Working with a lawyer
Just as most of us would not try to fix our car ourselves or diagnose and treat medical issues, you should not try to manage your family law case without the assistance of a lawyer who has experience in family law.
In any family law case, but especially in cases involving family violence, the knowledge, expertise and skills of a good lawyer can make the case move more quickly and smoothly and can make a good outcome more likely.
Ideally, you will be able to hire (retain) a family law lawyer to handle your entire case, either by paying for the lawyer yourself or with a legal aid certificate.
However, if that is not an option, you may be able to find a lawyer who offers unbundled services, which means they will represent you on specific issues in your case.
For example, you may be able to get a legal aid certificate for your custody and access issues but not for property division. In this situation, your lawyer will handle the custody and access part of your case, but you will have to represent yourself to get a division of property.
A new service some lawyers are now offering is something called legal coaching. In this arrangement, the lawyer does not represent you (e.g., does not complete your court documents or appear in court on your behalf) but answers your questions, helps you prepare for court appearances and reviews documents you have prepared, providing you with suggestions for any necessary changes.
Many people have to represent themselves during the family law process, because they cannot afford to pay for a lawyer and do not qualify for legal aid. If this is your situation, it will still be important to seek advice on certain issues and at specific points in time.
Whether or not you have a lawyer, we strongly encourage you to work with a women’s
legal advocate throughout your case.