How to Choose the Right Divorce Lawyer

Many people want to know, How to choose the right divorce lawyer. In my business, like any industry, I see many gifted lawyers and some merely dreadful. Some do not care about their client; take their money, have big egos and do little work. And your job, as a newly separated individual, is to find a lawyer who fits on a scale from good to excellent. Otherwise, the consequences could be costly both emotionally and financially.

Before tackling this recruitment, you first need to understand, if and why you need a lawyer in the first place. As I highlighted in a recent blog, How To Get Divorced, a lot of people don’t understand the processes involved. So, put together your strategy, and then employ the people you need to help you execute successfully.

But when you decide that you do need the expertise of a professional, who do you employ?

There is also a lot of confusion around these different terms.

You might hear Solicitor, Lawyer, Barrister or Attorney. So which one do you need to help you? Are they all the same and do they have the same qualifications and abilities? Let me provide a brief explanation and the difference between the terms.

  • A lawyer is a person with a certificate to practice Law. This includes Solicitors, Attorneys, Barristers, Judges and Corporate Counsel.
  • Solicitor is a person who has a practising certificate but is not a Barrister or Judge.
  • Attorney is a term used in the US and is unusual to hear in Australia. However, an attorney, solicitor and lawyer effectively mean the same thing.
  • Barrister is a lawyer that passed the Bar Examination. They appear in Court on behalf of people and run technical arguments.

A Solicitor/Lawyer/Attorney ultimately can provide you with legal advice on your family law matter. You can give them instruction, and they can act on your behalf and negotiate for you, as your legal representative. They will also carry out admin tasks such as applications, writs, wills, correspondence, really anything pertaining to your case.

A Barrister is a person who has done further education and been mentored or worked under supervision for an additional period. They have expertise in dispute resolution and usually are a specialist in a specific area of the law. Simply put they cost more because they know more.

It is not uncommon to have a lawyer and a barrister if you go to court.

One will know the ins and outs of your case. The other would recognise the complications of the court. It is the barrister’s job to try and settle matters before they go to trial. However, in a small number of cases, this is unachievable, and the barrister will be required to assist in your hearing.
How to Choose the Right Divorce Lawyer

So in most case, as soon as people hear the words divorce, they think COURT. That is not true.  A form of legal mediation either in person or via correspondence is how most divorces get sorted. It is only when couples can’t agree that things get costly and out of hand. And that is why picking a great team of professionals around you, is so important and having a strategic plan and sticking to it.

I also say to my clients for every dollar we spend; I want to see a $3 – $5 return. So what does that mean?

Let me put this scenario forward. We need to go to court and hire a barrister, to represent our client. Costing on average $10,000.00 @ day lets say. Our major concern or the outcome we are fighting over is an additional $20,000.00 of assets. Making no sense what so ever to me. In this case, we are considering a spend of 2 – 1. So for every one dollar, we spend we may get $2 back. But the odds are against us.

Let’s weigh the reasons up:

Assuming we already have an agreement on the table which is extremely close to what the client is entitled to from their financial split. If we are considering $100’s of thousands in assets then $20K is a drop in the ocean, and why waste it. We already have a substantial settlement, and when weighing up the emotional cost of going to court, is it worth it?

If we are talking $100,000.00, then it is a different story but still makes no sense to go to court because we have limited funds and need every cent for the future. Here are the difficulties which need to be weighed up and why. No barrister or lawyer can 100% confirm you will get the outcome you want. They simply can’t say, if you spend $10K I will guarantee $20K via court. If they do RUN, their ego is running the show.

There are too many variables

You have no idea what the other side may say, the evidence they have at hand or what the judge will rule. To be honest, it is a gamble. What happens if the judge disagrees totally and not only do you lose the $10K cost for the barrister, for the day but also the $20K you are fighting to get. You are now worsted off than when you got up this morning. That $30K is gone, and you now need to regroup and consider your options. Either, go back to the initial proposal which was on the table. Or spend more money and go back to court again. At this stage, everything is getting out of hand.

But we are contemplating an utterly different conclusion if it costs $10K to go to court and we are arguing over a $70,000.00 discrepancy. The risk is worth the reward. That is a 7 to 1 return. ( Seven Dollars possibly received for every one dollar spent)
Hopefully, now seeing the reasons a good lawyer is so important for a successful outcome. Firstly to negotiate on your behalf and secondly to help you stay level headed and realistic. Unfortunately, we hear so many stories of the opposite being true.

You need to decide as part of your strategy where you want this to lead. Do you know for sure your case will end up in court? Or are you both semi amicable and prepared to compromise.

How to Choose the Right Divorce Lawyer

People sometimes say l am looking for a BULLDOG to represent me. Right from the start, you are leading with aggression, and therefore l can assure you will end in that same position. And it will be extremely costly. The choice is yours but pick carefully. Selecting the opposite could get everything finished and finalised very quickly. If you find a lawyer who has the following traits:

For a successful outcome, you are looking for the following individual.

● A person who is a problem solver.
● Has a good repour with people.
● Is not afraid of compromise.
● Who is also a specialist in family law and not a generalist in all facets of law?
● You also need a person who is comfortable in court because you have no idea where this can lead and know you can rely upon their expertise is essential. As we learnt above not all lawyers like court and you may need a barrister.
● Also looking for a lawyer who is a team player and prepared to work with others.
● A person who is a problem solver.

