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How do I go about being an efficient client for my lawyer?

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I have my situation listed here as "father of a newborn" on this forum. After many genuine attempts to negotiate contact with my son for more than just 1 hour a week, it is just getting worse.

I am at the stage now where our baby is nearly 4 months old, and for the first time I've suggested to my ex to get legal advice because she refuses mediation and has dug her heels in. She clearly wants total control of this situation, and using our son as a weapon against me which ultimately harms him!

So now is the legal process. I have been given a lawyers costs letter, indicating $1000 needs to be paid upfront before they begin representation, and $2000 is a quote for basic negotiations. My question is, what can I do on my own to be the most efficient client as possible? I want to avoid large ongoing costs and need help with how to go down this track. It's very daunting, but necessary to establish a relationship with my boy.

Is it worth getting the lawyer to send out a few letters, or just take the matter straight to court and serve the papers?

Thanks for your help.
You need a 60i certificate from an FRC or approved mediation centre before you can begin Court action.

Did your Lawyer tell how much it could cost if the matter went through the Courts as a defended hearing or are they keeping that as a nasty surprise for later on?

You can do most of it yourself as an SRL.
Thanks for your reply Conan.

I have the certificate from mediation which she refused to attend. I am totally new to the legal system and would love to one day represent myself, however would it be best to familiarize myself with the system through representation first? Currently I don't know much at all about the system. I'm not lazy, but need time & experience to go down that path. This is for here and now.

I didn't get a quote if it went to court. It just said, "the costs may exceed this quote for lengthy negotiations" or something along those lines.

I don't want to go applying for legal aid, because I work full time. I just want to know how to avoid being trapped into a $10,000+ legal bill if I can avoid it.
The title of your post probably says it all. How to be an efficient client?

You will need to do as much research as possible. Start with here and the sites associated with the courts. There is a lot of information around.

You could join the SRLs as well, but you will need to do the leg work.

You need to be organised, and prepared. Bear in mind that you are actually the one employing the solicitor to act on your behalf. Certainly, depending on the solicitor, you can be guided by their advice, but do your own research. There are good and bad out there, and sadly, they don't have a sign saying which they are.
The costs with a lawyer could be tens of thousands of dollars not just thousands.

Doing all possible for yourself will minimise costs. I suggest joining SRL website.

My son saw his child for 2 hours this week finally. She is 17 months old and he separated from mother when she was 7 weeks old. The mother pulled every stunt possible so he only had 16 hours in a contact centre in all that time so be prepared for a possible long process. My son is now on his third interim and may be another year or more before a final hearing.

Good Luck.
Hi Boots & Kalimnadancer,

hey k-d, that is a very raw situation for your son. I am sorry to hear about that and it makes me feel kind of lucky that it is not like that for me (with a big 'YET').

If you don't mind, can you let me know what stunts she pulled, and how did the process make it to a third interim? Can't the judges and the system see this time wasting is not in the best interests of the child?

I am dreading this might be what I am about to face.. and interested to know how to combat these such poor motives. Proactive suggestions are appreciated.
I'm thinking that as long as you pay your bills promptly then your lawyer will think are most efficient. Seriously as the others have said you should do it yourself.

Since you have a new born it is not advisable to get final orders until he is school age so it's probably best to utilise interim orders for the next few years.

Unless the baby is as risk of being abused by his mother you are only going to get a graduated care regime for the next couple of years which may increase a little every three months until you have every second weekend and half of school holidays by the time he starts school.

Perhaps make a start by sitting in the hearings of your local family court to see how it's all done.



ds80 said
Hi Boots & Kalimnadancer,

hey k-d, that is a very raw situation for your son. I am sorry to hear about that and it makes me feel kind of lucky that it is not like that for me (with a big 'YET').

If you don't mind, can you let me know what stunts she pulled, and how did the process make it to a third interim? Can't the judges and the system see this time wasting is not in the best interests of the child?

