This video gives an overview of some important issues when using the services of the Legal Aid Commission of Tasmania in family law disputes.
Transcript of Video
Anthea (Lawyer): Family Law is very complex. It’s highly emotional, personal and very often involves arrangements for the children. And of course, every case is unique. During this film, we’ll give you an overview of some of the important facts you should know when it comes to using the services of the Legal Aid Commission of Tasmania in family law disputes.
Young Adult Male: Is everyone eligible for Legal Aid?
Anthea: There are some services that are free. The legal advice line employs experienced lawyers who can advise you on your issues, and refer you to other services such as counselling or mediation if it is appropriate. We also conduct free family law sessions in the Hobart and Launceston Family Courts. If you wish to apply for legal aid to have a lawyer represent you, your income and assets will be considered and also what your case is about. All advice and representation for family violence matters is usually free. You can apply for legal aid through the Legal Aid Commission or ask a private solicitor to apply for you.
Young Adult Female: What will Legal Aid do for me in the Family Law Court?
Anthea: Actually, only a small number of cases end up in the Family Court. Issues regarding children and property are usually dealt with through mediation and negotiation. You can apply for legal aid for a lawyer to assist you through these processes. However, if your matter is complex and does require a judge to make a decision, you can also be granted legal aid for a lawyer to represent you in Court. This will depend on what your case is about and whether you have merit.
Young Adult Female: Will I get detailed advice about MY case?
Anthea: If you seek advice on the legal advice line the advice will be general and not necessarily specific to your case. If you are granted legal aid and a lawyer is appointed to represent you then you will receive detailed advice about your case.
Young Adult Female: What sort of advice will I get?
Anthea: As we’ve said, every case is different. You may think you have a strong argument for going to trial. At Legal Aid we tell you the reality. And, to be honest, it’s sometimes not what people want to hear. We give you advice you NEED, not advice you’re HOPING to hear.
Young Adult Male: Do I really need a professional to help me?
Anthea: There are some separated parents who can make their own arrangements in relation to their children. If this works for you then you do not need to engage a lawyer. If there is conflict between you and the other party you may choose to attend mediation in order to reach a settlement. Lawyers become involved when people cannot resolve things between themselves. The Legal Aid Commission has a mediation program for issues relating to children. The parties usually attend with a lawyer. Lawyers may also need to be involved if there are allegations of family violence or child abuse or issues such as alcohol or drug abuse. Sometimes issues such as these can only be dealt with by the Family Court. But as mentioned earlier, most matters settle without the need to go to court.
The Family Court process can be complex especially if you are representing yourself. For a start there are more than 120 different forms that can be used.
Young Adult Male: Are there similar cases to mine that will give me an idea as to what my outcome might be?
Anthea: Every case is different... it’s as simple as that. If you think about a criminal court case there are laws and sentences in place for particular crimes. For instance - if you drink and drive there are mandatory penalties that apply.
When it comes to Family Law, there are no precise, clear-cut areas. However, family lawyers can give you advice based on their experience in other cases.
Young Adult Female: What factors are used to decide on a case outcome?
Anthea: Family Law, as we’ve said, is very complex. And it doesn’t just come down to “he said/she said”. If your matter proceeds to a trial there may be independent evidence presented from people such as social workers, medical professionals, teachers, the police and so on.
Keep in mind that an email or text message you send in the heat of the moment may very well be read out for all to hear. Be careful and think about what things may be used in a trial.
Young Adult Male: Will my case automatically go to trial?
Anthea: No it won’t. The first step to go through is mediation, which is compulsory. This is done to avoid you having to go to trial, which can be lengthy AND expensive. Another fact to remember is that you may be advised that your case has no merit. Remember, only a small percentage of cases go to trial. Most settle beforehand.
Young Adult Male: What if I proceed to trial and lose?
Anthea: Going to Court can be very expensive for both parties. If you have been unrealistic about your case, you may be ordered to pay court costs - which can run into thousands of dollars. Remember, if your reason for going to court is to ‘get even’, it could be extremely costly for you, both financially and emotionally.
Young Adult Male: Can my child decide who they want to live with?
Anthea: Again, this a case by case basis, but the law states that a person has to be 18 years old before they can make decisions about who they live with. Children’s wishes can be taken into account by a Court, but will not be the only factor considered. The weight given to the wishes will also depend on things like the age and maturity of the child, and any other matters or pressure that could impact on those wishes.
Young Adult Female: Is the Judges decision final?
Anthea: There may be grounds for appeal, but usually the final orders are just that. And they are enforceable by law.
Anthea: As you can see Family Law is very complicated. It’s highly emotional, stressful and can cause people months, even years, of hardship. What we’ve discussed today is a general overview of some of the important facts you should know.