In some areas, the price of rent and competition for rental properties is fierce. When I left my abusive marriage and needed to get a place to rent, it was difficult.
Numerous people turned up each time, I was relying mainly on the single parent’s pension from Centrelink, along with some self-employment income, child support was nonexistent, basically, my finances looked terrible.
Add to that no rental history because I had been a homeowner (and at another time, homeless), I was a pretty poor applicant on paper when going up against families, or double income no kids couples.
I have one trick that has landed me a house to rent, every time and many agents have commented on it. In fact, when I was moving from Sydney to Canberra, I drove down on the day, inspected the house, gave the agent my file and beat numerous other applicants for a property in an area with a less than 1% vacancy rate.
Here’s what I do and numerous people have told me it worked for them too.
Before I go to a rental, I check the listing and prep my application on 1Form. Previously, I used to call the agent and ask a few questions. In the current market with so many applying, they do not want that.
When I go to the inspection I make sure to make the agent laugh or connect in some way to make them remember me. It helps a lot.
Have Your Application Ready
I have the application filled out, I leave the lease term blank and discuss it with the agent. Some owners like 6 months, others 12. If you are willing to be flexible it is more appealing to both agents and landlords.
Letter To The Landlord
In my last 3 applications, I included a letter to the landlord. In the first paragraph, I state how I would like to rent their house, how I understand as a landlord they want someone who will take good care of the property and how I will be that someone.
In the next paragraph, I outline the features of the home that make it suitable for my family and specifics of why I want to rent it.
Next, I will talk about why I am a good tenant. I am clear that I am a single mum of 2 daughters, but I also work from home, I don’t smoke, I don’t have pets, I don’t drink or throw big parties etc.
The next paragraph is where I outline my income, although it looked small on paper I manage my money well and have other sources of income (which I outlined). I discuss how I keep my bills below average and how I source things for free. (I include copies of my bills to back this up, which I will discuss in a minute.)
My closing paragraph recaps why I love their property and how I will look after it.
Create A File
Use 1Form to have this online and ready to go as that is what most agents use. If for some reason they are not using it, keep all of this in a folder.
– The filled in application
– Letter to the landlord
– ID: For 1Form I just used a photo of each id. When they required printed applications, I had that ready to go at the inspection.
– Electricity and gas bills: These are included to prove identification and because mine are lower than average it makes my overall financial situation look better.
My water bills for 5 people living in a home were lower than the average one person household, the same for my electricity. This shows I am frugal and my expenses aren’t as high as others.
– All income documents: I included child support documentation even when I didn’t get it, carers allowance for my daughters (when I left my ex my daughters had severe expressive and receptive learning disorders requiring extensive help. This meant I was entitled to carers allowance for both of them), my self-employed income (I include my tax certificate to prove income plus a recent bank statement to show how much and where money comes from as that is higher than my tax shows due to deductions.) A statement or letter for each income source is included.
– A letter outlining income: I do this because I am self-employed and I receive income from my royalties, public speaking, financial mentoring, blog advertising and more. I list the various incomes, how much I get for each and how often on average. If I worked for a wage I wouldn’t bother about doing this letter.
I put all of these papers together in a folder and label it – Kylie Travers xx address (whatever the address of the property is). When using 1form, I have all of those documents preloaded.
With this in hand, when I go to apply it’s easy. I look at the house and leave my application with the agent on the day or I can submit my 1form application on the spot. It’s easy for them because everything is ready to go and in order. Time is money – this saves them time and it means they just hand a file to the landlord as well, making it easier on everyone.
Most agents tell me they have never seen anyone so organized and prepared with their application which made my application strong already. With the application for the Canberra home the agent even gave me his card in case I wanted to look at the property again over the weekend.
He also said I should know Monday, but that file made my application very strong. And if the managing agent didn’t ring me Monday (he was not managing that property, but doing a favour for another agent), then to call him.
One final thing – when I look at rental properties I dress in business attire. Looking like a professional makes me stand out. I know at each open home I have been to I have been the only one dressed this way and the agents tend to talk to me for longer. The agents are the ones who recommend you to the landlord so building a rapport, looking professional and being friendly really helps.
15 Ways to Make Money and Tips to Afford Legal Fees
It took 7.5 years from when I left my abusive ex until I was awarded sole parental responsibility aka full custody. A 5 year protection order is in place as well. Fighting for custody or any legal matter is extremely expensive. Here are my tips, what I did and some links for more help. This post does contain affiliate links for products or services I have used and recommended. I do not link to anything I have not used or trust.
