One Couple One Lawyer

One Couple One Lawyer

In this video, Accredited Family Law Specialist and Page Provan Director, Stephen Page shares a current trend occurring frequently in the UK and Canada, when a couple has one lawyer.


G’day, Stephen Page from Page Provan Family and Fertility Lawyers, and I’m talking about a trend today about one couple, one lawyer. And this trend has been occurring a bit in the UK and Canada and that is when a couple split up, it’d be really good to get independent advice just from one person for both of them.

So that we aren’t spending too much money arguing about how much each of us gets or arguing about what the care arrangements are for our kids, and at first value, it looks really sensible. We just get one person and they tell us how it is.

The only problem is it doesn’t work like that, and the reason is obvious. For lawyers, we have ethics, and please spare me the joke that lawyers don’t have ethics, we do. We’re bound by them, we have a whole series of them.

If we don’t comply with them, then we’re in trouble, and one of those, the most fundamental is we act for someone, and if there’s a conflict or potential conflict, then that can put that someone in peril, in legal peril at least.

That then becomes a problem. Because if you’re supposedly this independent, impartial person, you may be breaching ethics unless you disclose to both that you’re acting for the other side as well.

Okay, well, it might be a limited role, and then, and this is the tripper for lawyers, you might have a problem getting insurance coverage, or might have what they call a deductible, what everyone else, when we talk about insurance calls and excess, the deductible might be huge because you shouldn’t be acting for both sides.

The insurer is quite clear on that, and why do we have the insurer being quite clear on that? Because they’ve had to pay out for that before because lawyers have got themselves into trouble. So I don’t think it’s a good idea, I certainly don’t encourage those who are separating to go to court.

Court should be the option of last resort. You only go there when really nothing else is going to work, and that’s whether you’re talking about parenting issues or property issues.

With parenting issues, I’d certainly encourage taking part in counselling. I’d certainly encourage talking about mediation if you need to go that far. Certainly get some legal advice about the process. You don’t have to go to an expensive mediator.

But you should get advice before you go to mediation so that the deal you sign up to is a fair one.I’ve certainly seen parents go to mediation about parenting matters and say, Yeah, we signed this great deal and it turns out to be a disaster for them, and most importantly, for their kids.

So get some advice first. It doesn’t need to be expensive, but get advice about it. Most parents go nowhere near the court. It’s only a small minority that go anywhere near the court, and most of those go only for formalising the deal. It’s only this tiny number, whoever go anywhere near a trial.

So very, very small percentage, even of those that litigate, in other words, go to court, only about three or five % resolve at a trial. The other 95, 97 % don’t.

So very small, and with property, well, property is pretty straightforward in one sense and this is another issue about why we don’t have one lawyer doing both sides because with property matters, it’s a discretion.

It’s a discretion on the part of the judge about what each side might get based on contributions and future factors. Looking at the overall just and equity or fairness of the proposed deal. Taking a holistic approach and what might be good for one side may not be good for the other.

We’re not like New Zealand when it comes to property settlement, where we say all these assets are out. Basically, everything in Australia is in and if everything is in, how do you account for one party coming in with most of the property at the beginning? Or how long they’ve been together or having kids together and so we have a range.

And again, it’s good to get independent legal advice about what the likely range is to be focused on how much it might cost to resolve and what that means in terms of percentage, actual real dollar terms for you, for both and for the range, and once you’ve got that information in your head, go off and get financial advice.

Go and see a good financial planner and if you’re intending to keep a house or buy a house, go and see a mortgage broker and armed with that, then you’ll be in that powerful position at the beginning to hopefully resolve the matter quickly through negotiations and if necessary, mediation.

But to do so, speedily, in a business like manner for the most important decision, financial decision of your life. You want to make sure you do it right the first time. Going to see one person for both parties where there may be a clear conflict and the lawyer might lean to one side or the other depending on who the party is.

Just avoid. Thank you.

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Family Law Section Law Council of Australia Award
Member of Queensland law society
Family law Practitioners Association
International Academy of Family Lawyers - IAFL
Mediator Standards Board