I am dreading this might be what I am about to face.. and interested to know how to combat these such poor motives. Proactive suggestions are appreciated.
 
There is a limit to what people can reveal in public forums (Section 121 of the FLACT) if you want private you have to join a private site.

There are also many historical posts on this site detailing all the various 'stunt's that people have pulled.

You could initially do as Fairgo suggested,  go and sit in court and watch some hearings. Apart from WA (the Wild West) the Federal Magistrates Court and Family Court handle these matters. There is a 90% chance your case would be in the FMC if you are not in WA.

ds80 said
Can't the judges and the system see this time wasting is not in the best interests of the child?
Of course they can, but they have to follow the process of the Law and the other side might put up just as good an argument as to why 'limited contact'. Your child is very young and so circumstances will change as the child get older. You need progressive Interim's to build to a stage of either workable Court orders or Consent orders. The last thing you need is a set of orders that may not suit the child as they get older and then forces you into the Rice and Asplund Court hurdle.
Thanks for your responses.  You are seriously helping me understand the basics of the system.

As for going SRL, I am interested in exploring this suggestion. And getting solicitors 'unbundled' help for certain parts, hopefully they can act as my guide.

ds80 said
 And getting solicitors 'unbundled' help for certain parts, hopefully they can act as my guide.
They surely will act as your guide - at $400 per hour!
Good point Conan. I downloaded the SRL resources forum and downloaded the brochure of an overview. It taught me the prospect of unbundled help instead of employing a solicitor from A to Z. Instead, you can get them to carry out tasks "M, L & P" for example. Things that need that extra care such as affadavits.
ds80 said
As for going SRL, I am interested in exploring this suggestion.


  Do everything in stages
1. Join SRL - resources and read all the helpful info on this site
2. Soak up as much info as you can
3. Start out self representing and do all the paperwork
Don't use the term contact - it's better to use the term care in your requests. Contact has undertones that you think you have rights. As you have no rights, care shows your willingness to have a meaningful with your child life.

All the resources/advice you need to get the ball rolling are on here, or you can pay $400 or so an hour to a legal practitioner to download the forms off the Family Court's website and transcribe your story for your affidavit and wishes for orders sought.

Only use a legal practitioner if the matter is urgent and you do not know what to do.

Go and observe people self representing themselves and you will probably see people less educated than yourself doing a great job.

Remember it's not about what is right or wrong but about what is reasonable and practical.

As you are an inexperienced parent get advice from experienced parents and do some parenting courses to show your willingness to be a good parent.
ds80, I just want to point out to you that time is truly of the essence in this situation. You have already discovered that this woman wants to control the situation rather than considering what's best for your son; if that is the status quo to date, then that's what you can expect in the future, and it will only get worse. I have learned from conversations and research on this site that the longer things go on like this, the less chance you have of turing the situation around.

If she manages to delay contact for long enough (through multiple adjournments a case can be deliberately dragged out until your pockets are dry), by the time you get to a hearing, you will have had very little interaction with your son, and she will claim that you have not established a relationship with him. She will undoubtedly be considered the primary carer either way. Then she could claim that having the child away from her/in your care causes her such distress and anxiety that it impairs her ability to adequately parent him. Now this argument might be ineffective if the father has developed a strong and consistent relationship with the child over time, as the judge might then decide that if the mother is so impaired the child will be better off living with the father. However, in your case you will be unlikely to have had much time with him, and it seems that magistrates are very reluctant to remove a child from the primary carer (see "primary attachment theory) and place them with a lesser known person. So it becomes in the best interest of the child to preserve the mother's sanity by ordering minimal contact with the father, usually in a supervised contact centre. I read one such case where a father was granted 2hrs per month supervised access.

