What to expect during your first visit to a family lawyer

Date: May 19, 2011

If your relationship has recently broken down, you may be apprehensive about taking the first step to approach a lawyer for advice on what to do next.

This is why a consultation with a family lawyer is such a valuable experience.

This process can take between one and one-and-a-half hours, depending on your unique circumstances. During this meeting, you will want to clearly outline your specific situation and needs - and ensure you feel comfortable with your lawyer.

This expert will provide you with an explanation of what the law says about your situation. This will largely depend on whether children are involved, if you are seeking a financial settlement and any other circumstances unique to your case.

If children are involved, your lawyer will discuss what the law says about parenting arrangements, emphasising the requirement to resolve this type of matter.

As you work towards a long-term parenting arrangement, your lawyer will consider what arrangements were in place before the separation and offer advice on interim arrangements if they are needed.

Your lawyer will also help you to determine which process is the best-suited for resolving the issues in your specific case.

If you are seeking a financial settlement, you will need to prepare some information for your lawyer so they can offer you the best advice for your specific situation.

Details about your net assets and information about each partner's circumstances, as well as a history of each party's financial and non-financial contributions during the relationship can all help your lawyer make an accurate assessment of the likely outcome in a financial settlement.

A lawyer can clearly explain the legal process used to decide what you are entitled to in the event of a financial settlement, including how to formalise such an agreement.

In the event of the breakdown of a de facto relationship, your lawyer can also provide valuable advice on how to address your financial circumstances.

A family lawyer can help you to determine whether or not you were in a genuine de facto relationship, as well as whether or not you are able to bring a claim for financial settlement under the Family Law Act.

New research published in the Family Matters journal by the Australian Institute of Family Studies indicated that 1.1 million people across the country are currently in a committed relationship, but do not live with their partner.