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Preparing for the Legal Advice

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Once you have completed your financial agreement, the next step is to obtain the Certificate of Legal Advice.

Each party has to speak with an independent lawyer before signing their Financial agreement as a requirement under the Family Law Act. Your lawyer will explain your rights under the law, and how signing the agreement will affect those rights.

It is the lawyer’s responsibility to provide you with sufficient legal advice so that you understand the ramifications of signing the agreement. This allows you to make an appropriate decision about whether it is in your interest to enter into the agreement or not.

You and the other party cannot use the same solicitor, because the solicitor would be faced with a conflict of interest.

Our Document Review Service (DRS) will match you up with separate lawyers who are totally independent of each other and operate from their own private law firms.

Your independent lawyer will:-

  • review your agreement for compliance;
  • advise you of the legal implications of signing your agreement, including the advantages and disadvantages to you and the effect of the agreement on your rights; and
  • once satisfied, issue the required certificate of independent legal advice*.

It is extremely difficult to end a financial agreement if you later change your mind – so getting legal advice up front ensures that you are fully informed of the advantages and disadvantages of entering into this agreement before you sign it.Follow these tips to prepare for your Legal Advice

Based on the experiences of our customers we’ve put together a short check list to help you prepare for your consultation with your lawyer.

Attending to the following issues earlier in the process rather than later, will help your consultation proceed smoothly and timely.

During the preparation of your draft agreement.

  • Check, check and double check. Once you have received your advice and signed your agreement, you cannot edit it or change the terms of your agreement – you can only terminate it under the provisions of the Family Law Act and go through the process again to create a new one. As such, we cannot stress enough how important it is that you submit an agreement that is accurate and complete. We provide a list of helpful information in the User’s Guide to help in this regard. Once you’ve completed your agreement, read through it carefully to ensure that there are no errors, typos, miscalculations, ambiguity or omissions and that everything is as it should be.
  • Make sure that you (and your partner) have made full and complete disclosure of all assets and liabilities. This means assets and liabilities held in joint names as well as in individual names currently held as of the date of the agreement (not the date of separation or some other date). You must not hide assets or misrepresent the value of assets. Your lawyer will need to know these details in order to accurately advise you. Hiding or not disclosing the full extent of your financial resources is fraudulent and the agreement can be cancelled if it is later discovered that a party did not make full disclosure.
  • Jot down anything that you think may be relevant or pertinent to your agreement and bring it to your lawyer’s attention. This could include unequal contributions to assets, intention to start a family, current pregnancy or mental health issues etc.
  • Make sure that you have placed the correct values in the schedule and anywhere else where values are required. Double check that totals in the schedule have been added up correctly.
  • To save time and costs, finalise all outstanding matters upfront with the other party before proceeding. If you are unsure, still thinking about it or wanting a lawyer to negotiate an outcome, the DRS may not be for you at this stage.Whilst noting that there is an element of compromise involved in the process (or ‘give and take’), if you are not 100% comfortable with the terms of your agreement, try to resolve any issues you have before proceeding. The standard fee does NOT include your lawyer re-negotiating the terms or re-drafting / changing your agreement substantially if you are not happy with it. However, the lawyers are quite happy attending to minor changes, particularly changes recommended by your lawyer, within the scope of the set fee.

During your consultation with your lawyer.

Your consultation will take place over the phone so take some time to prepare yourself.

  • Your consultation is the time to ask any questions you may have of your lawyer. Jot down a list of all your questions and concerns beforehand that you wish to raise, no matter how big or small they may seem, so you don’t forget anything.
  • Have a copy of the final draft of your agreement on hand during your consultation so everybody is looking at the same document. This could be a paper copy or have the file open on your PC.
  • Are you feeling pressured or coerced into signing the agreement? If you feel this way, tell your lawyer.
  • Have a pen and paper handy to jot down notes as you speak with your lawyer.
  • Your lawyer will sometimes communicate with you via email. Check your inbox regularly to keep your matter progressing timely.

After the Consultation

After your phone consultation, your lawyer will email you a written copy of the advice. You will need to confirm in writing that you have received and understood your legal advice and have no further questions before your lawyer can issue your final documentation to you. It is recommended that you provide this confirmation to your lawyer as a matter of priority so that your agreement can be finalised promptly.

If there’s anything we’ve missed, let us know and we will add it to the list.

You may also be interested in

How to make sure your financial agreement stands up.

Declaring all relevant information in a financial agreement.

About the author

Director of RP Emery Legal Kits. As a non-lawyer herself, she understands the confusion and unease that many people experience when confronted with a legal issue. That’s why she works to make legal matters simpler and more easily understood. The bottom line is that there are many common legal transactions that you can handle yourself quite comfortably.