Now let’s look at each area a little closer:

Has a good repour with people.

You want a person who talks English and does not try and baffle you with legal talk or speak over you. I recently had a person ring saying she was scared of her lawyer and felt bullied. She had told him how she felt, and he turned around and said ‘Well if you don’t like my style get someone else’. What a guy!

Listen to your gut as much as your mind and make sure you feel safe, heard and supported. The person has empathy and shows kindness, yet is knowledgable and firm when needed. In other words, has a ‘’Game Face.’’

Is not afraid of compromise.

If you have children this is especially a huge thing. The children’s needs should always come first including their safety and happiness. Also, just a fraction of common sense, as we discussed earlier with the dollar return. I encourage all my clients to consider the consequences and love it when the lawyers support me. It shows that they want what is best for the clients. And getting the proceedings finished as quickly as possible rather than prolonging and charging a higher fee. Occurring so regularly; it makes me sick. Why argue for the sake of arguing. The only reason is so the lawyer can charge their client for more time and get their billable hours up.

Who is also a specialist in family law and not a generalist in all facets of law?

I have spoken about this before, but you would not go to a GP if you needed heart surgery. The depth of knowledge and expertise required by the heart surgent is hours and hours of experience, learning and performing the operation. He/She sees all different kinds of hearts, big, small, faulty, enlarged; you name it they have seen them all. But if you went to a GP, they may have learnt the procedure in theory but never performed the life-saving operation.

No different to an inexperienced lawyer. Why spend your time working with a lawyer who does not know the ins and outs of the family law. Who has no previous experience debuting or negotiating on the one thing that could make all the difference to your life and future?

You also need a person who is comfortable in court because you have no idea where this can lead and know you can rely upon their expertise is essential.

Discussed Barristers earlier, this is if you need to get serious and go to trial. In a lot of cases, the word Court is thrown around to scare people. With 85% of cases being negotiated on the steps of court with the opposing side. No one wants to go to court; there are too many things out of your controlled.

Lawyer Hack Technique

If you do think you are going to court, a strategy I have used before is asking people who work in the court. Such as police, other lawyers and barristers, court staff and guards, who they think is the most well-regarded lawyer, solicitor, attorney in the building. Who do the judges or magistrates respect and think good at their craft? I then rang that lawyer and asked for his assistance. He agreed. The case he assisted with was heard and completed very quickly.

Also looking for a lawyer who is a team player and prepared to work with others.

This is extremely important when considering the complexity of your breakup. Especially if there is a lot of assets to divide. Recently my team came up against a young female lawyer, who for some reason, thought she needed to be rude and write aggressive correspondence. Unfortunately, she was far from perfect, but our lawyer was prepared to share our information to support both parties and get a better outcome for everyone involved. The problem was, she did not want to listen and said…’ What does this have to do with the case?’ This is a problem for her client because she was portraying herself as looking after his best interest, yet was not taking into consideration, issues, like refinancing of loans, capital gains tax implications, and so on. If you have assets especially investments and businesses, it is not as simple as dividing.

It required other professionals to be involved in helping achieve the best outcome.

In this case, our client walked away $400,000.00 better off. Why?? Because the other lawyer did not take into consideration a mountain of tax liabilities involved with dividing the family assets. Clapping hands for us, but it made me sad to think we were prepared to share our knowledge, but she did not want to listen. Not only did our clients, ex-husband get an undesirable outcome, he also paid double in legal fees for what l see as poor service. The problem is, he has no idea of these issues and either would you unless you knew the system.

Make sure the lawyer you pick is a team player and happy to work closely with other professionals for your best outcome and doesn’t allow their ego to get in the middle.

I have a downloadable e-book (Get a copy here) which l put together to assist further with this topic. It includes questions to ask when you are interviewing a prospective lawyer and other areas to be mindful of to help make the right choice and limit mistakes.

Author Tanya Somerton – Divorce Angel www.tanyasomerton.com

 

 

How to Get Divorced

How to Get Divorced

I would say 75% of people I speak with have no idea how to get divorced. And why should they? No one gets married thinking; one day they will break up and get divorced. Most folks believe after 12 months of being separated, they submit a document to the court. And then it’s all done, completed, finished.  Unfortunately, for the majority of people who have a house, a car and kids, it is a lot more complicated than that.  How to get divorced

The Legal Definition of Marriage

Upcounsel.com a trusted American site defies Marriage as the following. Legally speaking, marriage is a contract made in conjunction with the law. Where a free man and a free woman agree to engage to live with each other during their joint lives. In the union which ought to exist between husband and wife.

Validating a Marriage

To make a valid marriage, the parties must be able to contract and then be contracted and overall be willing to contract.

Pardon, you might say.  So what does that mean:

A valid marriage is not seen as valid if the persons involved are not legally able to enter into a contract. This includes but not limited to; A person who is unable to decide due to mental capacity. A person under 18 years old,(if so they need the approval of their parents or guardians). The person is still married to someone else, or the person is closely related.

Generally, all people who are of sound mind, and above 18 years old, can contract marriage.

