Disputes involving your family can be challenging to resolve. Often these disputes will revolve around sensitive and emotional issues, which can make them significantly harder to fix than other kinds of disputes.
As family law matters usually involve people in your own family, seeking legal advice or help is often a last resort for many people – instead, they often try to handle these matters themselves. However, this can often make a dispute last longer than is needed and may not necessarily lead to the best outcome possible.
A compassionate and understanding family lawyer may be able to help you not only resolve your family law matter in a timely fashion but also do so in a way that keeps the relationship intact.
In this article, we’re going to discuss the role of a family lawyer, the kinds of disputes a family lawyer can help to resolve, and the benefit of engaging a family lawyer.
Family law is a legal practice area in Australia that focuses on family relationships and the various issues that may arise with them.
The Australian family law system helps people to resolve the legal aspects of family relationship issues, such as marriage, divorce, relationship breakdowns, child custody, parenting arrangements, property settlements, financial agreements and more.
The family law scope is quite vast, and matters can be resolved in a lot of different ways – including negotiation, mediation, and court proceedings. The most complex family disputes are heard in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. However, the family law system encourages people to make private agreements and resolve matters outside of court where possible.
What is a family lawyer?
A family lawyer specialises in the area of family law and can provide legal advice, support, negotiation, mediation, and representative services relating to all kinds of family law matters. Some of these matters include separation, divorce, child custody, parenting arrangements, property settlements, and financial agreements.
As we mentioned earlier, the scope of family law is very vast, so when you’re selecting a family lawyer, finding one who has experience in handling matters similar to yours will be most advantageous to you.
It’s also important to find a family lawyer who is compassionate, understanding, and makes you feel comfortable. Often the issues that need to be resolved in a family law dispute are quite personal, so feeling comfortable to divulge these details to your lawyer is important.
When would I need the services of a family lawyer?
We mentioned this earlier, but often, people seek the services of a family lawyer only when they are facing a legal dispute and feel like they don’t really have any other options.
However, you don’t need to wait until you’re involved in a legal dispute before talking to a lawyer. You can seek advice about any family law matter that has you concerned.
For many family law matters, you don’t need to engage the services of a lawyer to have them resolved, you can often represent yourself. However, a family lawyer can make many family law matters and processes a lot faster and easier to navigate than when you do it alone.
Here are some of the common reasons people use the services of a family lawyer:
1. Divorce Applications and Separations
People rarely go into a marriage or any relationship, thinking that it’s going to end in divorce, unfortunately though, this is a sad reality of many marriages. When a marriage ends you might find yourself asking “how do I get divorced?” – well, helping you to legally finalise your relationship is something a family lawyer can assist with.
To be able to get divorced you must be of legal age, be legally married, and have been separated for at least 12 months before filing a divorce application. There’s no need to prove that anyone is at fault for the divorce – the Australian divorce system is no-fault.
A family lawyer can ensure that you’re eligible for divorce and help you with your divorce application. They can make sure your application has the correct details and supporting documentation, so then your application won’t be delayed unnecessarily.
If you were never married but you were in a de facto relationship, there is no legal process for separation, however, you may be entitled to a financial and property settlement. If you have children, you may need to create a parenting arrangement, which a family lawyer can help with and will advise on further.
2. Property and Financial Settlements
Many assets can be accumulated throughout the course of a relationship – and unfortunately, when the relationship ends, these assets must be dealt with.
Dividing the assets of the relationship is no easy task. One of the most complicated elements is that no two situations are the same – it depends entirely on the unique circumstances of your relationship, including factors such as the contributions to the relationship (both financial and non-financial) and the ongoing needs of each person.
As you may be able to imagine, splitting assets can cause disputes and get nasty, especially if the relationship didn’t end on great terms.
A family lawyer can help to make this process a lot easier by ensuring you understand your legal rights, obligations, and options, as well as negotiating on your behalf and helping you to find a resolution that is not only fair, but also avoids costly court proceedings.
A family lawyer can also help to safeguard assets and properties by creating prenuptial agreements and other binding financial agreements. Whether you’re soon to be married or already involved in a relationship, if you have assets and property to protect, a family lawyer can help you create an agreement for this as well.
3. Child custody disputes and parenting arrangements
One of the key priorities of the Family Law Act 1975 is to ensure that the rights of children are protected. It does this by outlining the roles and responsibilities of parents in regard to their children.
When a relationship ends and children are involved, the parents are faced with the extremely challenging process of figuring out how they will parent their children moving forward. Under the Family Law Act 1975, children have the right to have a meaningful relationship with both of their parents and to be protected from harm.
