Communicating with your former spouse’s solicitor: How much is too much?

24 January 2020

Maybe you’ve recently split and have received a letter from a law firm explaining that they act for your former spouse in relation to your relationship breakdown. Or maybe you and your former spouse have been split for a while and you have been negotiating, through their solicitor, for some time. Either way, when one of you “lawyers up”, it is important for you to know what is appropriate when communicating with your former spouse’s solicitor.

If you have a solicitor acting on your behalf, they will usually make the initial contact with your former spouse’s solicitor. You should not contact their solicitor directly if you have your own solicitor, and vice versa.

If however you are self-represented, you will of course need to liaise directly with your former spouse’s solicitor. This raises questions about how often you should contact them, what you should contact them about, and how you should act when communicating with them.

As a general guide:

  • Keep your communication relevant to your relationship breakdown, whether that be in relation to property settlement or parenting matters; and
  • Avoid communication that is offensive or scandalous; excessive; or makes personal attacks on the solicitor.

In the recent decision of Burns & Sellers1, the Family Court ordered that the self-represented husband be restrained from communicating with the wife’s solicitor. The restraint limited the husband to communicating with the wife’s solicitor via email, limited to one email between the hours of 10am and 1pm on Wednesday and Friday each week. The husband was restrained from making any personal, offensive, insulting or scandalous comments in his communications.

The Court found that many of the husband’s emails involved complaints of a personal nature about the wife’s solicitor and his conduct, including that the wife’s solicitor was “dishonest” and “telling lies”, or that he “may very well have a mental illness, personality disorder or some kind of pathological condition that makes it difficult for him to differentiate between truth and non-truth”.

The Court found that the husband’s emails (often ranging between two and ten emails each day over a seven week period) had the effect of distracting the wife and her solicitor from the issues in the proceedings; had acted as an impediment to resolving the issues in dispute in a timely manner; and had increased the wife’s legal fees.

Stay focused on the issues in dispute, and avoid irrelevant and excessive communication with your former spouse or their solicitor.

If you need help with your relationship dispute, we invite you to contact our expert team at Barry.Nilsson. Lawyers.

1 [2019] FAMCA 322

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