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Family Lawyers Brisbane not properly preparing for Family Court and Mediation

Family Lawyers Brisbane not properly preparing for Family Court and Mediation

At Hetherington Family Law we take preparation seriously.

Recent events have indicated to us that not all Family Lawyers in Brisbane share our concerns about preparation…

Recently, two of our Brisbane family lawyers attended two separate events, one a mediation and the other, the Family Court.

During the mediation, the family lawyer acting for our client’s former partner made various allegations. One of the allegations the family lawyer made was that his client had made significant initial contributions to the property pool.

He claimed his client had a property worth several hundred thousand dollars when the parties started living together, and that should be taken into account as a contribution.

Where is your evidence?

Our Brisbane family lawyer was prepared for this and responded with a simple question:
“where is your evidence?”

In fact, our lawyer’s response to every single point that was raised by the other lawyer was
"where is your evidence?"

The fact was, the other family lawyer and his client had no evidence to produce.
If they had any evidence, it should, of course, have been produced well in advance of the mediation.

This was really poor preparation on the part of the other family lawyer because, if you are expecting a family law property settlement matter to resolve, you do not suddenly start alleging significant contributions when you arrive at the mediation.

This is poor practice by family lawyers and is one of the reasons why some matters do not settle at mediation.

Prior preparation prevents poor performance..

We consider it imperative that all our preparation is done well in advance of family mediation and the other party and their family lawyer know the case they have to respond to.

Prior to the mediation, we had already suspected the other party might make those allegations, but they did not produce any evidence.
Frankly it was not our job to call upon them to do so.

In the absence of any evidence of these alleged contributions, our family lawyer was able to negotiate an appropriate settlement on behalf of our client, based on the evidence that actually existed.

The question then becomes - was evidence available to the other family lawyer and her client that could have been produced?
Of course, historical valuations, bank statements and financial records can all be produced to verify initial contributions.

The question of what relevance they will have is a separate issue entirely, but what was important in this case was that we were prepared for their argument and knew that they did not have the evidence to substantiate it.

A lesser family lawyer may have caved to the claims of the other lawyer but, we were not prepared to do that because we know that an allegation is simply an allegation.

If you cannot back it up with evidence, then ‘pick up your bat and ball and go home’.

The Family Court requires evidence

When it came to the Family Court matter it was a similar situation.

Our Brisbane Family law team had put in many hours preparing the case to ensure that we had the necessary documents from our client.

The other party’s family lawyer alluded to making various applications but simply did not have the evidence to support them.
We were prepared for those arguments in case they came at the eleventh hour and were ready to refute them.

When the other family lawyer tried to raise them, we were simply able to go back and ask them again what their evidence was.

They had none.

If you are going to make allegations in a family law case, it is imperative to have the evidence to back that up. We have a process that we follow in all our matters.

We gather our clients' instructions and we ask them for the documents to back up the information provided.

Jennifer Hetherington Brisbane Family Law Team Collaborative Lawyer

Award winning Family Lawyer Brisbane - Jennifer Hetherington

Early in Jennifer Hetherington's career, she noticed that family lawyers in Brisbane, would often make allegations, without asking for clients to verify that information until it came time for a trial.

Well, that is all ‘too little, too late’.

If you are going to run a particular argument and you are going to give evidence based on that argument, then you must have to evidence to back that up. You cannot simply state that you had a certain amount at the beginning of the relationship and expect anyone to believe it, unless you have documents to prove it.

Jennifer recalls a Brisbane family law case where one party was saying they had made significant contributions at the beginning of the relationship.

The Family Court Judge was absolutely scathing about the fact that, even at trial, there had been no attempt by that party to obtain historical documents which would prove their allegations of initial contributions.

Back in those days there was some difficulty in obtaining documents because banks statements were all hard copy and we did not have the technology that we do now.

In this technological age there is really no excuse.

Most people do (or can) receive bank statements electronically and banks keep records for a longer period of time.

If you are in a relationship and you make significant initial contributions and do not keep copies of those statements, then you may have difficulty proving those initial contributions down the track.

This is a warning for anyone entering into a relationship with significant assets.
Sure, you never expect your relationship to break down (and we certainly hope that it does not), but, it is pretty important to keep copies of crucial documents, so that if the worst does happen, you can at least back up your position with a bank statement showing how much you had in the bank, or a valuation to show how much your property was worth.

It is difficult to determine the value of a property 5, 10 or 20 years later if you did not obtain a valuation at the time.

Sometimes we get situations where people decide to be too clever;
they have had a family law property settlement with their former partner and entered into a new relationship.
They want to claim that they had a certain amount of assets entering into the second relationship so they can claim an initial contribution when the second relationship breaks down.

Unfortunately, sometimes they are a bit too clever for their own good.
Documents are available on the Family Court record and can be used against you.

We have been involved in numerous cases where the other party has tried to claim that a property was worth a certain amount when they entered into the relationship.
However, when we required them to produce the documents from the property settlement with their previous partner they had put an entirely different, much lower value on that property.
In other words, they were trying to lower the value of the property to get a better settlement with the first spouse, but then trying to inflate the value to claim an initial contribution when it was time to settle up with the second spouse.

Not cool!

Those records are kept, and they are not that difficult to find.

Family Lawyers Brisbane - The Hetherington Family Law Difference

The moral of this story is, if you are going to try to prove something in a family law case, you need to make sure you have the evidence to back it up.

Evidence is generally pieces of paper, although they can be electronic PDFs these days, preferably created by a third party.

Be very careful about thinking that you can cover things up because family lawyers have spades, and we can dig very deep.
What you might consider to be one little lie could actually come back to haunt you.

The twist is that a small lie you tell thinking you will best the other person, can actually destroy your credibility in the case and cause all of your evidence to be disbelieved if it is contrary to the evidence to the other person.

So, in summary:

1. Tell the truth;
2. Make sure you have got documents to back up your story;
3. Do not ever think that you are too smart for us;
4. Use a specialist. Family Lawyers Brisbane – Hetherington Family Law-  do nothing but family law. We will properly prepare your case and ask you for documents, to make sure that your case is actually able to be proved.  Contact us to meet with a Brisbane Family Lawyer who is a specialist and will properly prepare your case.

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