Working out parenting matters is difficult because not only are there a lot of different factors to take into consideration – including where the parents live, their working schedules, where the children go to school, and their extra-curricular activities – but it can be difficult to remove personal feelings and emotions from the equation.
When making decisions about parenting, it’s important that the best interests of the child are put first. This is something that a family lawyer has been trained to do. They can help parents create parenting plans and understand their obligations to ensure their children have the best outcome possible.
4. Family Violence and Domestic Violence
Domestic and family violence is an unfortunate reality that many people face. Abuse can occur in several different ways, including physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, social, and economic abuse.
Domestic violence involves abuse committed by a spouse, partner, de facto or anyone else in an intimate relationship with the victim, while family violence involves violence that is committed by parents, children, carers, and relatives of the victim.
Victims of family and domestic violence can apply for protection orders, which are made under state or territory legislation. The way to apply for these orders may differ slightly, based on your location (you can learn more about each of the protection orders here).
If you’re a victim of domestic violence or family violence, you can always speak to a family lawyer about your options – they can provide you with information and advice pertaining to your unique circumstances. For example, if you’re involved in the breakdown of a relationship and there have been instances of family or domestic violence, you may be concerned about future parenting arrangements and whether your child is at risk of harm. A family lawyer can help you understand your obligations as a parent and what you can do to ensure your child’s best interests are protected.
A family lawyer can also offer legal advice for people who have been served with an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order.
5. Adoption, Surrogacy, and IVF
A family can be created in so many different ways, from traditional biological families to families created through marriage, adoption, surrogacy or assisted reproductive technology. While Australia’s family law system has tried to keep up with the evolution of the family, it is still an area that can cause confusion for many people.
When it comes to adoption, surrogacy and assisted reproductive technology, laws differ from state to state, which only adds to the confusion.
Whether you’re considering adopting a child, beginning the surrogacy process, or having a child via assisted reproductive technology, it’s not uncommon to have questions about your rights and obligations.
A family lawyer who specialises in any of these areas can help you understand the various processes involved and the different kinds of agreements and arrangements that may provide you with protection. This can help to clarify parental responsibility and legal parentage, which can provide a sense of security for your family.
There are a number of different benefits that you may experience when you engage the services of a family lawyer to help you handle your family law matter. Some of these benefits include:
A family lawyer can help you understand your legal standing
There’s no doubt that any legal matter, whether it is a family law matter or any other kind of legal matter, can be confusing and difficult to understand.
Knowing where you stand legally is going to give you the best chance of finding the most appropriate outcome to suit your circumstances.
While you may be capable of navigating your way through a legal matter yourself, a family lawyer can answer your questions, provide advice, and ensure that you’re aware of every option available to you in your circumstances.
Resolve matters without being caught up in emotions
Whether your matter is resolved through negotiation, mediation, or court action, it’s not uncommon for people to find it difficult to remove the emotional aspect from their own family law matter. This can make it harder to make decisions and see a way forward clearly.
A lawyer is trained to take your personal situation into account and provide their services without being caught up in or distracted by emotions. A family lawyer uses the facts of the case and the desired outcomes of their clients to find the best options available in their circumstances. This can often lead to a faster and more seamless resolution.
Proper legal procedures will be followed
When you engage the services of a family lawyer, you can be assured that they are going to perform the required procedures and perform them properly.
Legal battles often involve a lot of documents and procedures that can be difficult to understand. When they are performed incorrectly, it can elongate a case and make it more challenging to resolve.
The professional knowledge and experience of a family lawyer can take this hassle and pressure away from you.
It can save you money, time, and stress
Many people avoid using the services of a lawyer because they believe that it is going to be a costly exercise.
Now, we’re not going to pretend that a family lawyer’s service isn’t expensive – but depending on your unique circumstances, these costs could be significantly outweighed by the outcome of your case – and often the costs of engaging a lawyer are less than you may think.
In addition to potentially achieving a better result than if you were to represent yourself, a family lawyer may also reduce the length of time the matter takes to be resolved. They may also reduce the overall pressure and stress of dealing with the matter in the first place.
Many lawyers also offer a free first consultation – like we do here at Unified Lawyers – this gives you a chance to discuss your matter, and we can provide a cost estimate to resolve your matter before you commit to using our services.
If you’re involved in any family law matter – whether it’s anything we’ve mentioned today – or any other kind of legal dispute involving your family, you can discuss your situation with us today in a free, no obligation consultation.
Our experienced family law team is available to help people all over Australia – you can discuss your matter with us by calling us on 1300 667 461 or arranging to see us at our family law offices in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.