In Australia divorce means that the marriage has ended. However, most people associate the term “divorce” with financial support, property distribution or arrangements for children. To obtain a divorce is simple, and it is not necessary to engage the services of a lawyer.
In his article, I associate divorce with property division and parenting orders.
It is advisable to seek independent legal advice and understand your entitlements and legal obligations. When seeking legal advice you need to ensure that you have all the relevant information and facts ready for your first meeting with the lawyer.
In my 13 years experience, the dynamics of family law litigation remained the same. It involves four parties, each with their own agenda and interest. Lawyers are in the business of selling their legal expertise, and you need to be mindful of which lawyer you are hiring, and of spouses who are fighting for a bigger slice of the assets.
The only certainty is that no one can give you 100% certainty of what the outcome will be.
Divorce is expensive and is a life changer. You need to manage your divorce like you would manage your business. You will need to have a plan of action and a team of professionals that includes your lawyer, your financial planner/accountant, your real estate agent and your therapist.
Your first step is searching for, and finding, the right team members. Get involved in the process. For example, you will need to provide your lawyer with the estimated value of your family home or other, assets. You will need a real estate agent with local experts who can assist you with valuations and with the process of buying and selling.
The best way to search for the right candidate is to attend open for inspections and search the online real estate portals such as domain.com.au or relaestate.com.au. The same can apply when hiring a lawyer; you would want to attend the family court and see the lawyer in action.
Once you have identified potential team members, agents or lawyers, you need to set up an initial interview.
Interviewing a lawyer does require you to follow certain business principles, keeping in mind that your chosen lawyer is running a business and they are marketing and selling their professional time and expertise.
The first step is to gather as much information about the law firm and the lawyer that you are meeting. Start with the law firm’s website and LinkedIn.
Second step: I recommend that you email the lawyer a case summary before your initial meeting. Your meeting is to hire a lawyer but also to understand your entitlements and obligations. The brief is designed to give each candidate the same information on which to base their advice.
Third step: Observe the office reception area, the meeting room, the office staff and the lawyer’s dress code and mannerism. The office environment is a symbol of the law firm’s culture.
When you walk out of the lawyer's office you must have clarity and confidence.
Do you understand the legal process?
Did the lawyer present you with an action plan?
The legal team - who is going to work on your case? And have you met the other team member?
Lawyers have a duty to inform you about their estimate costs and the basis on which their costs will be calculated. Do you have a clear understanding of the cost estimate and the hourly rate of each member of your team?
Other team members - In a complicated family law case, if your matter proceeds to a trial, your lawyer will need to engage the services of a special counsel, also known as a barrister. Make sure that you have the details of the recommended list of barristers. Ideally, you will want to do your own research and even better, attend hearings to see them in action.
I can’t guarantee that you will be able to assess the potential candidates with total accuracy on each of the items on the checklist., but it will assist you in making a decision. You can’t know or predict what will happen in the future. And whilst some of the potential candidates may have been good at presenting a positive, though false, image of themselves, the checklist should still assist you in ranking the potential candidates. Use this checklist to rate your short-listed candidates on a scale of 1 to 5.