It can be said that the first appointment between a client and a lawyer is best described as a bit like a first date.
And, we understand that this may be the first time that you have had to seek the assistance of a solicitor - let alone for something as personal as a Family Law matter. Because we know this step can be quite daunting, we've popped together some handy tips to help the process to ease the nerves and anticipation for you, plus help the process run smoothly for us both.
What to expect
Do not feel anxious about your first consultation with a lawyer. We are here to help you through the process and we are acting in your best interests.
Everything you tell your lawyer in the first consultation (or at any time in fact) is confidential. So feel free to confide in your lawyer.
The initial consultation is usually a time to get to know your lawyer and to tell them what has brought you to them and to discuss your goals – that is, what you want to achieve at the end of the process. It is also an opportunity for you to ask the lawyer any specific questions you have (write down a list in advance so that you cover everything and you do not feel pressured in the consult to remember everything).
The lawyer will generally talk to you about the process, your rights, what to expect and they will also ask you some questions. Once they have gathered enough information, they will then be able to provide you with legal advice specific to you, and if enough information is to hand, they will be able to indicate to you what your likely entitlements will be in a property settlement, or discuss with you the likely care arrangements available for your children.
At the end of the consultation, you will be asked whether you have any other questions arising from what has been said.
What to bring
Being prepared on the outset will save you time and money. At KLP Family Law have a questionnaire that we send to all new clients for them to complete prior to their initial consultation. However not all solicitors provide that service, so it is recommended (however not a necessity) for you to bring along with you the following (mostly for financial matters):
- A list of any specific questions you have.
- A copy of your marriage certificate.
- Children’s and former spouse’s names and dates of birth.
- A copy of the children’s birth certificates.
- The name of your former spouse’s solicitor (if they have one).
- Any correspondence you have received from your former spouse or their solicitor.
- A list of assets including the address of all real estate owned by you or your former spouse and any documents relating to their purchase or recent title searches.
- Market appraisals of your home and any other real estate.
- A list detailing all of the valuable property, such as cars, jewellery, appliances, cameras and electronic equipment and valuations.
- A list of bank accounts, stocks, shares or other investments that you and your former spouse have, stating whether they are held singly or jointly and recent valuations (if any).
- A list of debts including mortgages, personal loans, credit cards and charge accounts.
- A list of monthly expenses.
- Recent pay advice slips for you and/or your former spouse.
- Copies of income tax returns for you and your former spouse for the past three years.
- If you own a business or have an interest in a family company and/or trust, copies of the taxation returns and financial statements for the past three years.
- Copies of medical insurance and life insurance policies for both you and your former spouse.
- Copies of any superannuation documents for both you and your former spouse particularly the names of the superannuation funds in which either of you may have an interest.
- If either you or your former spouse has been divorced, a copy of the divorce papers.
- A list of your non-financial contribution to the household i.e. renovations, home decoration, child duties, garden work.
- A list of assets owned by you and owned by your former spouse at the commencement of the relationship.
- A list of any inheritances, gifts from family or friends to either you or your former spouse, windfalls such as lottery wins that you or your former spouse may have received during the relationship or following separation.
If you do not have any or all of the above, do not put off obtaining legal advice. An experienced Family Law solicitor will be able to properly advise you even if you do not have the documents, so as long as you are able to provide a rough idea of what is involved.
And remember, it is best that you obtain legal advice as soon as possible so that you are aware of your rights, entitlements and of any time limitations which may be involved in your matter.
What are the costs involved?
Our Initial Consultations are a fixed fee of $330.00 (payable on the day). The consultations run for however long we need to get through the initial information and advice – there is no clock running and we are not rushed. In saying that, initial consultations usually run for an hour to an hour and a half; it just depends.
There are a several ways law firms charge for their fees including itemised scale fees, statutory scales, task based fees, fixed fees and conditional fee arrangements which may include an uplift fee. These different methods of charging may result in different fees payable.
The traditional approach to charging of most law firms is time costing on an hourly rate. That is, you pay for how long it takes someone to do the work.
Here at KLP Family Law we shy away from time costing on an hourly basis – we find that time costing in the area of Family Law can lead to inefficiencies and inappropriate fees being charged to clients. One of the major concerns with the traditional hourly charge rate is padding or inflating time sheets and bills or taking longer than what it really takes to do a specific task. Charging by the hour also places more emphasis on quantity rather than quality.
Who should come along?
You, of course! You are the most important person for the initial consultation. And whilst you don't have to bring anyone along if you don't want to, you can being along anyone else that you feel comfortable with - your support people. Whether that is you new partner, your parent, a close friend etc. It is whoever makes you comfortable and will help you through this.