When it comes to Family Law, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions floating around which might make it hard for you to know what to believe. It can be even more difficult to separate fact from fiction when you’re representing yourself in court without a solicitor to guide you.
Our beliefs around what happens in the Family Court can be shaped by sensationalist newspaper articles we read or something that happened to someone our friend knows. TV shows can also play a part, often presenting a somewhat skewed version of events.
To help you gain clarity around what really happens in Family Law cases, I’ve debunked the top 5 Family Law myths I hear from clients. Part of representing yourself in court with confidence is being prepared, and that means knowing the truth about what really happens so you know what to expect.
Myth 1: Mediation is pointless
One of the most common Family Law myths I hear is regarding mediation. Often people don’t see how mediation can be of any use when only the court can make an order. Ex couples worry it will needlessly delay the separation process, and they can be skeptical about their ability to agree on anything without the court’s intervention.
What they often don’t realise is that court costs and orders can be avoided by both parties agreeing to negotiate during mediation. If the lines of communication between you and your ex are still open, you should try to come to an agreement between yourselves regarding finances and children, and the terms of your divorce.
These discussions can result in a formal Separation Agreement (if you’re not married), or a Consent Order (if you are married), which sets out all the issues a court would normally consider but which doesn’t cost you thousands in fees to obtain. This is a legally binding agreement signed by both parties and sent to the court, which means that you may not have to attend any hearings; so this can actually speed up the divorce process and make things easier for both parties, along with any children involved.
Of course if there is a lot of tension and conflict between you and your ex, and relations have completely broken down, mediation might not be appropriate. If one of you has made allegations against the other, for example, a Fact Finding Hearing might be necessary to get to the truth.
However, I would always advise clients to attempt mediation if possible for both their sake and the benefit of any children you share.
Myth 2: Your finances are completely separated after divorce
It’s understandable you might think all financial ties will be cut once you’re divorced, but in truth you need to have a financial order in place to guarantee this. If you don’t have this, your ex spouse can still claim financial remedy from you later on down the line.
A legally binding financial order is the only way to ensure that your ex can’t request any money from you in the future, for example, if you come into an inheritance or your salary substantially increases. Alternatively, you could arrange a Consent Order if you’re in agreement regarding the division of your finances and assets after divorce.
It’s important to get a financial order or Consent Order in place even if you don’t have assets or income to divide after divorce – you never know what might happen in the future and your ex is legally within their rights to claim money from you at any point if you don’t have this.
You might want to check out my previous blog post where I busted some other Family Law myths around divorce and finances.
Myth 3: The Family Court always favours the mother
This is a very common assumption – perhaps one of the most prevailing Family Law myths. The law isn’t inherently biased towards the mother in any way, but it’s important to realise that ensuring stability for any children involved in a divorce will be the court’s primary concern.
Often it’s the mother who stays in the family home while the father moves out, and the courts will try to ensure children don’t have to move out of that home – so this can seem that mothers are being favoured. The reality of the situation, however, is that if a father makes an application to see his children, an order granting this will usually always be given unless there are any safeguarding concerns.
In all my time supporting people in court I’ve only seen a very small handful of fathers denied access to their children, and in those cases it was the fathers’ behaviour that led to that.
It’s important when you’re self-representing in court to understand the reality of what happens in children hearings so you can make sure you’re fully prepared.
Myth 4: You’ll get a better divorce settlement if your ex had an affair
When my clients come to me for help with a divorce, they’ll often assume that because their ex had an affair they’ll get more out of the divorce settlement. What they sometimes don’t realise is that although adultery can be grounds for divorce, it doesn’t affect how finances and assets are divided. In fact, whatever your reasons for divorcing, the settlement will be decided based solely on both your financial needs (and those of any children you share).
This is one of those common Family Law myths perpetuated by TV shows where someone is encouraged to rinse their ex spouse in the divorce for committing adultery, or something along those lines. The reality is that the actual grounds for divorce will have limited bearing on the financial outcome.
Myth 5: You need a solicitor to get divorced
This is a common Family Law myth I’m happy to discredit. You definitely don’t need to hire a solicitor to represent yourself in court, although I’d advise you to at least consult with one if you can. The cost of engaging a solicitor is usually the most pressing factor in people’s decision to self-represent, although some people do it because they think they’ll make a better job of it as they’re more invested in the case.
Whatever your reasons, I firmly believe anyone can represent themselves in court successfully, and it isn’t as difficult as you might think. As long as you’ve done some thorough preparation and gained some important insider insight into the court process, you can walk out of that courtroom confident that you’ve done yourself justice, whatever the outcome.
You should never just rely on Google for this though, or things you’ve heard from friends of friends. You need to understand the Family Court procedures and how to fill out all the paperwork correctly to ensure you don’t jeopardise your case.
I cover everything you need to know in my lectures and in-depth online courses covering various aspects of self-representation in court. From how to write an effective Position Statement to preparing your own cross examination and dealing with parental alienation, these courses will help you prepare thoroughly so you feel much more confident about representing yourself in court.
I hope you found this blog post useful in dispelling some common Family Law myths and misconceptions. Let me know how it’s helped you in the comments, or if there’s another myth you’d like some clarity on.
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