How To Afford Legal Help
Professionals (lawyers and barristers) have studied for years and know a lot we don’t. But they don’t know your case as detailed as you do. In my case, it was essential to have a good lawyer due to how complicated it was. We were pushed to higher levels of court so I needed a barrister and I was not willing to risk anything. Mentally and emotionally I was not in a position to self-represent but if you choose to do that, still get some help to push you in the right direction.
You can get free of charge help, however, not all Legal Aid is free. Check the details for your state and territory here.
When I was going through my divorce, there was a community health centre and other community legal help available, particularly for those leaving abusive relationships. This free lawyer helped more than the paid lawyer I looked at. I had paid $1,000 for help and ended up cancelling them, using advice from the free lawyer at the centre and doing the divorce parts myself.
Police had already taken out the AVO for me before I was able to apply for my divorce. The AVO process with them doing it was free. Doing it myself later was difficult, so last year when I needed another protection order, I used my lawyer. Personally, the best result was the final protection order with the barrister involved.
Research, research, research. Do all the research you can on cases similar to yours, look for precedents, study the laws relevant to yours and speak with lawyers. When I was seeking a lawyer in Canberra it was easy as the child protection unit and other departments involved with child abuse all recommended the same law firm. My lawyer in Canberra was $600 an hour with the first half-hour consult was free and there were other times she didn’t charge me for phone calls etc.
Here in Melbourne, I checked reviews online then went to a site (I don’t remember the name of it now) and typed in my legal matter. I then got calls from a few lawyers about it, they offered their advice and plan of attack. Do this and you then are armed with more information plus you can choose one of these lawyers or another if you like. I went with one I spoke to.
How To Make The Money For Legal Fees And Custody
The amount of money spent on legal fees, custody, protection orders and keeping my daughters safe is the same as a house. Here is everything I did to make money so I could pay for it. I’ll cover things I did to cut back and save further down.
1. Online Surveys – $2,000 to $5,000 per year
As silly as it might sound, online surveys were the first thing because I was doing them on the side when I was married. He didn’t think anything of them and while I didn’t make heaps, you can make $2,000 to $5,000 a year with them. Stash that away and cash out when you need or cash out each month and put it in a high-interest savings account. I wrote about the best ones for Aussies here.
The ones which have been best for me are Octopus Group (Australia’s highest paying one), Swagbucks which pays in USD (find a full guide for how to make the most with Swagbucks here), Prize Rebel which also pays in USD.
2. Bank Account Bonuses
You will not get rich doing this and it is not good to open and close a bunch of credit cards etc. I didn’t do credit cards, I opened accounts when there was an incentive to do so.
$100 from ING
ING offers $100 if you open a new everyday account and follow the steps here with the code CNW116. Over the years I have made $100 through to $300 for opening a new account.
$20 from 86 400
I joined 86 400 to try them out about 6 months ago. Another online-only bank that offers $20 when you sign up with the code S7VL6WF here. Fee-free like Up and ING too.
BUT make sure you follow the terms and conditions plus do what you need to avoid fees. This might mean moving money around a bit and can feel pointless.
$5 From Up
I’ve been using Up for over a year now, including overseas and they are great. No fees, easy customer service and the option for multiple savings accounts.
Sign up to a new account and use your card 5 times to get the $10 bonus. Join free here (also, they don’t charge a monthly fee or anything so you won’t be out of pocket!)
3. Look For Lost Money
Check lost super along with your state revenue office. There is a lot of unclaimed money. I have had people find anywhere from $200 through to $20,000. Super is easy, you check through your MyGov account. As for other lost money, check out this post.
On top of that, search everywhere in your house, car, all clothing pockets, bags, under furniture. You’d be surprised where you’ll find random money.
4. Selling Things Online
When I started I focused on books as I could buy them for $1 and resell for $10 to $20 most of the time. I am selective about which types of books, never buying fiction. Finance, self-help, budget cooking, hairdressing and similar books did the best for me. Later, I bought things such as Tupperware, brand name clothing and anything else I knew I could flip. In more recent years, rockabilly clothing, camera gear and similar did well for me.
In fact, I have made over $10,000 in a month when I did it properly. It only takes me 3 minutes per listing and I looked for things around the $1 to $5 mark I could resell for a minimum of $50.
Facebook Marketplace and niche selling groups have become the best places for me to sell now. I don’t do it as much anymore because I travel regularly.
5. Sell For Others
Since I was already selling online, this was easy. I sold things leftover from friends businesses and MLM ventures, clothes and even flipped a car. Friends and family asked me to sell their things as I had greater success and we split the money.
