The value of good advice shouldn’t be underestimated.
Too often we see people in situations where they say “if I’d had known how this was going to go, I wouldn’t have done that”. But unfortunately, certain processes aren’t as easy to back out of.
- A quick example: a mum had her IVO coming to an end. There had been no reported breaches and the father was compliant with the conditions of the order. But she still had her own complicated feelings about him and fears related to this. Both parents were currently going through Family Law Court for shared care arrangements for their children. The mum thought she needed to apply to extend her IVO before it expired.
- When we asked one of our family lawyers about this specific case, they explained that looking at all the facts for this particular client and considering both jurisdictions, they would’ve advised against the IVO extension application. This was because there weren’t strong enough grounds for a Magistrate to grant the order, and either way, they predicted a negative impact on the Family Court proceedings if the other side tried to paint a narrative of the mum trying to use the IVO to withhold the children.
- Whether you agree that its fair that these risks exist for the mother in the Court context, and that’s another whole conversation, clients need to be made aware of the reality of how things can play out.
- In this case, the mum didn’t see our lawyer and get that advice. Instead she had gotten advice from a support service who encouraged and assisted her to make the IVO extension application through the Magistrates Court. They probably thought they were being helpful and most likely didn’t have all the information. But for the mum, that support person’s good intentions can’t change the outcome.
- That extension application got brought up in the Family Court through a Court Child Expert report which assessed that by making an extension application ‘without merit’ showed she was a “no contact mother” ‘doing everything she could to keep the kids from their father’.
- It created a whole narrative about the mum which she then had to try fight against for the rest of the proceedings. And in the end resulted in her getting less time with the kids than she was looking at before.
- That’s a big deal. Family Court orders can’t generally be changed quickly. So that’s an outcome she was probably going to have to live with for a while.
None of us want to unintentionally end up exposing someone to further risks in a more permanent way. Or play a part in having our clients spend less time with their children.
So always encourage people to get advice. The best time to get legal advice was yesterday, but since we can’t rewind the tapes, the closest we can do is right now.