Being involved in a Family Law dispute is stressful, emotionally taxing, and expensive. At all times, it is important that you follow the advice of your legal representative, who is best placed to guide you strategically through the minefield of a Family Law matter.
We are often asked, what can I do to make this easier? And often the answer to this is to advise you what NOT to do. Here are some top tips on what mistakes in Family Law are.
Involving your children in your matter
It is unfortunately common for parents to involve their children in a matter unnecessarily. This is a massive mistake. It does not help your child’s emotional development and can in fact be completely disastrous for their long-term emotional health and relationship with you and their other parent.
Undoubtedly it will affect the Judge’s view of you and does not promote your parenting skills.
Involving a child in the dispute, by speaking badly about the other parent or the other parent’s family to the child or telling the child about the areas of dispute between the parents, are an indication of lack of insight into the child’s best interests. IF the Judge thinks you lack insight then they will not consider you to be the kind of parent that a child should live with or spend a lot of time with, which would be the worst-case scenario.
Not being open and transparent about your assets
The long and the short of it is, you must disclose your assets. This disclosure must be full and complete and transparent. Thinking you can hide your assets or transfer them to another person to make sure that your ex cannot claim on them, is engaging in conduct which will leave you open to your entire property settlement agreement being re-opened.
Non-disclosure of financial circumstances can shatter a party’s credibility before the court. It is not only against the law not to disclose your financial circumstances, but failure to disclose often prevents a matter from being resolved early and by agreement. Your ex’s lawyer will advise them against reaching an agreement if you have not been open about your financial circumstances.
The court will assume, if you do not disclose everything, that you have something to hide and therefore that you are dishonest and therefore not a credible witness.
Often, if the Court concludes that you are hiding assets or that you have not been transparent with your disclosure, it will make property settlement Orders which are not in your favour. When in doubt – disclose!
Social Media use and abuse
Facebook is often the biggest source of evidence for Family Lawyers. It seems to be the place that parties go to vent about every aspect of Family Law – from the Court, to their ex, to their lawyers.
Publishing any information about your family law proceedings is a contravention of section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975. This section makes it an offence to publish information which could identify someone involved in a family law matter being determined by the court.
With one click of your phone or computer, and by publishing that rant, not only are you breaching the law, but you are strategically giving your ex great evidence to use against you.
It is advisable to deactivate all social media profiles until after the family law matter is complete in order to avoid this common pitfall.
Expecting your Ex to Change
You cannot make a person change. Simple but true. You cannot force them to agree with you. You cannot force them to be what you consider “reasonable”. It is important to focus on your conduct, your case and your strategy and let them run their own race.
Not formalising your agreement
If you do not formalise your agreement, then you have a ticking time bomb in your pocket. In the absence of a formal agreement for your property settlement or parenting matter, then you run the risk of your ex popping up in years to come asking for a property settlement despite you having divided your assets years ago.
In some cases, the Court will not disturb an informal property settlement, but more often than not, they will not. This means that the assets the Court looks at will be the CURRENT assets, valued at the CURRENT value, not what they were one, two or five years ago.
Now whilst you may think that you can trust their word not to come back for more, it is far better to assume the worst and formalise your agreement. Even if you do not consider yourself to have any assets of significance NOW, you may have in the FUTURE and if you don’t tie things up, then you are leaving yourself open to having to deal with claims against your future assets.
Don’t let your emotional drivers take over
Family Law disputes are inherently emotional. But what is important is that you don’t let your emotional drivers impact upon your capacity to make commercial decisions about resolution of your property matter. Put your business hat on and be commercially sensible.
Obviously parenting disputes are vastly different, but it is important in that space, not to let your hurt over your relationship issues and unresolved feelings of hurt and disappointment, to drive a dispute about your children’s living arrangements.
Resolution and the control that it affords you is worth its weight in gold. Be realistic in your expectations and get advice from a Family Lawyer who will guide you around those expectations. Whilst the advice you receive may not be what you want to hear, it is likely to be what you need to hear.
Not getting advice when you need it
When someone says to you, oh you don’t need a lawyer, they will only make it worse, that should set off alarm bells for you.
It is akin to trying to diagnose your illness via google.
So, unless you have a law degree, then getting advice is simply ensuring that you are proceeding on an informed basis, armed with skills and information that you ordinarily do not have. A good Family Lawyer is not your warrior, they are your shield, protecting you from making decisions which are contrary to your interests and guiding you towards a sensible, safe outcome.
The specialist-led team at OMB Family Law are available to guide you through the Family Law minefield and our family lawyers help you avoid these mistakes and possibly many more. For strategic, sensible and sensitive Family Law advice, contact OMB Family Law on 5555 0000 or via our website or social media including our Partner Abbi Golightly’s Instagram @divorcinglightly