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What to expect from your first appointment with a family lawyer

We do not promise to resolve all your questions in that one meeting, but we do aim to give you clarity about your options and likely outcomes. Separation and divorce is a challenging time for anyone. We want to take as much uncertainty out of it as we can.

Preparing for your appointment

We ask you (and every client) to do some homework before you come in. We ask you to prepare a list of all the assets and liabilities you and your partner have. For example, that includes

What your house is worth (if you haven’t thought about it, perhaps take a look online)
Your current mortgage balance
The balance of any savings accounts
The value of your superannuation
The value of motor vehicles
Any additional properties, stocks or shares

We don’t need exact figures, but a rough estimate. This helps us to work out what the total pool of assets is.
Either we’ll give you a checklist to work through, or we’ll go over this list with you by phone.

What happens in the appointment itself?

Commonly we begin by asking you for a brief history of the relationship.

This includes the financial history. Who brought what assets in at the start. Whether and when any large sums of money have come in – for example, inheritances.

If parenting is an issue as well, we ask who’s been responsible for what in terms of parenting duties. We also check the current arrangements in relation to your children, plus what you think the future arrangements are likely to be.

For property, we aim to work out a net pool. If we can identify the pool sufficiently, then we look at what percentage division we think would be appropriate – and work out the sum. So if you provide enough information, you can leave that first appointment with rough dollar figures. What you might expect to receive, or what you can expect to pay your spouse if you want to buy them out of a shared property.
The appointment can be a bit of a reality test

Sometimes clients come in saying, ‘I want to keep the house and I want to buy them out. But when you do the sums, it’s clear there’s little chance of that happening. We may advise that they check things out with a mortgage broker or other external expert.

Determining next steps

Once we’ve done that assessment, we’ll discuss what your next steps should be.

Ideally, we have enough information that you can speak to your ex-partner and try to achieve a settlement.

If you didn’t have enough information for us to do the figures, we’ll give you homework. That could be market appraisals on the family home, or online review of what vehicles are worth, or so on.

You should be armed with this information before you talk to your ex-partner. You need to know what things are worth to have a balanced discussion about reaching an agreement.

We also give you a clear outline of the expected process going forward. If a matter has to go to court, we’ll tell you expected time frames, whether that’s for lodging a settlement or whether it’s contested proceedings.

Clarity – and reassurance – is what the first appointment with a family lawyer at KLH Legal is all about.

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