I already had a blog but by 2014 I had a few and was reselling blogs too. To make money blogging I did ads, AdSense, affiliate links, sponsored posts, my own eBooks and services such as freelance writing. Now, I make most of my money from affiliate links on The Thrifty Issue. Read how to set up a blog and make money here.
For reselling blogs – I’d look for finance-related ones, buy them for a low price, increase their profit then sell them.
7. Freelance Writing
I was approached to write my first freelance article which was great and most of the freelance articles I’ve done over the years are because businesses sought me out.
However, that is not the only way to do it! Freelance writing can pay either really low if you go for those articles when starting out or $1,000+ per article. The higher a publication pays the more competitive it will be and you will need a portfolio. Check out how to become a freelance writer.
Back in 2013, I did this for a specific company. Financial mentoring where I would help mainly stay at home mums with their budget, finding ways to make and save money. Later, I did more of this on a wider scale as well as marketing, business and other mentoring. I stopped offering this due to the level of stress I was under with custody and I didn’t feel I was at my best to help others during that.
9. Teaching classes
I’ve taught classes on finance, social media, marketing, business and anything else I was asked to. Libraries, schools, community halls and the studio in my home when I lived in Canberra were all suitable. Think about your skills and what you could teach. I also did public speaking in general but am not including that as something for everyone because most people hate it.
$1,300 for 5 days over Christmas, $600+ another week and anywhere from $70+ per night is how much I have made with Airbnb. It’s free to join Airbnb and I have all my top tips to make money with Airbnb on The Thrifty Issue.
11. Odd Jobs
Babysitting, yard work, Airtasker, cleaning, anything. Basically, if I was offered work, especially in the early days, I took it. Later, as I grew my business I focused more on that and looked at what was bringing in the most money. But when I was newly single and needed money, I did anything I deemed reasonable.
12. Medical Testing – $4,050
This wasn’t strictly for legal fees and isn’t something I recommend doing generally. The one I was involved in was for a condition I have, testing a product already on the market so we knew the side effects. My group were the 10th group to go through, so 150 had already done it. I wrote about my experience and tips for medical testing on my other site.
13. Market Research – $100 per hour
I probably only did 6 or so of these but the pay is good, usually $100+ per hour. Farron Research was the one I did the most with. Read more about it here.
14. Rented Out My Garage
In Sydney, I rented it to a single mum to use for her sewing business. In Canberra, I rented it out for storage and in Melbourne, I rented it out for someone to store their spare car. Each time it was around $50 a week. In Melbourne, I could have charged more.
15. Other Things
There are so many ways to make money such as renting out your car, becoming a virtual assistant and more. Two articles which you might like are:
How I Saved Money For Legal Fees And Custody
As mentioned earlier, I did what I could myself and there is free help available. Since I was paying for most of my legal help out of my own pocket I set up a high-interest savings account for it and looked at where I could cut back.
Going over every area of my budget I found quite a few areas I could improve on plus accessed a bunch of freebies to help.
1. Do A Full Financial Review
I do this annually anyway, last year I saved $4,765 doing my annual financial review. Compare insurance, electricity, phone, rent/mortgage, everything. Use my review as an example and see how much you can save.
Whenever you make a saving, actually put that money into your savings account. It’s too easy for the money to be frittered away otherwise.
Sign up for birthday freebies and discounts. Look for coupons and discounts on everything (see a full list for Aussies here). Register for cashback sites and make use of them. Also, check out the full list of Aussie freebies from The Thrifty Issue.
Also, look at how to get a discount on everything.
3. Have A Reward And Splurge
Typically, all money that comes in, whether it is work-related or bonus cash I split. At least 10% is savings, 10% invested, 10% charity and 10% to do whatever I want. The rest is either daily living expenses or straight to savings.
Having that 10% to do whatever I want with reduces the feeling of being deprived, it means we can have takeout sometimes and do fun things without feeling guilty. I know when I was saving for court, I put everything towards it and felt guilty if I spent money on anything else. You are allowed to spend on yourself!
Also, little rewards. Aside from custody, which is obviously the main goal, having smaller rewards helps with feeling like you are getting there and keeps your spirits up.
How did you pay for legal fees or custody?
I will add a disclosure – I am extremely privileged in that I had the option to borrow from my parents at any time as well if needed. After 7 years of it, I was mentally, emotionally, physically and financially exhausted. So I did borrow off them in the final stages and allowed myself some breathing room instead of spending every waking moment making money or stressed out.
