Coming to the end of a relationship can be an incredibly difficult time, especially for a person who isn’t expecting it.  There can be feelings of grief, confusion, anger, uncertainty, worry about what the future holds, and a myriad of other feelings and emotions to deal with. 

The last thing that many people will want to do is to talk to a lawyer about their separation.  However, there are some major advantages to talking to a lawyer early on after a break-up.  Knowing what their legal rights, responsibilities, and options are can be both empowering and help to reduce some of the anxiety people feel. 

Understanding the process to resolve issues over child care (custody) or relationship property is incredibly beneficial, as is knowing what to do if there has been domestic violence in the relationship. 

Here are a few of the areas people might need to think about.

Protection from Violence…

Has there been domestic violence in the relationship?  Domestic violence can take a variety of forms, from physical and sexual violence to psychological and financial abuse.  As well as talking to the police and support agencies like Women’s Refuge, it can be helpful to talk to a lawyer about whether an application for a protection order is necessary.

Sorting out Arrangements for the Care of Children…

Are there children of the relationship?  Ideally parents are able to reach their own agreements over who children live with and what the arrangements are for seeing the other important people in their lives.  A lawyer can help people know what they need to think about in making these arrangements, get them on the road to accessing dispute resolution services, or represent people in making urgent applications to the Court if that is necessary.

Knowing your Property Rights…

Is there property that needs to be divided?  Not many couples in longer relationships are able to separate and just walk away from each other without a backward glance. 

More often there will need to be a process of untangling peoples’ finances and property, and settling up between them.  This process isn’t one that usually happens immediately.  More often it requires a period of obtaining information, negotiating a division, preparing an agreement and having it signed and witnessed correctly so it really is a binding agreement.

Before making any decisions, or starting any discussions about a division of property, it is worthwhile talking to a lawyer about what the legal position is.  It means everyone knows the sorts of things to think about and what they need to find out before looking at settlement options. 

Even if lawyers are not assisting in the initial negotiations it helps to have some idea of what everyone’s entitlement may be, as that helps ensure that the parties know if what they are suggesting is unfair to one or other of them. 

If it turns out that the parties need help with negotiating a division, then having an initial discussion with their lawyer will also have helped them identify what information and evidence they need to gather. 

This speeds up the process when it comes time to get lawyers involved, as in order to have a legally binding agreement each party must have independent legal advice from a lawyer.  Knowing what information the lawyer will need to be able to give that advice will speed things up when an agreement needs to be signed.

Other legal avenues…

As well as the issues above, seeing a lawyer early on can also help identify other areas to consider.  These can include changing Wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney, child support, spousal maintenance, and how and when parties to a marriage or civil union can apply to dissolve their marriage/civil union.

There are many reasons to see a lawyer soon after the end of a relationship.  Even if parties do not think they will need lawyers actively involved in discussions, it is very useful to know what their rights, responsibilities and their options are.

At Rainey Collins we offer a fixed fee initial family law consultation so clients can be advised of their rights and options knowing in advance what the cost will be of that initial meeting. Clients can, after the meeting, make decisions about proceeding further armed with knowledge of the options available.