The 5 most common mistakes family law clients make

June 02, 2019
Kalisha Martin

5commonmistakes

Going through a separation can be one of the most challenging times a person will experience.  It is challenging both emotionally and financially and the challenges faced by parties going through a separation can sometimes lead to poor decision-making.  In our experience, there are some really common mistakes that parties make when going through their separation. Here are our top 5:

1.          Using family and friends for legal advice: 

One of the most common things we hear from clients is something along the lines of “My friend got divorced and they got this so they told me I can get that too”.  Listening to what happened to your friend or family member who went through a separation can be one of the most common mistakes you can make as your expectations may be for an entirely unrealistic outcome in your circumstances.

Each matter is unique, with its own set of facts and circumstances.  Those facts and circumstances will have the biggest impact upon the outcome of a matter as will other variables such as how a matter is resolved.  Just because your friend or family member got something does not mean that you will get it too.  You are paying your lawyer good money for quality legal advice that has come about as a result of rigorous training and a wealth of experience and you should listen to that advice as opposed to a colleague at morning tea!

2.          Becoming entrenched in a position: 

Going through a separation is expensive, even if you manage to sort out your issues with little legal intervention.  This is because there is a division of assets, so everyone is already walking away with less.

In some matters it is tempting for parties to want to chase every single rabbit down every single hole but this often leads parties to become entrenched in their position and forget the bigger picture.  So often, we see clients who want to “stand firm” or “make them accountable” however, the family law process is the wrong place to look for vindication; the family law process is best used to try and look for a resolution.  As such, it can be very important to approach the matter at all times with an open mind, considering the commercial reality and looking to settle as early as possible.

3.          Telling your lawyer only half of the story and not doing your homework: 

A lawyer can only prepare a client’s case so far and on the instructions they are provided.  If you only tell your lawyer half the story, then your case will only be prepared half the way.  Invariably the whole story often always comes out towards the end of a matter, particularly in Court proceedings.  One of the worst things you can do is not be upfront about everything with your lawyer because then your lawyer does not have the ability to try and get in front of it.  This can cause issues of credibility, which can significantly negatively impact your end result.

Similarly, if you don’t do your homework (yes there will be homework) then this can severely inhibit your lawyer’s ability to prepare your case because your lawyer will not have the information available to progress your matter.

4.          Involving the children: 

It is unfortunately very common for parents to involve their children in their separation unnecessarily.  This can be a conscious and an unconscious decision.  Notwithstanding whether it is a conscious or unconscious decision, involving your children in your separation is a big mistake and should be avoided at all costs.

Firstly, it is quite damaging to children to be involved in their parent’s separation, regardless of the child’s age.  Children are already adjusting to a massive change in their family circumstances and to then deal with the stress of being involved in their parent’s separation and any acrimony does absolutely nothing to protect a child’s interests.

Secondly, involving the children in your dispute can lead to the Court holding you in a very negative light which can have a negative impact upon your outcome.

5.          Posting on social media: 

In this age of social media and instant technology, it can be all too tempting to vent your frustrations and seek support from your social media friends.  This is a very big mistake.  Once something is on the Internet, there is a digital footprint and it can be accessed and used against you.  To put it really simply, posting about your family law matter on social media or the Internet can be an absolute strategic disaster.

There have been numerous cases in the Family Court whereby parties’ social media posts have been accessed by the other party and used against the poster in their proceedings.  These posts are often viewed by the Family Court as being indicative of a total lack of insight into behaviour and can result it an unfavourable outcome.  If in doubt, put the phone away and step away from the computer.

It is only natural that at some point, emotions may get the best of you when going through a separation.  However, if you can avoid making any of the above mistakes, then you will significantly assist in the proper preparation of your case.