That is why after the ceremony is completed, both parties must sign the marriage certificate. They have just entered into a formal contract with each other and some would say god and the country they reside in.

If you think about getting married, the ceremony is such that those involved say vows to each other. Confirming their commitment and telling the celebrant that the couple loves and cares for each other. Because this is a binding contract in the eyes of the law and there is no getting out of it quickly. Or at least without the help of the courts.

How to get divorced

So why 12 months and not as soon as you have decided the marriage is over? Well, the court wants to make sure that your relationship is finished. And you haven’t made a mistake, therefore allowing enough time to consider your options and be sure. Being apart can sometimes rebuild relationships, and other times it just cements the decisions. A 12 month period indeed shows the court that there is no hope of the couple getting back together. The relationship is let’s say ‘ancient history’.

If you reconciled for three months or more, then the 12 month time period starts again.

So when does the 12 month period commence?

You need to both agree on the date that the marriage is over. This can be the date either one of you made the fact CLEAR to the other person. You can’t just use the time you thought about it ending, in your mind. You need to have verbally said the words to your partner. They need to be fully aware that the relationship is over and you are separating.

You can start the 12 months by still living in the same house, but specific criteria must be met. Such as sleeping in different rooms, not having holidays together, no sexual relationship, etc., Pretty much living separate lives under the same roof and being independent of each other. But both agreeing that is what is happening. These situations are rear but sometimes occur due to financial circumstances. And as a couple, you have no surplus money for one person to relocate or any family members for them to move in with.  Therefore, there is no other alternative than selling the family home, and the couple split the proceeds, going their separate ways. How to get divorced.

If during your time apart, you reconcile for longer then three months then your date of separation will start again. I often see this with couples, who think they will give it a second try and get back together for six months only to realise they need to commence all over again. It can be frustrating, but it is better to be sure then to regret your decision, as the grass is not always green on the other side. How to get divorced

And like anything legally binding, to make it null and void is expensive.

Here in Australia and around the world to end a marriage, is far more complicated than just getting a divorce. Divorce is the legal term meaning the termination of a marriage by legal action, requiring a petition or complaint for divorce.  To be honest, in my eyes the legal divorce piece of the process is in most cases the easy bit.  The other stages which involve breaking up your finances, distributing assets, paying out debts and looking after the children, can be harrowing.  Each of those areas is very emotional and due to that can be very costly. How to get divorced

Robert McClelland, former Federal Attorney General, said in 2017,

If you are from middle Australia and you want to embark on a substantial piece of litigation, you have to put your house on the line.

This sentiment has been echoed by our current High commissioner to the UK when he was attorney-general George Brandis, who has written that “unless you are a millionaire or a pauper, the cost of going to court to protect your rights is beyond you”.

Now, this is the same all around the world, so the question I ask is why do people continue going down this track?

The answer is most people don’t know how to tackle this themselves. So let me walk you through the stages on how to get divorced.

The first stage How to get divorced

is making sure you and your partner agree on the date of separation and then 12 months and 1-day minimum, from that date, you can file your application for divorce. This can be filled in and submitted by your lawyer, or you can do it yourself online. Given I am all about saving money, it is not difficult to do if you have a basic knowledge of computing skills and you can then go through and tick the boxes and fill in the relevant information. I have attached a link to the Australia Divorce Kit here. The application is uploaded to the court portal, and you pay when you press submit.

Here in Australia if you are on a pension, you get a discounted rate. But be aware the person applying must be the person on a pension. So in other words, it can’t be a joint application or a sole application in the name of your partner.

In some case, you can do it together (joint application) and split the fee with your partner. If you have children, this is the best way; otherwise, you will need to attend the court hearing to confirm the children are well cared for. But, please don’t worry, if you are not amicable. You can still make a sole application in your name. It just means you will need to attend court at a later date to confirm with the magistrate you have an agreement in regards to the children and they are safe and happy.

Whoever investigates or submits the divorce application will need to pay the fee to the court. If you are doing it yourself, it is around $900.00, if you are on a pension then $300.00.

Stage Two, How to get divorced

Once submitted, if it is not a joint application, your ex-spouse will need to be served the documents on your ex, and they are called the respondent.  So how can you serve your spouse? Please watch this video which explains in detail.

This whole process so far will take between 6 – 8 weeks depending on the workload of the court and confirming you have filled everything in correctly and served the documents.

Just remember you don’t need to serve the documents on your spouse if it is a joint application.

Now I want to take a moment to touch on the court. l am sure like most people who have made a sole application the thought of going to court alone, sends shivers down your spine. The word Court can be intimidating. It implies having done something wrong, breaking the law, being in trouble. And if you haven’t gone through enough, having the strength to face a judge, will send you weak at the knees. But please trust me when l say, it is not that bad. The court and its staff, see people like you every day and understand that you are outside of your comfort zone. You are only there to confirm the children are being cared for appropriately and there are no problems….isn’t that what you want from a system. To protect the well being of your kids?

Stage Three, How to get divorced

You will receive a date and time in the mail confirming your divorce decree hearing. If you don’t need to attend, then it is usually a straight forward tick and flick by the magistrate. If you do need to attend then questions may be asked of you, no more then 5 – 10 minutes and then you are done.

