Lonely Planet released a list of the top ten travel things you can do for free which got me to thinking about what ten free things you can do to help get through a family law issue.
While my list may not be as exciting as discovering the Staten Island ferry is still free or that entry into the Musee de Louvre is free on Sundays, it will likely be a lot more useful than Lonely Planet's list to those of you going through a separation or family law dispute.
Freebie Number 1: Head to www.justice.govt.nz. There you will find links (use the “Relationship Break Up” quick link) to fact sheets, forms and all sorts of information. If is a family law issue, it is likely to be covered here! Also check out your library and online for podcasts.
Freebie Number 2: Take a look at the website of Collaborative Resolution NZ at www.collaborativeresolution.org.nz. This could open up to the opportunity to resolve your family law issue without Court proceedings and in a far more conciliatory way that you ever envisaged. The lawyers trained in Collaborative Law in NZ are passionate about it so you should have no trouble finding one who will take some time to have an initial chat with you about it to see if it will suit your situation. On the site, you can find some lawyers who are willing to provide a free 20 minute consultation about Collaborative Practice.
Freebie Number 3: Check out your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Most run a free legal advice clinic. You will usually have to make an appointment. These are usually only 15 minute time slots with a lawyer but such a session may help point you in the right direction towards resolving your issue.
Freebie Number 4: Talk to a trusted friend or family member who has already been through a separation or divorce. Be clear about what you hope to get out of the discussion. You may not be wanting someone to simply use you as a sounding board as they regurgitate the whole story of their separation so choose your person carefully and be armed with some key questions so you can get some useful tips – who would they recommend as a lawyer? As a counsellor? What worked for them? What didn’t?
Freebie Number 5: Want to know how much child support that you may have to pay or that you may be able to receive? www.ird.govt.nz has a great free child support calculator.
Freebie Number 6: If you are a parent of dependent children, get along to the free “Parenting through Separation” programme run through the Ministry of Justice. For most parenting and guardianship disputes, the Court requires you to have completed this programme before you file Court proceedings. My clients who have done this programme have all given positive feedback on the helpfulness of this course. Its only cost is your time. You can find a course through Plunket or here.
Freebie Number 7: Inevitably a separation means an overhaul of your finances. www.sorted.org.nz will help you do just that – get sorted. Alternatively, most areas have a free budget advisory service. Most of the banks’ websites also have very easy to use calculators which are a great starting point for helping you calculate things like how much you can borrow, what the repayments will be etc.
Freebie Number 8: If you have an issue about the care arrangements for your children, see if you qualify for the free Family Legal Advice Service and Family Dispute Resolution (Mediation). If you already have Family Court proceedings about your children, you may be able to get a referral to counselling to help you and the other parent or guardian work together to make arrangements for the children's care work.
Freebie Number 9: If you have property matters to work through, start to compile copies of your financial records into a file. Collect up trust documents, bank statements, Kiwisaver or superannuation statements, statements for any mortgages or other debts, life assurance details, details of your vehicles and household items. Getting these pulled together will save you time and legal costs when it comes to resolving matters.
Freebie Number 10: Listen. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But when one is in the midst of a discussion about an emotionally charged issue it is surprisingly difficult to stop talking, stop hearing what you think the other person has said or is going to say, stop jumping to “solve” the problem being discussed and actually just listen openly. It’s really difficult to do when emotionally fired up but I never said these were "free" AND "easy" tips! Listening is completely free and I am convinced it is the single most effective thing people facing a family law issue can do to resolve that issue.
If you want help to resolve a family or relationship issue, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org