Breaking Down Language Barriers in the Australian Family Law System with Family Lawyer Antonia He

Navigating the family law system in Australia can bring certain challenges for separating families, especially if members of those families do not speak English or speak it as a second language.

With the perspective and legal expertise of Creative Family Law Solutions’ very own Antonia He, this blog aims to unpack what families and family law professionals can do to make the separation process smoother and less daunting when faced with a language barrier in the Australian family law system.

Can you explain some of the ways in which one’s experience of the family law system can vary when one is not originally from that country or does not speak English as their first language?

Antonia: A language barrier will certainly make seeking legal advice and participating in negotiations and/or litigation challenging and intimidating, especially when the party is originally from a country whose family law system is drastically different from Australia’s. 

To put it simply, someone born and raised in Australia might at least have an idea of what to expect by way of general knowledge or even a deep understanding of what to expect by way of witnessing a friend or family member go through the process, someone from a foreign country may not have that general knowledge of or personal connection with the family law system, which adds to the disadvantage that they experience.

Can this present particular challenges? If so, what are they?

A: Yes, it can.

These can include issues when a party may have difficulty:

  • Communicating with qualified legal practitioners to give instructions and seek legal advice;
  • Researching rules, guidelines, articles, analysis, and/or case law online to utilise these resources for aid in running their own matter;
  • Navigating the litigation process, including accessing the Commonwealth Courts Portal, communicating with chambers and other parties, and/or attending court events; and/or
  • Receiving the same level of emotional and actual support from friends and family throughout the process if they are not in their native country.

How can a family lawyer help to improve some of these challenges?

A: By understanding these difficulties that a client may face, a family lawyer can pay extra attention to ensure that the client receives and adequately understands the legal advice given and the process that their matter will have to follow.

When necessary, an interpreter service should be utilised to facilitate communications. Interpreter services can be funded privately, by Victoria Legal Aid in certain circumstances, or by the Court when attending hearings.

The Law Institute of Victoria also provides a lawyer referral service also provides a lawyer referral service, which allows parties seeking legal advice to find lawyers who speak their preferred languages.

How does Creative Family Law Solutions work with clients in this circumstance to ensure that they feel fully informed and confident when navigating the family law system in Australia?

A: We provide detailed legal advice, both in writing and verbally, regarding the family law system in Australia in general and the client’s matter in particular. We take the time and effort to ensure that the client fully understands the advice we have provided.

Do you have any advice for someone going through the family law system in Australia – with a language barrier – on how to best navigate this experience?

A: My advice to someone is to use their best efforts to engage legal practitioners who speak their language, come from similar backgrounds, or understand the difficulties they face. This way, they can receive the best professional support possible throughout this process and achieve quality outcomes for themselves and their families.

When working with Creative Family Law Solutions, we tailor our support to our clients’ unique needs. Our team works closely with other support professionals to ensure that we are creating a truly holistic service that achieves a good outcome.

To work with our firm and learn more about how we can support our clients and referral partners, schedule a consultation today.

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