Stage Four, How to get divorced

One month and one day later by mail, you will both receive in writing, confirmation your marriage contract is now absolute and dissolved. The agreement with your ex is now over. You then have the choice to have a divorce party, or if you are anything like me, cry with relief.

Below is a diagram which may help illustrate the different stages on how to get divorced and l also uploaded a podcast on this very topic, how to get divorced, listen here.

Steps needed to get divorced

 

If you need any help and support in this area and want to find out more about how to get divorced. Please contact my office at admin@tanyasomerton.com, as we would love to help you through this challenging time. You can find out more of what we do at my websites, www.tanyasomerton.com or www.divorceangel.com.au. Or pick up a copy of my book The Jelly Bean Jar – Empowering Independence through divorce to understand how to navigate the divorce process and save time money and emotions.

How Do I Survive My Divorce?

How Do I Survive My Divorce?

How Do I Survive My Divorce?

Have you sat there, with this feeling of worry? How the F&#k will I survive?
Don’t know about you but l knew l needed to move on, it was time, nothing was going to change and if anything, l felt like l had tossed the situation around in my mind for that long, it was exhausting. I was tired, and every day I became increasingly bitter at what my life had become. Was l doing the right thing? Could l fall back in love after everything had been said and done? Maybe l could live in this loveless marriage for the kids? Could I settle for a life which no longer fulfilled me? I continually came up with a reason why I had to stay, yet my stomach and soul told me something different. There was no way l could continue to ignore what l felt, it was affecting my health.
Then when you return to reality, the concept of breaking everything up and finalising your relationship feels like a climb to the top of Mount Everest. The mammoth task seems unattainable and the vision of one day being happy again insurmountable. Looking back, l now realise that every marathon starts with a single step! One step at a time and before you know it, you are halfway there. The pain and agony, lessening as the finish line comes into view.
The hopes and dreams of a life where the fighting stops and the negative feelings have disappeared, all of sudden encompass you as your partner walks through the door. The kids leave the room as they feel the loveless environment around them and the last thing they want is to witness the two people they love not talking or showing no pleasantries like they once did. The pain of this enough for them to retreat into their bedrooms where everything feels warm, inviting and safe.

‘Whatever you focus on, you will feel and experience at a stronger level’ Tony Robbins.

When you have run out of energy and the decision inevitable, realism hits you like a slap in the face. The apprehension is consuming as you comprehend the need to be self-sufficient if you continue down this path.
However, the choice is easy.
• Smiles over frowns.
• Laughter over fighting.
• Happiness over money.
• Plans over dreams.
Trusting that being on your own and whatever your inner person is telling you, will make everything all right. Trusting that you have the strength, to rebuild on your own. To rely on no one but you! This belief is like a superpower, and when the decision is made, there is no turning back. We need to put on our big girl undies and travel in the direction our dreams are taking us. The thought of one day being full filled and happy drawing us out of the quicksand, our life has become.
Eight years on, l will not lie, there were doubts. Worrying late at night about how l would pay the bills and survive. How has this become my existence? What did l do to deserve this? When you change your thinking from Victim to Victor, doors start opening out. Opportunities you never thought possible. Events that would not have occurred if you had stayed because that was easier. Having the strength to leave a marriage and stepping up, to be in control of your future is so empowering. Having the belief that life can be better. Controlling your destiny and pushing yourself to become a person you were once scared of becoming.
Here are my keys to survival:
The number one issue for us all is Security. Both Emotional and Financial.
• Taking control of your finances
• Having goals and visions.
• Believing in your decisions
• Backing yourself
• Forgiveness of past mistakes
• Stepping outside of your comfort zone.
• Willingness to learn.
• Not being a victim.
• Being true to yourself and finding a purpose.
• Believing in your ability to do it yourself

The above is not in any order, but each of these has helped me to become the person l am today. My greatest lessons have come from failures. I now spending my time helping others deal with the complex process of divorce and teaching my clients the lessons others have made, to save them from any more sorrow and heartache.
You will go through ebbs and flows of sorrow and happiness. This is normal. Just say strong and know that life will get better.
I often refer to the ‘Life Stress Inventory’ and how both Divorce and Separation are two of the Top 3 Stresses in Life.
There is a wonderful Ted Talk which may help you understand some of the key reasons why your marriage may have failed but also to understand the drivers to look for in your next relationship.

Some are:

*Get old before you get married.

*Be influenceable

*Reliability – have your partner’s back

My future is so bright it makes me giddy with joy. Just because the love of your life was only for a short period rather than a lifetime, doesn’t mean that is wasn’t supposed to be. He/she may have been sent to teach you what you really want out of life and how to go about achieving it. So don’t be bitter but be thankful. Learn from the experience and grow as an individual. I promise life will one day be better, you just need to take it one day at a time.

Life is far too short to live with regret! Here’s to a life filled with possibilities, but first, you must believe in yourself and your vision for the future.

Streamlining the Divorce Process

Streamlining the Divorce Process

If you’re facing an imminent divorce, you probably want the process to be over sooner rather than later so that you can separate and move on with your individual lives. While we understand your desire to move quickly, (we’ve been there, too!) it is so important to think clearly and create a plan as you look toward the future.