How I got Full Custody, a 5 Year Protection Order and he has no Access or Rights
Before I even start, let me be clear about full custody and my views. Unless there is abuse or extreme circumstances, I do believe it is in the best interests of the children to have both parents. It doesn’t matter how much you dislike each other, that needs to be put aside for the sake of the kids and a relationship with them. I don’t mean stay together, I mean children deserve to have a relationship with both parents.
This includes not putting the other parent down, not restricting access or playing petty games to get control or annoy one another. Your children are half of each of you and deserve to feel they are special, important and not be made to feel half of them is awful because you can’t get along with their other parent.
How to get full custody is a loaded topic. Generally, I recommend trying to work it out without court and lawyers. Once you get into court, it is expensive, emotionally draining, time-consuming and hideously expensive.
In my case, going to court was unavoidable. The police repeatedly failed us during the process despite ample evidence, as did the courts. When it finally got to trial everyone was horrified we were even there due to the external evidence, as in evidence from professionals in multiple states, not just what I said. I should have been granted full custody from the beginning.
What’s In This Post?
I’m going to give you background on my case, my experience in 3 different states, tips for court, how I got full custody and my personal views. This is not a “how to game the system” guide and not guaranteed. Me getting full custody and everything I outline here will not mean you do.
But if yours is a case where the other parent is abusive or similar, it could help. Also, it shows you are not alone and full custody (also known as sole parental responsibility) is possible.
Before I get into it, I want to make it clear we now have a great relationship with my husbands family and I am so grateful for that. My daughters have had sleepovers this year, text their cousins, Facetime them etc. His oldest sister reached out earlier this year and has been absolutely amazing. We were all nervous when we met up in person in Sydney but it was so good.
They have treated me exactly as family, my daughters are ecstatic and we will go up to Sydney at least 2 more times this year. And his whole family are conscious of the protection order, ensuring he does not breach it and that my daughters feel safe and supported. We are extremely fortunate to have them in our lives again and for their support.
While there is no contact with my ex-husband, should my daughters want to, they can. They have made it extremely clear they do not want this but do want to be close to their Polynesian side, including attending a family reunion in Tonga next year.
So in short, we love that side of the family and will continue to develop and maintain strong ties there.
My Case Background
I was married in 2005, it was abusive and I left in 2012 with our daughters. He still had some contact until 2014. I won’t go into details too much as it is not my story to tell. Despite sharing elements of my life, this involves my kids and it is their choice when they are older what they share.
When I left, a protection order was put in place due to the circumstances. In 2013, the divorce was finalised, I moved to Canberra and during this time I was legally advised not to apply for custody as the court would grant 50/50.
In 2015, we had the opportunity to travel and I tried to get him to sign passports, he refused. It was going to go to court but I became paralysed and extremely sick. At the end of that year, my daughters and I moved to Melbourne.
In Melbourne, they had the opportunity to go to China with their school in 2017. Again, I tried to do the passports. This time he agreed (I have a recorded phone call of this). However, he didn’t sign and we had to go to court, which meant I also had to go for full custody. It took almost 2 more years from then to get custody. Over 12 months of that was simply waiting for a court date.
Evidence Against Him
2014, my daughters came back to me and never wanted to see him again. Without sharing much, there is evidence, police reports, child protection reports, statements and reports filed by teachers, psychologists, witnesses and others in NSW, ACT and VIC. As well as the assaults against me.
The file is huge and continued to grow in the 7.5 years between my leaving and my being granted custody. This is evidence NOT created or supplied by me. It was subpoenaed by the court when we got pushed to the higher court.
I had to have a full psychiatric assessment from a specific psychiatrist, which was expensive. It’s not a regular psychiatrist and not a simple process. This happened because of his false accusations about my mental health. All he had to throw against me were claims against my mental health. This process showed my previous mental health issues were due to being in an abusive relationship and that I was/am an excellent mother and the best option for the children.
At the end of 2017, my eldest daughter was diagnosed with ASD Level 1, anxiety and a few other issues to watch for. This is also known as high functioning autism or Aspergers. This does impact how child custody and visitation is awarded due to the special needs of children with autism.
Late 2018, my ex caused issues again and I had to go to court for a protection order. An interim one was granted then in April 2019, a full 5-year protection order even barring him from posting on social media about us at all, was granted. This helped significantly as it showed a long history of abuse, so no chance he would be ok with the kids.
Lastly, in the final stages of court, his lawyer ceased to act for him. He never came to court throughout the whole process and on the first hearing in 2019, the judge saw what he is like. It was complicated, messy and thankfully, the judge set a date for a quick trial because of his behaviour. He was court-ordered to attend with legal counsel and we had it included that I could proceed uncontested if he was not there. This is what happened and on the final day, instead of there being a 6-day trial which they initially thought, it took 2 hours.
