Appointments can be made on a “face-to-face” basis at one of our offices or, alternatively, via telephone or Skype. You can also enquire about an appointment by filling out the Enquiry Form at the end of this page.
We understand that many clients do not live within an easy drive of Perth or one of our urban hubs, or simply that juggling the demands of work and family can be onerous.
Generally, one of our experienced solicitors can accommodate an appointment – whether by Skype, telephone or in-person – within a day or so of your enquiry.
When you contact DS Family Law to enquire about making an appointment, one of the first things we do is a “conflict check” to make sure we have not given advice to other involved parties just a few weeks before!
These checks are by no means carried out to ‘pry’ on personal matters within the first few minutes – they are simply an essential part of the “safety net process” and an ethical requirement. The sooner any conflict is discovered and resolved the better (and more cost-effective) it is for clients.
Once your appointment is “booked in”, you will be emailed a Client Interview Form to complete and return to us before our meeting. The form contains much of the basic data we’ll need in order to give you proper advice, which otherwise could take some time to obtain – such as names, dates of birth, date of separation, etc. – and helps minimise cost.
It is critical that you complete and return this Form as soon as possible. By “doing the homework” in advance, we can save valuable time in the information-gathering process, leaving us more scope to deal with the important issues in and actual merits of your case.
If your case involves a financial settlement we will also ask you for a basic Asset & Liability Schedule.
Again, this pre-meeting work undertaken by you frees up more time for us to get to the heart of your matter during your appointment.
Sometimes, however, you simply will not know any information about your former spouse’s financial circumstances. Don’t worry – just do the best you can for the purposes of your first appointment.
Your appointed solicitor will have familiarised themselves with your Client Interview Form before you arrive for your appointment. You will not be charged for our time in perusing your Client Interview Form prior to the consultation.
Other important documents to bring to your first appointment:
- If you are married, please bring with you a copy of your Marriage Certificate.
- If you are divorced, also bring with you a copy of your Divorce Order.
- If you need help with arrangements for the children, please bring with you copies of your children’s Birth Certificates.
- If Court proceedings have already started, please bring with you a copy of all Court documents, including any Orders made. It is best if these documents are sorted into date order.
- We also recommend that you bring copies of any letters you have sent or received in relation to your family law matter. Additionally, if there are certain documents that are important to you, or you have questions about, please bring these with you, too.
- Tax Returns, super statements, real estate appraisals and bank statements can also assist in our providing you with more detailed advice at your initial appointment.
Your First Appointment
For the most part, initial appointments will last around an hour, give or take.
It is difficult to adequately address the majority of issues in anything less, especially when factoring in fact-checking, delving into the substance of the case, exploring important issues you may not have considered and giving measured initial advice.
Obviously, the more detailed information you provide to us before and during our initial meeting the more likely we will be to provide you with “concrete” and sustainable advice.
Your family lawyer will be familiar with the details in your Client Interview Form at your first appointment.
As we’ve mentioned already, this entire process can’t happen in 15 minutes – so beware unrealistic advertising!
In our lengthy experience a short, free consultation is highly unlikely to leave you feeling either satisfied that you’ve had time to explain all the relevant background, or confident that the solicitor sufficiently understands your case.
So again, be mindful of “free” or minimal cost, short initial appointments, where you will likely be asked for lots of basic information (which you could easily have made available in advance) and will probably be provided with little in the way of substantive answers and advice.
At the end of your consultation with DS Family Law, we guarantee there will be no pressure to take things further. In some cases, we simply provide sufficient reassurance to allow parties to negotiate a reasonable outcome between themselves.
If, however, you do need to take things to the next stage with us then – at your request – you will be sent:
- A letter of Client Engagement.
- A standard Costs Agreement.
- A request for an initial deposit into our trust account to cover anticipated initial fees and disbursements.
All initial appointments at DS Family Law must be paid for either in advance or on the day of the consultation if you are coming into the office.
Let’s be frank – lawyers are expensive. Regardless of who you engage, you will likely be paying somewhere between $400 to $500 per hour in legal fees for advice. Therefore, you need to be as certain as you can be that your lawyer has the knowledge, experience and ability to deliver results, but also to “pull you into line” if your expectations are “way off beam”.
Simply telling you what you want to hear is in neither your nor our long-term best interests. It will only lengthen the time-frame until settlement and increase the costs.
Become a Client
When you become a client at DS Family Law we will, first of all, assess the level of urgency in your matter.
This is so we can arrange for the necessary legal and administrative resources to be allocated to your case. It will also determine how much you may have to deposit in our trust account for the requisite work to be undertaken.
Some matters may require “low-level” negotiations without specific time-frames. Other cases may need urgent and/or immediate Court intervention where you will have to make yourself available at short notice and, possibly, for lengthy periods in assisting us to draft the necessary documents.
Assessing urgency will also enable us to plan for communicating with essential witnesses, and checking their availability to provide us with relevant information.
In all cases, we will provide you with a detailed Letter of Initial Advice, setting out in writing the known facts of your case as per your verbal instructions, the applicable law, and our initial advice.
Very occasionally we may have to draft, file and serve your Court documents before we can put our initial advice in writing, in order to comply with Court deadlines or address urgent issues. But this is very much the exception and not the rule.
We encourage settling early for minimum inconvenience, stress and cost.
In property and financial cases, we’ll always try to give you a realistic estimate of the likely outcome based on the known facts and circumstances at an early stage, if possible.
In parenting proceedings, we will provide you with our views on shared parental responsibility, the likely time children will spend with each parent and on specific issues such as parentage testing, issuing passports, supervision, placing children on the airport watch-list, etc.
Our written advice may change as further facts, updated valuations, new circumstances emerge – but we will never shirk from placing our views in writing and be prepared to stand by them throughout your matter.
Our initial response will depend on where matters are at:
- Have you just separated and simply need basic advice?
- Do you require a letter to be sent to your “ex” setting out your position and asking for information – or, alternatively, have you received such correspondence?
- Is the matter already in Court?
- Has the case been advanced (or not advanced) by your previous solicitor in a way which caused you concern?
- Have things turned nasty, or are you and your “ex” still on good terms and looking to resolve your matter by an Application for Consent Orders?
All of these possibilities will dictate our proposed approach in the initial stages of your matter.
Rest assured that where proceedings have not commenced, we will always encourage you to settle your matter by negotiation and consent, if possible. From a cost, stress and convenience perspective, this is by far the most appealing means of resolution.
If proceedings have already commenced, we will look to explore every available avenue to achieve a settlement you can “live with”, without the delay, stress and expense of a Family Court Trial.
You need to be aware that the time from the date of filing your Court documents until the day you receive Judgment after Trial can take up to two years – and that is a long time for your life to be “on hold”.
DS Family Law has always encouraged early settlement to help you move on with your life. The Firm is always busy, and we like to think this is because we have created a settlement culture where cases are not dragged through the Court system for years. Sometimes, of course, that is unavoidable, but it is certainly not our practising norm.
During the engagement period, you will receive copies of all documents, emails and correspondence relating to your matter and prompt, detailed Court reports following any Court events.
Our written communication with you will be such that you should be able to “re-create” your own case file on your home system, and our Solicitors are always available at reasonably short notice to discuss your matter by telephone and answer the many queries which are bound to arise throughout the process.
Let’s meet, and figure it out
For practical advice about what you should do next, please call to arrange a no-obligation initial consultation.