Most people going through a separation have never had any dealings with a lawyer before. They have no knowledge of the legal world – how it works, what to expect and, most importantly, how to engage a family lawyer.
If this is you, don’t panic!
We’ve created a list of points to consider if you feel you need to engage the services of a family lawyer for your separation.
IS IT A FAMILY LAWYER THAT YOU NEED?
It is a very common myth that you need a lawyer for your separation.
More and more couples are separating without lawyers and saving time, money and angst to boot.
If you need support reaching final decisions, especially around the care of your children, a mediator could be a more cost and outcome effective option.
For assistance with anything financial, it makes more sense to use a chartered accountant who specialises in separations.
Hiring separate lawyers for each party is sometimes essential to reach a resolution in a complex family law dispute. However, in many cases, a different professional service will get you better results and cost you less.
FACE-TO-FACE OR ONLINE
It is not uncommon for clients to never meet their family lawyers face-to-face throughout the whole separation process. This has become even more accepted since the start of the pandemic when family lawyers had no choice but to consult with clients online.
Is it important for you to talk to your lawyer in person, or are you comfortable chatting online via Zoom, Skype or another video calling app?
The advantage to an online service is that you have a much wider choice of family lawyers across the country to choose from. Limiting yourself to law practices that are local means you might miss out discovering the perfect family lawyer for your particular situation.
Note that if your case is extremely complex with a high likelihood of going to the family court, a local lawyer might be a better fit. Remote lawyers can fly in for court hearings but this will add to the cost.
BOOK A FREE CONSULT
Nearly all law firms offer potential clients a free consultation. Take advantage of this.
Firstly, make sure the consultation is with a family lawyer, ideally with the lawyer who would be assigned to your case should you choose to hire their services.
Have a list of questions to asked during your chat but remember they won’t be able to give you firm legal advice until they have all the details of your circumstances.
Check for the red flags we mention further in this article and when you finish the chat, take stock of how you feel. Think about:
- Do you have more clarity than you did prior to making the call? If so, they could be a good fit.
- Or do you feel confused or overwhelmed? If so, we suggest you cross this particular lawyer off your list and continue your search.
Book initial consultations with at least three different family lawyers before making a decision.
DO THEIR VALUES ALIGN WITH YOURS?
You will know fairly quickly during an initial consultation whether or not the values of the family lawyer align with your own.
Have a think about what is important to you before you talk to a family lawyer.
Some family lawyers will take a collaborative approach for an amicable outcome. These lawyers will talk about communication, fairness and the end result for the children.
Other family lawyers will take a more aggressive approach where they discuss fighting your corner, winning and possible scare tactics.
RECOMMENDATIONS AND REVIEWS
Whilst it is good to take on board recommendations from friends and family members if they have been happy with the services of a family lawyer, remember that what works for one family law case, is not necessarily the solution to another. For this reason, do not base your decision solely on a recommendation.
Another way to hunt down a great family lawyer is by checking their reviews on social media, search engines such as Google and on their business websites. Again beware! Not all reviews are genuine, and they don’t always paint a clear picture. For example, one unhappy client might bring a review score down when the family lawyer is not at fault. To gage it accurately, look at the most recent reviews and read through them to see if they feel authentic.
BE AWARE OF RED FLAGS
Red flags with a potential family lawyer can reveal themselves at any time, hopefully before you engage their services. You might find them from viewing their website, chatting to past clients, or during your initial consultation.
Here are some common red flags to look out for:
- If a potential family lawyer guarantees a certain outcome then look elsewhere. No-one can predict an exact outcome when it comes to family law.
- Do you feel as if you are being heard? Your story is the centre-point of your case. A family lawyer who shows real interest in your unique circumstances could be a great fit.
- If a potential family lawyer is pushy about getting you to use their services, step back! This is not a decision to be rushed.
- Think about the language being used on your first conversation. Lots of legal jargon can be impressive but it will get confusing and time-consuming further down the line. You need clarity … and plain English.
- Is a potential family lawyer is trying to antagonise your separation situation by putting your ex down or making suggestions that could heighten conflict and drag the case out longer, possibly via a family court? This is not a good way forward and is terrible practice that unfortunately too many separating couples have experienced.
Further reading: What to be wary of when using a family lawyer.
LOOK AT PRICES AND PAYMENT OPTIONS
Family lawyers are expensive. Remember that you will need two. One to represent you and the other to represent your ex-partner. The costs of which will likely be deducted from the nest eggs you both have to begin your new lives as single parents.
For this reason, check family law costs before you engage their service. Some offer payment plans and set fees which are great as it can stop costs escalating fast.
If you genuinely feel family law costs are too high and unnecessary, check other less-expensive professional services to help you formalise your separation such as mediators and specialist charted accountants.