At SMLS, our family lawyers see clients who find it difficult negotiating the complexities of the family law system because of their experiences of disadvantage. This may include financial, language barriers, power imbalances in the relationship with the other party and the impacts of family violence. Usually, our clients are experiencing a high level of conflict with the other parent and cannot negotiate an outcome themselves without legal advice. Consequently, they may be unaware of their rights and obligations regarding parenting arrangements after separation. Our family lawyers help clients identify the main issues in disputes and assists in placing them in a better position to understand the steps in navigating the legal system and what is in their children’s best interests.
For example, after obtaining legal advice, our clients are in a better position to negotiate a parenting plan when attending family dispute resolution. For some clients, our advice may be that family dispute resolution is inappropriate in the circumstances. Client feedback indicates this advice is helpful to determine their next steps in negotiating with the other party.
When negotiation is not successful we assist clients by preparing parenting order applications to the Federal Circuit Court. Clients with limited means and little or no English have difficulty meeting the strict court ‘rules’ for filing court documents. As we are regularly in court we observe self-represented litigants often struggling to address the court on the orders they seek. A well-prepared court document is essential in assisting the court to resolve the matter in a timely fashion.
Clients who have no option other than to self-represent find it difficult to attend court hearings as they are unfamiliar with the procedure and do not know what will happen at court. We also assist clients experiencing disadvantage by providing representation at these hearings. As the matter progresses we often negotiate an outcome with the other party. This avoids a lengthy final hearing and the stress of cross-examination by the court.
Telephone advice for child support matters is available on Mondays from 10 am – 12:30 pm.