This is one example of the kinds of stunts she could pull. another much more common route is domestic violence. I would advise you never to approach or speak to her without a witness present (avoid face to face contact altogether if possible), and always record conversations using a hand held recorder (this is legal unde rthe listening devices act). It is shockingly easy to get an interim AVO; she doesn't need ANY proof for that, and even with a proper AVO, the burden of proof is much lower than that if criminal matters. At best, you waste a lot of time and money fighting it - and you can't get costs. At worst if an order is granted, it will carry weight in the family court and she can use that against you. This method is used extremely commonly.

I can't stress enough how important it is to avoid that possibility. If she is determined to retain control, she will find a way. If she has mo excuse, she will create one. Be wise and don't give her the opportunity. Good luck.   
Other methods include:-
Breastfeeding ( can be used to age 2)
The child needs to establish a strong attachment to a primary figure (mum) before another person is added.
Continual mediation with no results.
Mediation with results not signed .
Failure to appear in court.
Cirtificate from doctors limiting travel, time away from mother, ect, due to child needs.
Changeing address so difficult to serve papers.
Cancel time due to child illness.
Claims of father being abusive, a drunk, drug user, or will take the child ( usually results in supervised contact as judges prefer to be careful in interim orders). AVO is a fatal problem in family law.
Using a contact centre only and the wait for a place can be 6 months or more.
Asking court for family reports or child to have own lawyer means delays to have these things done.
An agreement just before a court hearing to another mediation, more interim orders or an adjournment until another date ( fathers are often told that they have no choice as the judge will be against them if they do not agree)
The longer you do not spend the less chance it will not be an interim order.
Most courts, family report writers, ect do not like final orders for a young child.
And these are only a handfull of possible issues.

Thanks for your replies, and for information of worst case scenarios. It gives me something to prepare for if it happens.

An update I have since I first posted. I think she might be planning to move to a faraway distance from me. This is not iron clad, but she has hinted the possibility of this happening soon. What should I do? 3 months old and minimal contact is going to make that easy for her. Can she just do that without my say?

Thanks so much guys.
She can do whatever she wants if there are no court orders in place.
You may need to make an urgent application to the court and I am not a solicitor or anything so I am not sure what you do, but I am sure that the federal magistrates court reception officers can help with telling you the forms to be completed and filed. Maybe someone else can help here or I suggest joining the SRL site for self representing litigants.
Can you please consider helping me with this updated information.

I have suggested getting legal advice, and my son's mum has upgraded visits to 2 times a week, and still only for an hour. This is a step forward, however it is still far off the mark for a genuine father/son relationship to be established.

Her reasoning was that she experiences anxiety when she has to let me see him, and she is trying to work on the problem and it should go away in a few weeks or months. She is wanting me to "not dangle the law over her head".

Although this may be true, I am expected to just take her word for it and give the space she needs. In the process, I am still restricted to being supervised (by her) in the house. It would be great to take him out for a walk in the pram. And I am hoping to extend the hours from 1 hour to 3 or 4 hours. Is this reasonable to expect?

It is becoming ridiculous and I'm feeling like a walkover. Any ideas of how to deal with this? Become more assertive? That means with gentleness, of course. I am a gentle person.

Thanks for your responses.
Yes, an efficient client is one which pays their bills. 

You have stated ds80 that you already have a 60i due to failed negotiations.  The fact is that if the mother is refusing to negotiate an increase in contact time and you are not satisfied with the current arrangements then your only route may be to apply to the Court.  As suggested by others when it comes to time increases there are a range of factors which will be taken into consideration, the childs tender age will be one of them.

As mentioned to you, you can save costs by self representing.  Applying to join SRL-R is good advice!!!! 

"Never, "for the sake of peace and quiet," deny your own experience or convictions". Dag Hammarskjold
I needed help with my case and couldn't afford a lawyer and found these guys invaluable  srl-resources.org
It seems like the dangling of the law is working a little. Perhaps there are a few things you can do to make her feel better. It's good that she sees that she has the problem and is working at it. Maybe you should do a parenting course or see if you can take bub to a play group or involve other family members whom she may trust. Small steps here…
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