How to Make the Most Out of Your First Consultation with a Family Lawyer

Posted on July 14, 2023 by Alex Bourne

Unified Lawyers Alex Burne

Alex Bourne

Author
Alex practices almost exclusively within Family Law, where he has extensive experience in all family law related matters, including Property, Parenting, Divorce, LGBTI property settlements, De-Facto Relationships and Child Support. Alex regularly appears before the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia in often complex Family Law litigation including Parenting and Property matters.

Key Takeaways

  • A consultation with a family lawyer is a great time to learn about your legal options and to ask questions, but it’s important to prepare for the meeting to ensure you’re getting as much value as possible out of it.
  • Take time to prepare information that may be important for your family law matter, think about the ideal outcomes and the concerns you have, and make a list of questions you would like answered during the consultation.
  • Remember to think about how you felt during your consultation with a family lawyer. Feeling comfortable and as if you can trust your lawyer is a very important part of the process too.

The following information is a simple guide taking you through the things you should do before, during and after your consultation with a family lawyer.

Before we dive into the preparation, let’s talk about why you should talk to a lawyer in the first place.

Why should you see a family lawyer at all? 

Being involved in family law issues isn’t easy. Usually, it involves the breakdown of a significant relationship, resulting in a separation or a divorce, and when this happens this tends to involve a lot of decisions that need to be made.

You will need to work through complicated information and you’re meant to do all of this when you’re going through one of the hardest times of your life.

While the family law system in Australia has been designed to allow people to resolve matters themselves, you must also do so while abiding by the family laws of Australia. Understanding what you need to do isn’t always easy and, in many cases, people are not aware of their rights, responsibilities and obligations.

Working with a specialist family lawyer can take away this confusion. They will take the time to learn about your unique circumstances and provide you with advice and guidance to help you to achieve the best outcome possible.

Some people avoid working with a lawyer because they think that it is going to cost them a lot of money, and while the services of family lawyers almost always cost money, it can save you time and money in the long run.

One key piece of advice we can offer is, even if you don’t want to work with a lawyer throughout the whole process, seek legal advice early. That way you can understand where you stand and your obligations, from there you can decide how you will move forward.

Getting advice early means that you won’t waste time making arrangements and coming to agreements, only to find out later on that the agreements and arrangements are not fair or do not take all factors into consideration.

What can you expect from your first meeting with a family lawyer?

During your first consultation meeting with a lawyer, you will need to provide details about your situation and desired outcomes – which we will discuss in more detail shortly.

You will also likely receive a lot of information from your lawyer too. It’s a good idea to take notes, ask questions and ensure that you understand what they are telling you. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t understand what they are talking about, no one expects you to understand everything and sometimes the legal jargon is a bit too much.

During this meeting, your lawyer should be able to talk to you about the approach they will likely take, as well as the amount of work involved. They should also be able to give you a cost estimate for your matter.

If your matter is particularly complex, you may need to provide them with additional information before they can provide you with some of these details but the more information you can provide during the consultation, the more information they will be able to provide as well.

How to prepare for your consultation with a family lawyer

There are a lot of things you can do to set yourself up to have a great first-time meeting with your lawyer. Below, we’ve broken them down into three sections – information gathering, your desired outcomes and concerns, and the questions to ask.

Step 1: Information Gathering

You will need to provide your lawyer with as much relevant information as possible. You may be struggling to think of what information is relevant for your situation as it will be dependent on your unique circumstances and the matter you’re dealing with specifically. However, for family law matters, it is common for the following information to be valuable:

  • Timeline of events and important dates of your relationship, like when you began living together, marriage date, separation date.
  • Income details. If possible, provide information regarding both your income and your ex-partner’s income.
  • Assets and liabilities. Many family law matters will involve property settlements as a key aspect. Assets include property, vehicles, businesses, inheritances, and superannuation regardless of whose name it is in. Liabilities may include credit card debts, mortgages and other loans.
  • Information about your children, including their basic details like age, as well as health-related matters and education.
  • If there are any previous or active parenting arrangements or court orders, ensure that you provide this information too.

If you’re not sure whether something is relevant, it’s still a good idea to bring it with you in preparation.

cartoon image of a person providing all information related to their case to fulfil their duty of disclosure.

Step 2: Think about your desired outcomes and the concerns you may have

Take some time out to think about what you would ideally like the outcome of your family law matter to be. For example, if you’re involved in parenting matters, you may want your children to live with you for a certain period of time or at least be able to spend time and/or communicate with your children regularly. If you’re involved in property matters, perhaps there are certain assets that you would prefer to retain or you may want to split things evenly.

It’s important to think about both short-term and long-term goals. By understanding your ideal outcomes and being able to explain these to your lawyer, they will be able to let you know if your expectations are achievable (and lawful).

Prior to your consultation, we also recommend that you take the time to think about your biggest concerns. Perhaps you’re worried about your ex-partner’s parenting ability, maybe there is an asset that you’re worried about losing, or you’re concerned about being able to provide for yourself. All concerns are valid and totally understandable. By identifying them, you can also discuss these with your lawyer, and they may be able to provide information that helps to alleviate your concerns.

When it comes to thinking about the outcomes of your matter, we recommend being flexible and open in your approach. Resolving family matters is dependent on a lot of factors and every situation is unique.

cartoon image of a person thinking about their family law matter.

