TIP #1: Bring in a list of all of your assets and all of your liabilities and their approximate values
Assets include things like your home, investment homes, superannuation, motor vehicles, bank accounts, shares, household contents and shares and interests in companies or trusts.
Liabilities include things like mortgages, credit card debts, HECS debts, tax liabilities or other debts.
Having that list of assets and liabilities is very useful for a family lawyer to look at and to actually be able to give you advice on in regard to what a just and equitable property split might look like for you. Remember to include assets and liabilities that are in solely in your name, solely in your partner’s name and joint assets and liabilities.
TIP #2: Plan your desired outcome
The next tip before coming to the appointment is to actually think about what you might want out of it. This is in regard to both children’s matters and property matters.
For example, if you want to stay in your family home with your children, then have that in the back of your mind, so you can remember to actually ask your family lawyer if that might be possible. If you want to retain your superannuation or various bank accounts, keep that in mind and be prepared to ask your family lawyer about that. If you want to see your children every second weekend at your home, be prepared to ask your family lawyer about.
Coming in to the appointment with some kind of plan or idea about what you actually want out of it is very helpful for both yourself and your family lawyer in getting specific questions answered.
TIP #3: Think of a list of questions to ask
Brainstorm, maybe write down on a piece of paper, all the various questions that you have in regard to your matter and that you are looking for advice on. Commonly asked questions include ‘how much will I be entitled to’, ‘can I keep the house’ ‘can I change my locks’, how do I make our agreement legally binding’ and ‘how do I ensure my ex-partner sticks to our agreement’.
Your family lawyer is very well equipped to help answer any questions you might have and help to explain everything that you need to know in that initial appointment. However, the appointments are only for a limited amount of time and although your family lawyer might answer many of the questions on your mind through the consultation, it is best to have your list of specific ones down in case they can’t get to them.
TIP #4: List relevant facts of your matter
It is very useful for people to bring a timeline to actually help explain their story to their lawyer. Having a timeline of all the important dates sand milestones throughout your relationship can be very useful.
Important things to include on a timeline are the date that you met, the date that you started living together, the date that you got married, the date that you separated, the date that you bought your first home together, the date various bank accounts were opened, the dates that you undertook renovations to the house and dates relating to your children. These are all crucial facts that will help your family lawyer understand the specifics of your case and give you tailored advice.
TIP #5: Bring any existing court documents or court orders to your meeting
If you have gone through the Family Court of WA with your ex-partner before and you have some documents that have already been prepared and lodged with the court, it is very important to bring these to your initial consultation. This will help your family lawyer understand where your case is at and how it is progressing.
Additionally, if there are any court orders that have been made, please print these out and bring these to your appointment as well. These are imperative for your family lawyer to see to be able to give you the information and advice you need. Your court documents can be accessed from the Commonwealth Courts portal. More information about the Commonwealth Courts portal can be found here: https://www.comcourts.gov.au/pip/individual/new
TIP #6: Bring a notebook or a laptop and take notes in your meeting
Your family lawyer might also take notes of the meeting and they are usually happy to give you those notes but sometimes it is a bit easier to understand if you actually take notes yourself.
Some people also find it very helpful to bring a friend or relative to help them take notes or prompt them to ask specific questions in the meeting. If you do bring a friend or relative, have a chat with them beforehand about the questions you might ask and what you want out of your case, this will help you both stay on track during the meeting. Please also make sure that you do the majority of the talking and asking of questions, as having too much input can sometimes be unhelpful to the situation.