It is a myth that all separating couples need to hire the service of a lawyer – in fact, if you decide to go this route you will need two lawyers, as you need to engage one each.

The separation process can be done in a more amicable manner at less cost through a specialist separation accountant. And yes, we will act as your agent and engage with a solicitor to prepare the legal documents required for your orders to be approved by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

However, some cases, particularly those with: complex financial matters, safety issues or high conflict, need the intervention of family lawyers to reach a conclusion whereby by both parties and the children involved can establish a framework to move forward with their lives.

There are many good family lawyers around. A good family lawyer can best be described as one who puts your overall interests ahead of their own.

It is recommended to use a family lawyer:

  • When you need legal advice
  • If you need a binding financial agreement
  • When you have child custody issues that need to be dealt with by the court
  • If you really want to take your separation through the courts, noting you need to go through a mediation process, before you can get in the long queue to see a judge.

If your separation has reached a point which you believe requires family lawyers, don’t panic. We suggest educating yourself around how they operate and what to expect. This way you will be prepared and empowered to make the right choices, and ultimately receive the expertise and support you need.

The below list will assist you to select a family lawyer, if you need one.


If your family lawyer promises you a particular outcome regarding your family law case, this is a big red flag. The simple fact is that no lawyer can do this.

Even if you do go to court, the judges do not produce consistent rulings, as each matter is judged on their individual circumstances. Although they are guided by the Family Law Act 1975, they will also take into consider the case of the other party and the unique needs to your family. Things may not go your way.

Your lawyer may have the best of intentions, but they are unable to 100% predict the outcome of your case.

For more support see: Tips for a successful property settlement that your lawyer may not mention.


Don’t be fooled by the classic line from the movies: “I’ll see you in court”.

The fact is there are very few family court judges in Australia. For this reason, the chances of you getting your day in court for solely financial matters in a timely fashion is extremely unlikely. Even if you do, it will be a very expensive exercise. It is important to understand the costs (dollars and time) versus the potential incremental benefit from where you are now.

A good family lawyer will work hard to reach a settlement for you out of court. They will also recognise when court is a necessity and talk you through the very best way to approach it with focus on the outcome, alongside the financial and emotional toll.

See: How to protect your money during divorce.


Another warning sign that your family lawyer may not be working in your best interests is lots of correspondence between parties with limited progress.

Some Family lawyers love drafting lengthy letters, which can make you feel good, but do little to get any type of resolution.

The only thing worse than this is when the lawyer from the other side responds to only part of the lengthy request. This means there will be a constant stream of letters between the parties. This will be at your cost.


It likely that you have never had anything to do with family law in your life before this time. For this reason, you might request your family lawyer to do something which is not realistic or pragmatic.

A quality lawyer will encourage you to take a path which is in your best interest, rather than simply acting under your instructions.


Your family lawyer is likely to request a large deposit before they lift a finger to help you.


You only have to read through a legal contract of any kind to realise that lawyers speak another language! However, they shouldn’t do this with you, the client.

Ensure your family lawyer can communicate with you in a manner that you understand and are comfortable with.


What makes using lawyers even more challenging is that if you choose to go down the family lawyer road, in the vast majority of cases it results in the other party also engaging a family lawyer.

Even if you manage to engage a good family lawyer, there is no way of ensuring your ex has a good lawyer. All it takes is one bad lawyer to drag things out and run up the costs for both parties.

Further reading: Why separation without lawyers is definitely a thing

See this article on what you can do before engaging support of any kind: 10 Simple things to do when you first separate.

Posted by Belinda Eldridge
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