Downside to representing yourself
Family law is a complicated and foreign place for most people, however many people choose to or must represent themselves in relation to family law matters.
It probably doesn’t need stating, but there are inherent challenges with being self-represented in court proceedings and this was highlighted in a recent court case that showed the potential downside to self-representation, particularly where a party has no understanding of their likely entitlement.
The case involved a couple who had been in a short relationship of just under 4 years. When the relationship commenced, the husband owned a business with a tax debt. The husband purchased a home in the early stages of the relationship in his sole name. It was financed solely by him. The husband performed renovation work on the property, with some assistance from the wife.
The parties had one child, who was age 3 at the time the matter was before the court. The wife was the primary caregiver to the child.
The wife represented herself in court and her application sought 65% of the property pool. The court found that the wife’s request for 65% of the pool was “utterly unrealistic” in the circumstances and awarded her 25% of the pool.
The general rule in family law matters is that each party must ‘bear their own legal costs’. In some circumstances, however, the court may order that one party pay the other parties costs. In this case, the wife was lucky to avoid a costs order, given that she was so far off the mark in terms of her entitlements.
There is a risk for parties, if they do not seek legal advice or have representation at court. They may face the possibility of a cost order against them and they may also have unrealistic expectations of the possible outcome at court.
If you are to be self-represented in court proceedings it is essential that you at least try and obtain legal advice to ensure you better understand your potential entitlement and the court and legal process.
For a fixed-cost no obligation initial appointment, contact us on (07) 3221 4300.