Choosing the Right Lawyer in a Family Law Matter

by Ann Northcote, Director, Farrar Gesini & Dunn Family Lawyers

Choosing the right lawyer in a family law matter can often be difficult. A family lawyer is, for most people, someone seen for a small, but crucial, part of their lives- the end of a relationship. We are not like your business/commercial/property lawyer who you see from time to time over a number of years for different transactions.

Often your business lawyer is not able to be your lawyer in your family law matter as they may have acted for your spouse as well as you over the years. They may have prepared your Wills or acted for you in the buying and selling of homes. This is called having a conflict of interest. Even if they have not acted for your spouse, your business lawyer may have met your spouse over the years and feel uncomfortable about acting against that person. In addition, many business lawyers do not practice in family law and recognise that you need a specialist (“horses for courses”).

A good family lawyer needs to be sympathetic to you but will not always agree with you. You are not paying a lawyer to agree with you. You are paying a lawyer to give you their professional opinion and advice based on their experience and expertise.

Family lawyers need to have a working knowledge of many areas of law. A relationship breakdown impinges on many areas of law: from criminal law to bankruptcy; from property to tax law. A good family lawyer will know enough to seek advice from other specialist lawyers when your case requires it. A good family lawyer will also liaise with your accountant and financial planner, both to seek advice when needed, but also to make sure that the financial goals you were trying to achieve with them are consistent with the approach that is being taken in your family law matter.

You need to feel at ease with your family lawyer. Some clients express surprise at the amount of detail we need from them. Therefore before making an appointment you might wish to consider whether you feel more comfortable talking about private matters with a man or a woman or whether you want someone your age, older or younger? Different cases necessitate different levels of personal detail.

You should feel confident in seeking a second opinion if you just don’t feel right about something your lawyer is advising.

In seeking information about who to see, consult family and friends whose opinions you value. Your business lawyer, accountant or financial planner can also be a source of information and most firms have a website where you can gain a feel about the firm.

One of the most important things to remember in choosing your family lawyer, however, is not to leave it too long. If you are the instigator of the breakup then you may wish to get advice prior to separation. If the break up has come as a shock, you should have it as one of your priorities to obtain family law advice so you know where you stand. Some of the most important decisions are made at or very soon after the time of separation, and forming a trusting relationship with a family lawyer early on is an enormous benefit.

For family law advice contact Farrar Gesini & Dunn on 6257 6477 or www.fgd.com.au



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