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Family Forum – Mediation the fastest fix for child custody

I’m contemplating taking legal action against my former wife, who left and took the kids a month ago.

Question:

She has a new partner and doesn’t want to have anything to do with me, but I am the children’s father and therefore have rights. Where do I begin? Before I approach a family lawyer, I’d like to have some idea of costs. How do I budget for this? Is it normal to shop around for quotes?

Answer:

You should arrange mediation with your former wife as soon as possible. Many differences can be resolved by a mediator and this may be a better way to reach agreement. Organisations such as Relationships Australia South Australia provide this service. Call 1300 364 277 or submit an enquiry online HERE. 

You should also consult a lawyer who practices in the field of Family Law. The law provides that it is usually in the best interests of children to have a relationship with both parents. As a father, you also have rights to see your children, but the children’s right to have a relationship with you is also important.

You should not delay in taking action and in contacting a mediation service and a solicitor. Depending on the age of your children, their own wishes may be important.

There is no fixed age at which children’s views become crucial, and it depends on many factors.

There are many ways to find a lawyer. Friends or family who have been through the divorce process may have used a solicitor that they are prepared to recommend. The Law Society of SA will provide a list of lawyers who practice in the area of family law.

Do your own research and find out how much experience a potential lawyer has. You can ask a lawyer what their fees are before you book an appointment and, indeed, you should do so. Some lawyers offer a first free interview.

It is very difficult for any lawyer to estimate what future costs will be as it depends on how difficult your former wife is and whether arrangements for you to see the children can be negotiated by you lawyer, mediated, or whether you have to take legal proceedings.

Different hourly rates should be one consideration, when you engage a lawyer. Check whether a lawyer charges in six-minute units or not. This means if a lawyer speaks to you on the telephone for four minutes that you would be charged for six minutes as a minimum. Not all lawyers charge on that basis.

Sometimes a more experienced lawyer will charge more but will achieve more in a shorter space of time. It may also be important though to meet with a potential lawyer and find out if you are comfortable with that person who you may need to work with for some time.

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