How can people going through separation access the services and support they need when the cost of living is so high?

  • Written by Carolyn Devries

The cost of living crisis has impacted many people across the country. Interest rates are high, making it harder to maintain a mortgage. As a result, those who own investment properties have had to increase rents, making it harder on renters as well. Groceries and fuel have gone up too, and people are finding there are limited funds at the end of each month after meeting essential expenses.
Newly separated individuals are particularly impacted, when the reality shifts from two incomes supporting one household, to a single income supporting separate households. There are also additional expenses that separated individuals may need to work into the budget, for example the payment of child support and moving and re-establishment expenses.
Additionally, individuals who have separated may need access to support services and professional advice, but there is often limited financial capacity to meet these costs. That is why it is important for people who have separated to know about the free services, that can provide advice and support during these particularly challenging financial circumstances. 
So what are some of those services?
Family Dispute Resolution

For separating parents, the priority will normally be working out parenting arrangements for children. Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) is a special type of mediation that helps separating families come to their own agreement about parenting arrangements. Family Dispute Resolution provides a forum for to discuss a broad range of post separation parenting issues including who will have responsibility for making decisions for the children and care arrangements for the children . 
Separated couples can also use family dispute resolution to resolve issues around property and financial matters. These services are available at any point during a relationship or following a separation, and many of these services are free. 
Employee Assistance Programs

Going through separation is challenging and it can give rise to lots of emotions for both adults and children. Having access to support, such as counselling can be helpful, particularly through the transition stage of separation. Many employers offer free counselling services to employees and their families through an Employee Assistance Programs. You can ask your human resources department to see if an EAP is offered in your workplace. 
Legal Information and Advice
Many separated couples are able to resolve the issues arising from their separation and divorce without resorting to court proceedings.  This is always the preferred option because it is lower stress and lower cost. However, even when separated couples amicably resolve parenting and property matters, they may still need legal information and advice on certain matters, for example how to formalise agreements that may have been reached. Community Legal Clinics and Legal Aid can usually provide some general legal information and advice however there are also other innovative and accessible free options available. One relatively new service is New Way Lawyers Lunch with a Lawyer Facebook group. Every weekday lunch time from 12noon to 1pm one of New Way Lawyers experienced family lawyers is online and able to answer questions about family law. Membership to the group is free and questions can be asked publicly within the group or privately by direct message.
Legal Representation and Deferred Payment Arrangements

Some separated couples are unable to amicably resolve the issues arising from their separation, and when legal processes commence, they may need ongoing advice and representation from a qualified lawyer. Community Legal Clinics and Legal Aid are generally unable to provide ongoing representation in a court matter, meaning the only option is a private lawyer however the cost of a private lawyer can seem prohibitive. 

In certain family law matters which involve property and/ or financial settlement, some law firms may be able to offer a deferred payment arrangement though a third party legal finance provider. 
Basically, this means that if a person has a future entitlement to property or a financial settlement, in the form of a cash payment, the legal fees can be paid at the end of the matter once the property and financial settlement has been completed. Deferred payment arrangements through third party legal finance providers take the financial stress out of the situation by allowing separated individuals to access the help they need when they need it most. 
About Carolyn Devries
Carolyn Devries is the founder of New Way Lawyers, Australia’s first non-profit law firm. 13 years ago, New Way Lawyers was established with a non-profit structure to offer Australian’s an alternative approach to family law, whereas most family law firms structure their business model around generating profit.
For those with an interest to join the group, you can simply search Lunch with a Lawyer on Facebook and then request to join. A link to the group can also be found here. If you would like to contact New Way Lawyers directly, you can phone them for a free 20 minute consult on (07) 3548 5890.