 

This is not the time to make rash decisions, and we want to help you streamline the process of divorce. With a clear mind and the ability to truly focus on your future without dwelling on the past, it is possible. That’s why we put together Five Steps to a Seamless Divorce that will help you get to the other side of your divorce with your finances in line and a healthy outlook for the future.

Facing Your Emotions

One of the greatest battles during a divorce is confronting all of the emotions that come along with the decision to get a divorce. Even if you and your spouse decide together that your marriage isn’t working, there are still deep-rooted emotions that span the length of your relationship.

 

After all, no matter how much you’ve grown apart, you still remember the days that you couldn’t imagine life without your partner. You still remember your wedding day in detail, and probably still very fondly. There are happy, wonderful memories that flash through your head and cause you to smile, even in the darkest moments.

This can be so confusing when you’re also deeply hurt, disappointed and maybe even guilty. You may each feel like you’re giving up, like the other person is giving up and you may even wonder if you’re making the right decision. It’s important to accept that confusion is completely normal, among many other emotions you’re feeling.

And you know what, it’s OK to hold onto those fantastic memories you’ve shared together over the years. Just because things didn’t work out the way you each expected doesn’t take away from the good times you DID share together.

Maybe not right now, and maybe not even next year, but one day you’ll be able to look back and appreciate what you had while you had it…and you’ll also appreciate that you were able to let go and move forward with your life when that chapter ended.

Still, when your emotions are at a peak, and while you’re in the middle of a divorce, it can be very tough to make clear decisions. As we have seen so many times, spouses often just want to get their divorce over with quickly. While quick can be good, you also need time to heal.

And to an extent,  these couples are in such a rush that they miss opportunities to begin the mending process. NOW and even save money and make each of their futures better.

 

Consider Counseling

If you’re struggling with emotions, and really even if you think you’ve got it all under control, we highly suggest you pursue counselling prior to settling assets. We’re not talking about marriage counselling together to “figure out your problems” because we know that ship has sailed!

 

We would love to see you pursue individual counselling to help you work through your emotions before making big decisions.

 

After all, you should never make big, important changes and decisions when you are in the throws of any emotional turmoil. But isn’t that so backwards for a couple getting a divorce? Of course, you’re feeling every emotion possible…but you can’t just wait to get a divorce until those emotions pass. That’s not how it works.

But it IS why we are here. Our Army of Angels includes counselors that can talk to you once, twice or even ten times. They will counsel you for as long as you need to begin healing. They will listen, offer their professional input, feedback from other couples they’ve helped and even their thoughts from personal experiences with divorce. If nothing else, at least you will have someone to open up to who understands what you are going through.

Have you ever heard the first step to solving your problem is to admit that you have one? Well, you may be trying to be strong for your family, friends and kids but now is not the time for that. You don’t have to put on a “brave face” to impress anyone. You owe yourself the chance to begin the healing process NOW instead of when your divorce is finalised.

Counseling can help to get all of your feelings out and work through the emotions before allowing them to impact financial decisions. It is so important to keep your emotions separate from long-term financial decisions, and we can’t stress that enough! You and your partner may be separating, but for now, you still have to work as a team to split your assets in a way that makes the most sense for BOTH of you.

 

Think About Your Children

If you don’t have children, go ahead and skip down to our next tip. But according to the Australian Institute for Family Studies (AIFS), around 47% of divorces will involved children under the age of 18. So there is a 50/50 chance that someone reading this is divorcing with children still at home.

 

Knowing that your children are entrenched in your divorce with you and your spouse can deepen the emotions you feel. All of the guilt, anger and sadness you feel is magnified when you think about your children. You probably feel like you’re failing them as a parent.

But consider this, the decision to get a divorce didn’t happen overnight. And even if it DID, the circumstances that led to the decision definitely didn’t. It’s not like you woke up one day and decided to get a divorce because you feel like it. No. Slowly, slowly over time you and your spouse grew apart. Maybe you started bickering more or began spending more and more time apart. Either way, your children have seen these changes. Depending on their ages, they are probably very aware that mummy and daddy aren’t happy together.

So many parents try and stay together “for the kids” and we implore that you consider the other possibility…the possibility that you divorce for the kids as much as you are doing it for yourselves. You kids deserve happy parents who function at 100%. If you’re unhappy in a marriage, you’re definitely not being the best parent you can be to your kids.

So, while it’s important to consider that this affects your kids as much if not more than it affects each of you, please remember that this is for the better. Together, you can show your kids that you’re still a team and you’re both still there for them 100%.

There are many parenting classes available to parents divorcing so that you can learn how to help your kids cope and move forward. You may also pursue individual counselling for your kids with a counselor who specialises in divorce – like those who are part of our Army of Angels.

 

Know Your Assets and Liabilities

Once you’ve worked through your emotions and cleared your head, you might think your next stop is a lawyer’s office. But it’s not! Before you even talk to a lawyer, you should have a clear picture of assets and liabilities.

 

Lawyers are experts in law, but that doesn’t mean that they should be making financial recommendations to you.

 

Instead, set the framework for your divorce in advance of speaking to a lawyer. Know what your entire financial picture looks like. Know what you want the future to look like. It’s so important for you and your spouse to sit down together and review ALL of your assets and liabilities whether they are individual or shared. If this is not possible, do the best YOU can do to put together a financial picture.

