Due to the limited availability of legal aid funding and the rising costs of legal representation, family law self representation is on the rise. Some people endeavour to negotiate parenting arrangements or a property settlement with their former partner or former partner’s lawyers. Some even decide to conduct their own court case in the Family or Federal Circuit Court.
Seek expert advice
In our experience, a person who represents him or herself without any legal advice or input is at a significant disadvantage, especially if the other party has elected to obtain legal advice or representation. Therefore, we recommend that before deciding on family law self representation, you obtain specialist family law advice regarding your position and the options available to you. If you cannot afford the costs of a private solicitor, Legal Aid Queensland provides a range of assistance options on its website (see www.legalaid.qld.gov.au/Get-legal-help). For indigenous Australians, legal advice and assistance is also available from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (see http://www.atsils.org.au/).
Community legal services
There are also several community legal services, which provide advice and can help with family law self representation, including the following:
· Aboriginal Family Legal Service Southern Queensland, Roma – http://www.aflssq.org.au/
· Bayside Community Legal Service Inc., Wynnum – http://bcls.org.au/
· Brisbane North Community Legal Service, Nunday – http://www.ncsgi.com.au/
· Caxton Legal Centre Inc, South Brisbane – http://www.caxton.org.au/
· Gold Coast Community Legal Centre & Advice Bureau Inc., Southport – http://www.advicebureau.org.au/
· Goondiwindi Community Legal Service, Goondiwindi – http://www.caregoondiwindi.org.au/
· Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Intersex Legal Service Inc., Fortitude Valley – https://lgbtilegalservice.org.au/
· Moreton Bay Regional Community Legal Service Inc., Caboolture – http://www.mbrcls.org.au/
· Pine Rivers Community Legal Service, Strathpine – http://www.encircle.org.au/
· Refugee and Immigration Legal Service, West End – http://www.rails.org.au/
· Robina Community Legal Service Inc., Robina – http://www.rclc.net.au/
· South West Brisbane Community Legal Centre, Inala – http://www.communitylegal.org.au/
· Suncoast Community Legal Service, Maroochydore – http://www.suncoastcommunitylegal.org/
· The Advocacy and Support Centre, Ipswich – http://www.tascnational.org.au/
· Women’s Legal Service, Annerley – http://www.wlsq.org.au/
· YFS Legal, Slacks Creek – http://www.yfs.org.au/
· Youth Advocacy Centre, Petrie Terrace – http://www.yac.net.au/
It is important to note that several of the above community legal services offer advice in relation to a wide variety of legal areas and, therefore, may not provide the same level of expert advice offered by a dedicated family lawyer. We recommend that, wherever possible, you seek advice from a Family Law Accredited Specialist.
Help with family law self representation
Another option for people who cannot afford to engage a lawyer to act for them for the whole of their case, is to do some of the work themselves and employ a lawyer to do the more difficult or technical parts of the case. For example, you may decide to negotiate with your former partner regarding the parenting arrangements for your children, with or without the assistance of a family dispute resolution practitioner, and then engage a lawyer to draft up the agreement, so that it is properly worded and legally binding. Or, if you are conducting your own court case, you might wish to engage a lawyer to draft your court documents but appear in court on your own behalf.
Many private law firms now offer services to specifically help with family law self representation. There are many legal tasks which can be offered as stand alone services, such as:
· Providing legal advice regarding strategy or procedure
· Drafting court documents
· Perusing court documents and providing advice about how to respond
· Drafting settlement proposals
· Drafting settlement documents
· Preparing for and attending mediation or family dispute resolution
· Drafting submissions for you to present in court
· Appearing in court
If you decide to engage a lawyer to help with family law self representation, it is important that you provide the lawyer with all information relevant to the task you require him/her to undertake. If you do not do this, the work the lawyer does for you might not assist or advance your case as hoped. We strongly recommend that if you are considering engaging a lawyer on an ad hoc basis, you choose a solicitor with many years’ experience in family law, preferably a Family Law Accredited Specialist. An accredited specialist will know what information you should provide, so they can properly undertake the task requested.
For information about the services we offer to help with family law self representation, see: