This is Why Your Friends are NOT Your Lawyers
Today I sat down with a lady (Let’s call her ‘Jessie’ for this article) and I proceeded to advise her in relation to her child custody, asset division and divorce issues. By the end of my assessment I had determined she would likely receive approximately 45% of the pool. When I told Jessie this, I received a stare of disbelief (and possibly shock-they look quite similar). After a 10 second period of silence (literally) Jessie then told me the same thing I have heard for many years in child custody and divorce matters. Jessie said “But I spoke to my girlfriend and she got 75% of the assets in her divorce”. This comment was said in a manner as if to infer that I was wrong and should now reconsider my assessment in light of this new and life changing information.
Now Jessie may as well have told me that she had pancakes for breakfast for all of its relevance. But it occurred to me that people look to their friends for guidance and reassurance through a divorce and sometimes, somehow, the role of the friend gets a promotion into that of legal advisor (because obviously they know best because they have been through it first hand). Now, I will be the first person to tell someone that friends and family are extremely important to a person’s mental health when going through a marital separation, but as a support only, and not as a lawyer, and here is why….
Your Friend is NOT a lawyer!
I know that this may seem like I am stating the obvious but it is really important to remember your lawyers have spent many years studying to be a lawyer, and then many more years again actually working in the area. Your friend (I am assuming your friend is not a lawyer by the way) does not have legal training.
Your Friend could be……(dare I say it)…..WRONG!
Yes I know….you say….’not my friend, they are never wrong’….most of the time. But what if, for just this once, they actually are incorrect. Do you really want to put the fate of your divorce or custody matter in the hands of someone who has not worked in the area?
Your Friend could be…..Exaggerating their Divorce Outcome
Sometimes people overstate an issue in order to demonstrate how well or bad an outcome was. For example, a husband says ‘she got everything’ when the reality of the situation was that the Wife received the matrimonial property and the money in the savings account but the husband received all his Superannuation, cars, jet skis, and family business. The fact is that unless you were personally involved in your friend’s separation then the truth is that you are receiving only one person’s view of what occurred which may not be accurate.
Every Matter is DIFFERENT.
In the many years that I have worked in family law I have never seen 2 matters that are identical. Yes, I have seen similarities between matters but they have never been identical. The division of assets will change based upon any one issue which could give a dramatically different outcome. Some basic issues that change a divorce outcome can be:
- – Length of the relationship
- – The value of the assets each person brought into the relationship
- – The number of children of the relationship
- – The earnings of each of the parties during and after separation
- – What each party did around the house (mowing lawns, renovations Etc)
- – The health of the parties
- – Any gifts or inheritances received during the relationship
- – Any funds or assets that exist overseas
- – The value of the property pool
The list is endless but the above are just a few basic ones. As you can see if even one of these factors is different to that of your friend’s divorce then the outcome may be very different. Given the possible differences, it does not assist you in any way to compare your divorce with that of your friends. After all it is not a competition between you and your friend to see who can get the most from their divorce.
If you have spoken to your friend about their matter then I would recommend making a list of questions to ask your lawyer. Having a healthy understanding of what and why you may receive a certain % of the assets will assist you in coming to terms with the end result. If you don’t understand how a lawyer has come to a determination on your matter then ask them to explain it again. If they cannot justify why they have assessed your matter the way it has then get a lawyer who can, because if they can’t explain it to you, they won’t be able to explain it to a judge.
Finally, if you have the privilege of having friends by your side during your divorce then you are lucky. Go to your friends to cry on their shoulder and help you to drown in your misery when you need, or to vent and curse your ex when things are not going smoothly, after all that is what friends are for. Leave the assessment of your divorce in expert hands who know what they are doing, that way you will receive the correct advice right from the start without any false expectations as to what you are entitled.