach an agreement
If no agreement can be reached, then you may be required to file an application to Court. Alternatively, you may be required to respond to one filed by your ex. This is known as Court Litigation.
It is common for Court Litigation cases to take many years to reach a resolution at a Final Hearing. At a Final Hearing, a Judge will decide the outcome of issues surrounding separation for you and your ex. Usually, only cases where there are substantial disputes that can only be determined by a Judge will reach a Final Hearing. Instead, the majority of cases usually resolve at an interim step by agreement. However, this can still take many months or years, depending on the case.
(5) Why should I choose Martens Legal over another law firm?
We are a team of progressive lawyers who aim to do things differently and steer away from the more traditional adversarial approach to separation and family law. Why? Because we have seen firsthand the harmful impact that lengthy and costly court battles can have on families. We know that this approach is not the answer and that there are better ways to resolve your separation.
Our aim is to help achieve your desired result following separation and without taking your matter through a harmful court battle.
The key values that guide us when assisting our clients through separation are:
– Genuinely wanting the best for you, your family and your future;
– Being clear about the costs involved and offering you choices about how we can assist based on your needs; and
– Providing you with clear and friendly communications, realistic advice and proactive solutions.
It’s completely normal for anyone going through separation to have a whole lot of questions. Each case is different. So, what might work for your friend or family member, may not work for you. It is extremely important to get advice specific to your case and from a lawyer who specialises in separation law.
Would you like further information?
By Tegan Martens
Director & Principal Family Lawyer
The information contained on this site is for general guidance only. No person should act or refrain from acting on the basis of such information. You should seek appropriate professional advice based on your particular circumstances.