Take a look at all loans and outstanding debt, and then look at your savings. This includes superannuation balances and even college savings you’ve set up for your kids, etc. It’s also important to consider each of your individual incomes. And who is currently responsible for which debts until this is sorted? How will you split the assets? Will anyone be paying child support or spousal maintenance based on your individual circumstances and income and how custody will be split?

Many couples go straight to a lawyer’s office to solved all of these dilemmas. But, not you. You’ll have an entire team working to help you – an Army of Angels – that will help you review every aspect of your life. And it doesn’t end there. We will also help you assess what the outcome will be for the future.

When you’re done, you’ll feel a new emotion – relief. You still have a long way to go, but for now, you know how the assets and liabilities will be divided and what’s in store for the future. Then you can go to your lawyer or ours, with a plan in place to streamline your divorce process and your lawyer can help you make it happen from a legal standpoint. This is where our Divorce Roadmap Session answers all those questions.

When we approach the process of divorce, we want to see it streamlined and as amicable as possible – but not rushed or uncontrolled. And there is a difference! If you can work through your emotions and create a plan for the future, there will be a much better outcome for everyone. We want to help you make decisions from a place of love, forgiveness and amicability.

If you would like to know more about what we do please watch our latest video.

About the author:

Tanya Somerton Tanya Somerton is the ‘Divorce Angel’, and helps facilitate a seamless and amicable divorce and separation with the aid of her ‘Army of Angels.’

Providing step by step processes which limits cost and conflict. 

Tanya is also the Director of TLC Investment Group, a finance and mortgage company.

The author of the Book, ‘The Jelly Bean Jar – Empowering independence through Divorce’. Tanya helps with pre-divorce planning, cost-saving strategies and life after divorce. Purchase your copy here

How To Avoid Costly Legal Blunders during divorce

How To Avoid Costly Legal Blunders during divorce

How to avoid costly legal blunders is a question l am regularly asked. When exploring the possible cost, there are no pricing guarantees because so much is unknown. If everything were straightforward, maybe the world would be a different place. Families starting again would not waste funds on unnecessary arguments and legal fees.

In some cases, you can’t control these costs. Because emotions are high and sometimes common sense is hard to find, but there are a few key areas to look out for.

In my experience, there are two sorts of clients. 

  • The client who hassles their lawyer endlessly and then screams about the cost.
  • Or the client who waits for the lawyer to contact them. Letting the process run its course, which in some cases prolongs the outcome.

Without a doubt finding the middle ground is the key to success. So in this blog, I’d like to give you some tips and tricks. How to avoid costly legal blunders during divorce and get a better outcome from your lawyer.

Let’s assume you’ve already chosen your lawyer. Please review my previous blog for helpful ideas. Five legal mistakes clients make when going through a divorce.

 

Legal Blunders No 1:

Lawyers are educated individuals who communicate vastly different from how you and I would talk to one another. Their role when representing a client is to remove all emotion out of their correspondence. They are only interested in the facts at hand. So right there is one of the biggest issues I see. Clients not having enough evidence for their lawyer to be able to support their case in correspondence.

So what do I mean by that?

For instance, say you (as the client) suggest a date, that such and such occurred which is now up for debate. If the letter goes to the other side and they reply saying, “We have evidence on the contrary.” Or, “There’s an issue with that point.” It means your lawyer has to go back and refute the issue or apologise for the mistake. In my book The Jelly Bean Jar – I refer to this as a legal dance. 

So the way you mitigate this is by having all the facts concerning every issue, point or concern at hand. Sometimes this is hard, but there are ways and means to collect the evidence required in many cases. Dates and times can be confirmed by recollections using social media and putting together a comprehensive relationship timeline of events.

Lawyers are educated individuals who communicate vastly different from how you and I would talk to one another.

When you have the history fresh in your mind, it makes it easier for your lawyer to get a better outcome and provide advice. As an example, it may be a question of assets and liabilities brought into the relationship at commencement.  

I encourage my clients to go back to their savings accounts or their old bank statements. Maybe even go into a branch and get proof. That way there is little room for error. And your lawyer is confident knowing this is evidence-based. Having a figure can make all the difference.

This way of dealing with a lawyer can save you a fortune, because I’ve seen it where people will state, “I think it was around this date, or it may have been this much, I’m not quite sure, but that will do.” The lawyer may include this in the correspondence only to receive back, “No, that’s not true and here’s evidence to support our side of the argument.”

So to try and reduce your cost, make sure that you can provide evidence on any point that you have your lawyer put in writing. Not only does it build trust with the lawyer as they’re 100% certain of their argument. In most cases, you have put the point to bed, and it doesn’t need to be debated any longer.

 

legal blunders

 

Legal Blunders No 2:

The second costly legal blunders I see being preventable is rewriting draft letters.  

And even though I coach my clients not to do it, for some reason, there are certain types of people that can’t help themselves. Red pen warriors I like to call them. If you hire a lawyer to represent your welfare and he/she writes a letter on your behalf, they will normally always do a draft first.

They will send it to you for approval making sure the facts within the document are true and correct before it gets sent to the other side. Now, you must remember that lawyers communicate completely different to you and I. They talk in let’s say ‘alien speak’. And they are communicating with their colleague, who also knows this language.

The letter is not written to your spouse; the letter is for your spouse’s lawyer or legal team. So time and time again I see clients go through a letter for approval and want changes made. Changes which do not make one ounce of difference to the context of the letter.

They simply want words altered or to add in something which may cause an emotional response.

What they don’t understand is, this behaviour is costing them money, money they need for their future. The changes then require the lawyer to spend time updating certain words in the letter, to then be approved again and delaying the communication to the other side.

The letter is not written to your spouse; the letter is for your spouse’s lawyer or legal team

These behaviours delay the outcome and can sometimes have opportunity costs associated. Be smart about your team and trust them to act in your best interest. If you know, you are a micro-manager or want to control the situation remember the consequences and meditate on something more important.

In some instances, there may be words which you know will upset your partner or something within the letter which will cause a meltdown. (Your partner will get to read the correspondence, but their lawyer should be highlighting the content) This is different and needs to be addressed particularly if you are trying to be amicable.  But rewriting a whole letter  (don’t laugh this has happened) because you don’t like the tone will lose the support of your lawyer, and that is never good.

 

Legal Blunders No 3:

The third and final costly legal blunders is when clients ring their lawyer and have them on the phone for longer than necessary. Using your lawyer as a therapist is a bad idea and a very costly mistake.  If you are paying $450 – $650 an hour for your lawyer and you can go to a counsellor for $100 – $200 an hour, it doesn’t make sense to be ringing up and having the lawyer on the phone for longer than necessary especially about emotional issues.

Have your list of written questions ready and get on and off the call as quickly as possible. Be sharp and to the point, give them information or get the answers you need.

We make sure all our clients have some form of counselling, it is a necessity when you are going through a separation or a divorce to address your emotional circumstances and help with the loss and grief. But your lawyer is not that person. The lawyer certainly needs to know what’s going on from a factual perspective, but talking about issues that have occurred with no bearing on your legal case, is costly and is not fixing the root cores of the problem.

Using your lawyer as a therapist is a bad idea and a very costly mistake.

They are not there as a therapist or a counsellor. If you feel that things are getting out of control and you want them to stand up for your rights, that’s okay. But if you’re not coping emotionally, your lawyer is not the person you should be ringing because all it’s doing is compounding the issues.

Firstly you’re getting a larger bill, and secondly, you’re not addressing why you feel the way you do. That’s what a counsellor or therapist can help and support your address.  I hope this article on how you can avoid costly legal blunders can be of help to you!       

About the author:

Tanya Somerton Tanya Somerton is the ‘Divorce Angel’, and helps facilitate a seamless and amicable divorce and separation with the aid of her ‘Army of Angels.’

Providing step by step processes which limits cost and conflict. 

Tanya is also the Director of TLC Investment Group, a finance and mortgage company.

The author of the Book, ‘The Jelly Bean Jar – Empowering independence through Divorce’. Tanya helps with pre-divorce planning, cost-saving strategies and life after divorce. Purchase your copy here

Five Legal Mistakes Clients Make When Going Through a Divorce

Five Legal Mistakes Clients Make When Going Through a Divorce

 

There’s a preconceived idea out there that you have to have a lawyer to be able to get divorced.

Now, in many cases, this is true, but there are a few exceptions to this rule. If your financial situation or child-rearing circumstances are such that everything is mixed together and confusing, then yes!  Or, you are facing World War Three and need someone to help mediate. 

Here in this article, I have discussed the five legal mistakes clients make when going through a divorce. These mistakes are avoidable and can save you a lot of money during separation and divorce.

 

Legal Mistake # 1:

Are you and your ex-amicable?

In a small number of client cases, everything is pretty amicable. If you think you can work together and still have each other’s interest at heart. You may not need to spend your hard earned money on legal fees. You both may agree to work together on bringing up your children and putting their interest first, then great. Have minimal assets and not much too divided. You may consider doing your divorce online

Or like a couple* I am currently working with. They sat down around their kitchen table, using our legal questionnaire and couples separation simplified process. They listed all their assets and liabilities and agreed to divide everything down the middle 50/50.  This was completed after a ‘letter of advice’ was provided by one of our legal team.

Having very little guidance from us, they see no reason to make this anymore hurtful.

They are rare but why spend ten grand or more, each on legal bills?

Some couples don’t need to and can submit their paperwork, themselves online. Or compromise with a little hand-holding from us. And use our cost-saving system and employ the lawyers to draw up the consent orders.  Saving them thousands in fees, time and emotions.

 

Or, you are facing World War Three and need someone to help communicate.’

 

Legal Mistake #2:

Can you afford to pick the wrong lawyer?

Where a lawyer is a necessity, choosing the right one can be the difference between a good outcome and a costly one. Like anything, there are good and bad, and the legal game is no different to any other business.

The big question is how do you know?

Between a good lawyer and a bad can be thousands of dollars. Either being paid in legal fees or worst yet, not fighting for your entitlements. Recently a lovely client who has two small children and recently diagnosed with a debilitating illness enquired. She felt her lawyer wasn’t fighting hard enough for her rights. Her ex-husband’s legal team were in her words ‘ bullies’.  And she felt like her lawyer just wanted to get it over and done.

This couples combined asset pool was worth just short of $1,000,000.00.