Step 3: Prepare questions to ask your lawyer

Your consultation with a family lawyer not only involves you providing a lot of information but it’s also a time of gathering information, so make sure that you think about all of the questions you have. If you’re not sure where to start, below are some important questions that could help you.

 

1. Do you have experience in dealing with matters like mine?

This is an important question because even though every case is different, there are usually similarities between many family law matters, and like any job, a family lawyer uses their past experience to learn and work on current and future projects.

Other related questions:
  • What types of cases do you typically handle?
  • Do you often handle cases like mine?

 

2. How will you approach my case?

Your first meeting with your family lawyer will not usually involve exact details, legal advice or strategies of how the lawyer will work, however, by asking this question, you may gain insight into the preferred techniques of the lawyer. They may also provide you with the various options there are available to resolve your case, like negotiation, mediation or litigation, and provide you with the pros and cons of each option.

Other related questions:
  • What are my options for my case?
  • What are my legal rights?

 

3. How long do you think it will take to resolve my matter?

We’ve all heard horror stories of a court case being dragged out for years and years, and while it does happen, it’s not necessarily the norm. Wanting to know how long your matter may take to resolve is understandable – it can have an emotional, psychological and financial impact on you. While it’s not possible to give a 100% accurate timeframe of how long it will take to resolve a matter many lawyers will be able to use the details you’ve provided and their past experience to estimate how long it may take.

Other related questions:
  • Will there be obstacles that could impact how long my case may take?
  • Is there anything I can do that will improve the efficiency of my matter?

cartoon image of a person asking questions during consultation with a family lawyer.

4. What do you think the possible outcomes are for my matter?

While some lawyers will tell you exactly what you want to hear, a great lawyer will likely tell you the various different outcomes that could occur and help you to understand your options. They will do this based on the details you have provided as well as on what they have experienced in the past.

Other related questions
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of my case?
  • Are there any major issues that we might encounter?

 

5. What’s my role in the case?

Depending on your matter, your lawyer may wish you to be very involved or for you to take a backseat and let them get to work. Usually in family law matters, your lawyer will want you to provide as much information as you can and they may ask you to perform certain tasks, such as collecting more relevant information or avoiding contact with specific people for a period. If you’re not sure why you’re being asked to do something or for particular information, always ask your lawyer.

Other related questions:
  • How can I help you build the strongest case for me?
  • Are there any actions or activities that I should avoid?

 

6. What costs and fees will apply?

One of the biggest concerns of any client of a family lawyer, or any lawyer for that matter, is related to the costs of working with a lawyer. This is understandable as it can be a considerable expense. Your first consultation is the time to ask questions about the costs involved in resolving your matter. Your lawyer can explain the fee structure for their services and usually they will provide a cost estimation after your consultation so you can decide if you wish to continue.

Other related questions:
  • Can you give me a total cost estimate for resolving my matter?
  • Will there be additional costs and fees?

 

7. Who should I contact regarding my case?

While you may meet with one lawyer, they may have several people within their firm helping on your case or depending on their structure, they may have a paralegal who handles communications with clients. During your consultation, it’s a good idea to know who you should communicate with, whether it’s for additional information you have, questions you have, or if you’re after updates.

Other related questions:
  • Who should I call if I have questions about my case?
  • How often will I be updated about my case?

After your consultation with a family lawyer

While getting your initial consultation out of the way is a very big and important step, now the work really begins. After you’ve had your consultation, here are some things you should do:

Decide if you want to work with this lawyer

If the family lawyer you met with is willing and able to take on your matter, it’s now time for you to decide if they are the right lawyer to work with. Many lawyers offer the initial consultation on a no-obligation basis, so if you do not want to continue with them, you don’t have to.

After your consultation, take the time to think about how you felt during and after it. Did you feel comfortable? Do you feel like you can trust the lawyer you spoke to? Do you feel like they listened and understood you?

Family law matters involve sharing a lot of personal information, so you want to work with one that you feel comfortable with. For more tips on choosing a family lawyer, click here.

If you’ve been asked to do something, do it

Provided that you have decided you will work with the lawyer if they have asked you for more information or to perform a certain task, we recommend doing it as soon as you can. It means that the lawyer can work on your matter sooner, which could lead to a more efficient outcome and they don’t need to spend time to chase you for that information.

Be open and cooperative with your lawyer and other parties

Resolving family law matters usually involves providing information, answering questions, and negotiation. It’s important to be open to hearing the various options available to you. If you’re not comfortable with something or you do not understand, it is important to communicate and ask questions too. Many matters can be resolved with positive outcomes for all parties involved with some cooperation.

Do you need a family lawyer?

If you’re involved in a family law matter and you’re looking for advice, legal representation or any other family law services, talk to us here at Unified Lawyers. We’re a dedicated family law firm that strives to provide our clients with the best outcomes for them and their families.

We know that dealing with family law matters is hard. It can be complicated, overwhelming and emotionally exhausting and our team aims to remove this burden and resolve your family law matter efficiently and effectively.

We have offices based in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne and offer our services Australia-wide. Call us on 1300 667 461 or book a free consultation using the button below.

Unified Lawyers Alex Burne

Alex Bourne

Author
Alex practices almost exclusively within Family Law, where he has extensive experience in all family law related matters, including Property, Parenting, Divorce, LGBTI property settlements, De-Facto Relationships and Child Support. Alex regularly appears before the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia in often complex Family Law litigation including Parenting and Property matters.

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