Most people with family law disputes want to stay out of court, and with good reason. Court proceedings can be long, complex and expensive.

But sometimes, family law disputes can’t be resolved in an out-of-court settlement and the parties have no other choice but to head to the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court.

When separating couples find themselves here, do they need a lawyer to represent them, or is a do-it-yourself family law approach possible?

The answer is – it depends.

What are your family law options?

Have an Advocate

Court hearings can be time-consuming and extremely stressful. To have an advocate present your case is usually the best option because you are more likely to get a favourable outcome. However, a legal advocate is expensive and often beyond the financial resources of many separating couples.

Choose Legal Aid

Another option is Legal Aid. But funds are scarce and therefore quite difficult for most people to access. In some cases, a lawyer will act for you on the basis that payment is made at the end, where funds are typically sourced from the property settlement. But often there are no funds available and the only real option is to do-it-yourself.

Engage a Solicitor

When it comes to engaging a solicitor, there is a range of possible options.

There is the ‘limousine’ service where a solicitor instructs a barrister to present your case in court and both the barrister and solicitor appear with you in court. This is the best and most expensive option, especially for resolving complex cases and final court hearings.

But for interim or less complex proceedings, your solicitor may be able to act alone as an advocate, which is a cheaper option.

Do-it-Yourself Family Law

There are some situations where it’s not too difficult to manage your family law dispute yourself.

Most people can handle divorce proceedings themselves quite easily if they follow the guidelines set down by the courts. In some parenting or property proceedings, the issues are reasonably straightforward and the range of possible outcomes quite narrow, so that you don’t have too much to lose.

Another do-it-yourself family law approach is to opt for legal representation but structure it in a way that keeps the costs down.

If you feel confident enough to do-it-yourself, many solicitors, like Corish & Co. are prepared to provide coaching and assistance as a consultant to assist clients to manage their own case.

The key to success is getting help from the beginning, having good documentation, knowing which questions to ask your solicitor, and having realistic expectations.

Overall, whichever option you choose, it makes sense to have at least some sort of professional guidance at the beginning and along the way. This allows you to handle the court process with greater confidence and achieves better results. It also makes the process more affordable and less stressful and usually increases your chances of coming to a resolution along the way.