If your marriage or partnership relationship has irretrievably broken down and you’ve been separated from your spouse or partner, you may be thinking of lodging an application for consent orders or parenting orders from the family court. If you are like most people, you probably do not know a family lawyer. You cannot ask any of your close relatives to recommend a lawyer since you want to keep your relationship problems private.
You will probably search online for a family lawyer. And once you enter a search term, there is sure to be lots of hits. Which one should you click on first? Every law firm looks equally qualified, experienced, and professional. How would you know which family lawyer or firm can best help you? Some people click on the websites without looking if the family lawyer is from out-of-town. Hiring a local family lawyer may be a good idea.
Understandably, if you live in a small town or city you may not want to get a local family lawyer because there may not even be that many family lawyers practicing in your locality that you can choose from. If you do find two or three family lawyers near you, it may feel awkward for you to “go shopping” for a lawyer and consulting one or all of them as they will all know a bit about your relationship troubles.
You may not feel comfortable consulting or hiring a lawyer you could potentially bump into at the market or the mall, or at your kid’s school. You want distance between the legal aspect of your separation or divorce and your everyday life. It would be a tad awkward to bump into a lawyer to whom you’ve disclosed sensitive details about your private life. You are experiencing emotional upheaval from the breakdown of your relationship and you do not wish to add social discomfort to the mental and emotional weight you are already carrying. Plus, if you live in a really small town or city, where everyone in town is a nodding acquaintance of you or your ex-spouse or ex-partner, you are understandably afraid of the family lawyer or their staff gossiping about you and your private affairs.
As in all major life decisions, you may want to weigh the benefits and risks. The biggest risk of hiring a local lawyer, as discussed above, is the discomfort you may feel when the world of lawyers, courts and your divorce collides with your regular errands-and-workaday life. You can mitigate this risk by reminding yourself that lawyers and their staff are bound by a legal duty of confidentiality. They cannot disclose details of your person, your life, and your legal affairs without opening themselves to liability. A chatty family lawyer or a family lawyer with chatty staff will not be in business long.
The benefits of hiring a local family lawyer outweigh the risks. Hiring a family lawyer near you will make your family lawyer accessible to you. You won’t have to spend too much time driving on the road (not to mention spend so much money on gas) just to see your family lawyer and bring or sign documents. Family law matters usually require multiple face-to-face meetings with your lawyer. You will need to confer in person to go through the details and the facts of your personal circumstances. You will need to comb through documents which will form part of your evidence. You will need to prepare for and attend mediation together with your lawyer. Hiring a local family lawyer can be handy.
A divorce is mentally and emotionally taxing. A lot of questions rise in your mind while you lie in bed unable to sleep. If your family lawyer lives in a different time zone from you – it would be difficult for you to call your lawyer and expect them to respond promptly. You can send them a text or a voice message, sure, but they may not reply to you because they are asleep when you are awake. You cannot expect your lawyer to pick up and talk to you with a mind that is crystal clear if they are in a different time zone from you.
Most local family lawyers will have offices near the family courts of your city or district. This will be convenient for you and your lawyer since neither of you will have to wade through traffic just to appear for hearings in court or submit and file documentation. Some lawyers offer services paid on an hourly basis. Often, travel time to get to and from court is included in what is called “billable hours” – if your family lawyer’s office is a few minutes’ walk from the courthouse instead of a two-hour commute – well, the travel time saved is legal fees saved.
If you hold a regular job with regular hours, and because of your separation, you may also bring the kids to school and pick them up after, and do household chores after work. You may be free to meet with your lawyer only over your lunch break or immediately after you time out of your job. If your lawyer’s office is far away, you will need to take time off from work just to meet with your lawyer. Every minute off from work is a dollar you will not earn. If you are divorcing and paying court fees as well as lawyer fees is making holes in your pocket, you cannot take too much time off from work. You will value being able to meet with your lawyer over your lunch break.
Here’s a tip: When you do a search online, use your location as part of the search term. Use the search terms: “family lawyer near me” or “family lawyer Perth”. This will give you a listing of local family lawyers or family law firms near where you live or where you work. Hiring a local family lawyer will benefit you.