Getting Set Up
To make the most of your Smart Start Appointment, you should make sure you have set aside at least 90 minutes including that you have had something to eat, been to the bathroom and have adequate parking.
Your Smart Start Appointment will be in a comfortable and private location. You are welcome to ask our Reception staff for refreshments at any time.
Your Specialist Family Lawyer will meet you in Reception and guide you to a conference room. Please let your Specialist Family Lawyer know if you are hot/cold or need anything for your comfort.
Starting the Appointment
Once you sit down, the first thing your Specialist Family Lawyer will do is to ask you to tell your story; to explain what is going on and what is worrying you. They will ask you about what is important to you and what you want to achieve because of your separation. This part usually takes about 30 minutes or more. As you speak, your Specialist Family Lawyer will get a sense of who you are, your values and concerns.
Your Specialist Family Lawyer will ask you some questions to make sure they get any further detail they need.
Once you have finished explaining your situation and your Specialist Family Lawyer has all the information they need, they will advise you about your situation including:
- What you are legally entitled to in terms of Property Division, parenting arrangements, Spousal Maintenance and Child Support. For example, your Specialist Family Lawyer may advise you “Based on what you have told me today, I think you would be entitled to approximately 55% of the total property pool”, or “Given the parenting arrangements to date, I consider that the children are most likely to continue living with you, with some weekend time with the other parent” or “As you are not able to earn an adequate income, I consider you are entitled to claim Spousal Maintenance from your ex of about $500 per week.” However, where there is limited information for them to draw a conclusion, they may not be able to be so specific with their advice until they receive the further information.
- How they have reached this conclusion including how a Court would decide your situation based on the current law.
- Answer specific questions that you have such as “Will I be able to keep the house?”, “Can I relocate to another city?” or “Do I have to go to Court?” or “How much is this process going to cost?’
- Advise you about other related issues that you may not have considered such as, the need to update your Will and other related documents, protecting your privacy, personal safety and finances, what is likely to happen if you do nothing, how time limits apply for property related issues.
- Explain to you how the Family Law process works, including:
- Negotiations will usually be used to start the process,
- You might need to attend a Mediation with your ex (we can be there to represent you) for face-to-face negotiations,
- Court is a last resort but can be very helpful to get your ex to be involved in the process, to get financial information from them or to get funding for Spousal Maintenance or legal fees early in the process.
- Explain when agreement is reached, we can prepare all the necessary documents for the Court to make Orders in the terms of the agreement, to finalise the process.
- Explain to you the next steps in the process such as: tasks that you can do yourself to save on legal costs that we can guide you with during the Smart Start Appointment, steps that you need to take to protect yourself from exploitation by your ex, further information that we will need from you, what to do next if you want to proceed with us as your Family Lawyers.
- Explain to you how we charge and the legal fees that you are likely to incur if you decide to proceed with us.
- Ask you whether you would like to get started with us, or whether you would like more time to think about it.
Throughout your Smart Start Appointment
Your Specialist Family Lawyer will be more than happy to answer any questions you have as you think of them.
At the end of your Smart Start Appointment
Your Specialist Family Lawyer will provide you with a take-home folder which includes:
- Your Specialist Family Lawyer’s business card,
- Information about our Solicitor’s Trust Account,
- Our Estate Planning Fixed Fee Schedule,
- Our Divorce Fixed Fee Schedule,
- Information about financiers that can fund your legal proceedings, and
- General information about Divorce and separation.
After your Smart Start Appointment
Shortly after your Smart Start Appointment, your Specialist Family Lawyer will email you to touch base. You are welcome to respond to their email with any questions you have about your Smart Start Appointment.
If you choose to go ahead with us, we will send you an Engagement Letter attaching a Legal Services Agreement which sets out the work you have instructed us to perform, how we will charge for this work and an estimate of the costs we consider you are likely to incur for the performance of the work. Our Legal Services Agreement will also specify the amount of the deposit we require that you make to our Trust Account before we can start work.
You are welcome to ask any questions about our Legal Services Agreement and are happy to discuss its terms with you. If you agree with the terms of the Legal Services Agreement, you can e-sign the document and the document will be automatically returned to us. Once we have received your signed Legal Services Agreement and the payment of your deposit, work is started on your file and your Specialist Family Lawyer or their Paralegal will contact you to touch base.