I’m separating but my lawyer’s office is closed – what can I do?
By Best Wilson Buckley Family Law |06 December 2022 |Separation and Divorce-Articles
Like many other businesses, most family law firms will close for the Christmas and New Year period. Ironically, this is typically the busiest period for family lawyers – the holidays can act as a bit of a “pressure cooker” for families where tension may have already existed.
Of course, the timing of separation is not necessarily your choice. So, what can you do if you find yourself in need of a family lawyer during this period but you’re unable to get in touch with them due to their office closure?
Firstly, if there are immediate concerns for your safety or the safety of your children, make sure you contact police on 000.
If safety isn’t a factor, following a separation, there is no requirement for either person to move out of the shared home. Parties can continue living separated under the same roof provided it is safe to do so. However, it will often be the case that one or both parties will decide to vacate the property as it may become too difficult to continue living with the other person.
If you choose to live separately, and there are children involved, sorting out the care arrangements for the children should be the priority. Care arrangements can be agreed to on an informal basis or they be formalised by way of a parenting plan or consent order.
Whilst you may be waiting to speak with your lawyer to formalise the care arrangements for the children, you should both use your best endeavours to ensure that the children have a meaningful relationship with both parents. In doing this, you must also ensure that the children are protected from physical or psychological harm from being exposed to abuse, neglect, or family violence whilst in the other parent’s care.
In terms of property, if you feel comfortable doing so, you may wish to have some informal discussions as to what you both want. Determining what is in the property pool and how you wish to divide your assets will be the starting point. Does either party wish to retain the family home? Do they have the capacity to refinance the mortgage and, if required, pay out the other person? Does there need to be a superannuation split? Do any assets need to be valued or sold? These are some of the questions you can begin asking.
It is also important to keep a diary or journal to assist you in keeping track of key dates and events. When you do get the opportunity to speak with your lawyer, it will be of great assistance if you can readily recall details. It will also be helpful to begin making a list of all the assets and liabilities along with their estimated values. You can also look at gathering relevant financial documents including bank statements, credit card statements, superannuation statements, tax returns, and any other documents that may be relevant in determining the value of any assets, liabilities, or financial resources. If you’re unsure where to start, we recommend completing an online induction available right here on our website to begin your journey and find out where you stand.
Taking these steps will make the process much easier when it comes to time to meet with your family lawyer.