Now her lawyer was happy with a 60/40 split in her favour. But when we reviewed the file, it was evident that she was entitled to much more given the circumstances and future needs. Our lawyer said easily 70 – 75 %.

In this clients case, the difference in choosing a good lawyer or a bad will cost her $100,000.00 minimum at settlement.

 

‘The difference in choosing a good lawyer or a bad would have cost her $100,000.00 at settlement.’

Legal Mistake # 3:

One of the biggest mistakes that I see is when clients think that they have to pay a large legal firm. Thinking they will get a better outcome. In some cases, this may be true, but it is not about the firm it is about the lawyer. Every day, I have people come to me having spent anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000. On legal fees with corporate firms, and the level of service they receive is terrible.

It seems from the experience l have witnessed the bigger the firm, the longer it takes. I recently had a client tell me how she was on a Skype meeting with her lawyer. In walked another four lawyers, and she thought they were training and witnessing how he carried out the meeting. The other people in the room added no value, did not even comment.

When she received a bill for $22,000**, a month later, she asked ‘what for?’ She was told, the cost of five lawyers in the room. She hadn’t agreed to this and was shocked when she received her bill. These are some of the stories that we continually hear.

So just because you’re not paying the most expensive hourly rate does not mean you can’t get the best lawyer to represent you. There are just as many good lawyers in the suburbs that can deal with, let’s call them everyday divorce, and those lawyers aren’t going to charge as much because they simply don’t have the overheads of a city firm.

 

‘There are just as many good lawyers in the suburbs’

legal

 

Legal Mistake # 4:

Why do so many people take on the first lawyer they meet who turns out to be wrong?  

This problem can be avoided. You need to interview your lawyer. When you are hiring anyone to be part of your team, it is important to know they’re the best person for the job.

To do that you have to have aligned goals and make sure you both have the same expectations and agreed outcomes. Make sure the lawyer discusses the consequence and benefits of actions taken, such as keeping the family home or a certain asset. Reevaluate. Project manage your spend.  Ask questions, review accounts and ask for clarification of costs.

Don’t be intimidated and if you feel this way, be mindful, as this is a train wreck waiting to happen and where most costs get out of control. Communication is critical. Confirming the lawyer is not making decisions without your approval. People often comment, ‘something in my gut said I should have sacked him/her, but l felt I was too far down the track to change lawyers.

But in hindsight…..’ If you think you’re on two different pages, cut your losses and move now. Don’t continue doing the same thing, because as Albert Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.” To help with this issue l have put together; how to choose the right family lawyer.

 

 

Albert Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.”

Legal Mistake # 5:

Just because your best friend works or went to a certain lawyer does not mean that that lawyer is the right person for you. If they recommend a professional by all means, go and have a meeting, ask questions, get to know the person you want to represent you but remember, no two divorces are the same. They’re all completely different, just like our DNA. You and your partner are two completely different people than the couple who referred you.

Their partner could have had an agenda which made them want to settle quickly. They may have entered their relationship with a larger asset pool or could have a business. Or theirs could have been quite simple and therefore got it all over and done with quickly at a really good cost, where yours could be more confusing. You might need a special sort of help. He or she might be prolonging the supply of documents which need to be disclosed, and not coming to the party and being amicable in mediation. So don’t ever think just because someone else went to a lawyer, that lawyer is for you.

You need to complete due diligence. Just like a financial advisor, you’re not going to turn up and hire someone to look after your money if they’ve got no experience, they’re not the right person for the job. Do the same thing when picking your lawyer.

 

‘ But remember, no two divorces are the same.’

 

Now, something that I do when I employ professionals to help me, whether that be personal or business including my investment portfolio or someone in my team, can. I put together a list of questions, and I interview them. I’ve done it for my accountant, my financial advisor.

Pretend you are your own HR department and your life is your business. When you’re hiring someone, you want them to be the best you can afford. To add value to the problem at hand with qualities specific to your needs. I see it time and time again where people walk into the office of the very first lawyer*** and hire them.

At a time when life is in complete disarray, and they feel out of control. It is now that you must take back control. This one mistake could be the silliest things I can see any person doing at such a precarious time in their life.

 

‘Pretend you are your own HR department and your life is your business.’

 

*Couple have received minimal advice from our business as to what the court would consider fair and reasonable and have worked on that information. Taking into consideration: the ages of their children, incomes, future needs, etc.

**I have instructed the client to ask for a breakdown of the cost from the legal company and what service they provided to her case. If she is not happy with the response to go to the legal board in her State and make a complaint.

***Our lawyers have been put through a stringent interview process as per my book, the Jelly bean jar, we place our clients into one of the three categories. Thus making sure we have the right team in place for every client.

About the author:

Tanya Somerton Tanya Somerton is the ‘Divorce Angel’, whose business is to facilitate a seamless and amicable divorce and separation with the aid of her ‘Army of Angels.’

She provides a step by step process to limits cost and conflict.

Tanya is also the Director of TLC Investment Group, a finance and mortgage company. 

If you need help and support in this area, contact tanya@tlcinvestmentgroup.com.au for help and advice.

She is also the author of ‘The Jelly Bean Jar – Empowering independence through Divorce’. If you are looking to prevent any mistakes and save money this book is a must. Purchase your copy here