The Importance of Engaging a Family Lawyer

Angela Tondelstrand DSC_8770Angela Tondelstrand, Principal Lawyer of STOLaw, part of the Slater and Gordon Group at North Lakes, explains the importance of engaging a lawyer when separating and that not all matters will end up in court if all appropriate avenues and steps are been taken.

Q1. Why is it important to engage a lawyer in the early stages of separation?  So that you can be aware of your rights and responsibilities upon separation, the likely effect of changes in circumstances, and can take steps to protect your rights if there is a risk that time and changing circumstances can have a negative effect.

Q2. How can a lawyer assist someone going through a separation? By advising a party of their options, tailored to the circumstances of the client, whilst also informing of the various opportunities, risks and costs that those options pose.  The lawyer would then follow the client’s instructions to navigate a resolution, usually by negotiation with the other party.

Q3. What is the most important factor/s to consider when separating? Obtaining timely advice from a specialist legal advisor who is not afraid to tell you what you need to know, and not necessarily what you want to hear.

Q4. There is a common misconception that seeing a lawyer will mean you will have to go to court. Is that correct? Absolutely not!  In my experience most matters do not require a court process to resolve, and except in limited circumstances, lawyers should attempt negotiations if reasonably and practically possible, to avoid unnecessary waste of a client’s time and money.

The Basics of Negotiation

NegotiationThe word ‘negotiation’ tends to conjure images of suits, handshakes, boardrooms, leather briefcases and fresh notepads. This vision is not necessarily incorrect. What used to be known as ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution’ is no longer truly alternative as many law firms and companies embrace negotiation and mediation over the more expensive route that is litigation.

In reality though, negotiation is not reserved for corporate high-fliers. Most of us need to negotiate constantly in daily life. If you’re a small business owner, you will need to negotiate with suppliers, customers and retailers. We also negotiate with our spouses, children and friends. There are few parents who have not given into bargaining tactics that look a little something like this: ‘if you want to have/eat [insert shiny new toy or sugary snack du jour] you will have to eat/do [insert some form of green vegetable/household chore].’

Whether your negotiation takes place in a sleek boardroom, over coffee meetings or in the back of a family SUV, having some clever negotiation tricks up your sleeve are always useful. So, if you identify with any or all of the above scenarios, you can brush up your negotiation skills by getting your hands on a copy of Getting to Yes.  This hugely successful negotiation guide by Fisher and Ury, was first published in 1981. Some excellent negotiation tips to take from it are:

  1. Separate the people from the problem.
    This can be easier said than done. The foundation of this principle is to view the person you are negotiating with as a partner in negotiation rather than an opponent. Where either or both parties are emotional about an issue, those emotions can hinder the negotiation process. Sometimes, emotions can be effectively diffused by one party making an apology. You can express regret over a situation without necessarily accepting guilt or blame.
  2. Focus on interests, not positions.
    Your position in a negotiation is your end goal, and represents what you want to get out of the negotiation. Your interests are your underlying reasons for wanting that particular end goal. When the parties focus on their interests, rather than their positions, they might find that they have more in common than they realise. Focussing on mutual interests can go a long way to helping the parties find common ground and ultimately achieving an end goal that will serve the interests of both.
  3. Invent creative solutions.
    Once negotiation partners have established some common interests, it will be easier to brainstorm creative solutions. Often there are a myriad of possible outcomes or options. Many of those solutions will not be win/lose situations, but instead, will have benefits for both parties. Think as creatively as possible. Sometimes wild ideas can lead to alternative solutions that will ultimately produce a successful resolution.

Maria van der Walt
Lawyer, North Lakes
STOLaw, part of the Slater and Gordon Group
07 3482 0500

Family Lawyer – Position Available

Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers are seeking an energetic and motivated Lawyer with both experience and a passion for Family Law to commence at their Sunshine Coast office (located in Birtinya).

Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers is the Sunshine Coast’s largest legal firm with offices also located at North Lakes and Kedron.  For more information on the firm, please visit

The position is full time and the successful applicant will need to have 2 to 3 years post admission experience in Family Law.

File load will be a mix of Legal Aid and private work.   Travel to and from Brisbane will be required for Court appearances, mediations etc.

You will need previously demonstrated experience in:

•    Conducting initial consultations;
•    Advising clients in Family Law matters;
•    Court appearances;
•    Drafting documentation;
•    Negotiating matters to settlement;
•    Attendance at formal mediations;

You will be supported by a dynamic Family Law team, led by one of the Partners of the firm who is an Accredited Specialist – yet still maintain the flexibility to “manage yourself”.
The salary package is negotiable and will be commensurate with the experience of the successful applicant.  You will also be able to participate in a bonus scheme for your efforts.

To apply for this position, please forward an up to date resume to our Practice Manager, Wendy Faithfull, at