My Top Tips To Get Full Custody
As you can see from my experience, it took years. I had legal help the whole way which cost me a fortune and there was extensive evidence of abuse. Remaining calm, keeping it together, continuing to work and parent my children was extremely difficult during this process. But I did it. And would do it all again if I had to.
1. Mindset is Everything – Have a Happy Place
This was one of the biggest determining factors enabling me to remain calm and focused. If you are hysterical, irrational and all over the place, it isn’t great for you in court. Yes, emotions are normal, hysteria is not. When our emotions take control, we can make poor decisions, it is harder to remember things and you need to remember for court.
I didn’t implement this fully until December 2018. After going to the Solomon Islands with Solomon Island Discovery Cruises, I desperately wanted to take my kids and had a very specific image of Mane Bay in my head. I could see my kids playing in the water as I watched them from the dive deck. That moment, that experience, to me is the moment we are free.
Whenever I got overwhelmed about court, I began to picture this spot, this experience and my whole body relaxed. It was so real to me and will be soon.
I also had a little visualisation of the day in court when the judge finally granted full custody to me and we were free. The emotions, smells, what I was wearing, everything was included. On the day, it happened almost exactly as I had pictured.
2. Have Support
My family is incredible. There were numerous times I rang family members in tears, or furious at what was happening. I borrowed money from my parents as needed, my sister dropped everything and flew down one night when I was not coping and I know I am fully supported.
Not everyone has that but there are support networks. Charities have support workers to help you in court and with paperwork before court. I also had a private psychologist I started seeing to prepare me for court, have somewhere safe to vent to and also to help with parenting and understanding autism.
Join a support network, get professional support, create a community.
3. Have Evidence
I have written about 5 tips to win in court previously and included the importance of evidence. Write down everything including the time, date, location, what happened. Get witnesses where possible. Report things to the relevant departments, have teachers and other people in positions of power who are involved to write reports. Do everything via email to ensure you have a paper trail and if you have to do phone calls, request they be recorded then at the start of the recorded say “This phone call is being recorded” to show they agreed.
Do not fabricate evidence or embellish things. Numerous people involved with my case commented on the fact my records of what happened and when corresponded perfectly with evidence from police, schools, child protection etc. Having my own proof and the ability to show exact dates, recorded phone calls, text messages etc all added to my credibility.
4. Dress To Impress
Again, I wrote about this in the previous article. How you appear matters. Dress in blue where possible because it subconsciously indicates trust. Corporate or business attire is preferred, along with neat hair, nails and makeup. I look like a lawyer when I go to court and this has helped significantly and been commented on by others. If you want the law on your side, do the right thing, have your evidence and dress the part.
Charities offer help with this, borrow from friends or family if necessary and do your best to dress accordingly.
5. Be Willing to Compromise
There are a few things in my court orders I didn’t want but they aren’t awful. If we move or change schools, I am required to give notice and if we travel I am required to give him the details. I really wish this was not required especially as there is a protection order in place.
However, by being willing to compromise, it increased my chances of getting full custody.
6. Show you are Doing what is in the Best Interests of the Children
Years of speech therapy, psychology, play therapy, extra-curricular sports, the autism diagnose and treatment for that were all documented and used in court. These, combined with the evidence we were in contact with his family and I was willing to continue to facilitate that added weight to this part of our case.
In fact, as it turned out, between the first hearing in 2019 and the final trial, we had a trip to Sydney planned so we saw the family. This was mentioned in my court papers and when we went back for the trial, it helped to solidify the fact I will continue this relationship and contact for my daughters.
The fact I had driven to Sydney, then instead of just letting the kids play a while, allowed 2 sleepovers was huge. It showed I put my own feelings and fears of my ex aside for my kids. They had an amazing time with their cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents on that side. This was not a stunt I pulled for court, we will continue to see them all. It did happen to help though.
7. Get Legal Help
I don’t want to reveal the entire total of my court costs but it equals the cost of a house. In 2019 alone, I paid tens of thousands within a few months and he didn’t have to pay a thing. Be prepared to sell everything, do any job and work your butt off to pay.
For some reason, when I started this process in Melbourne, I didn’t have to put money into trust. I did when I needed legal help in Sydney and Canberra but here we expected it to be a quick process with the evidence so my lawyer didn’t request it. Instead of having my money sit there, I was able to pay the invoices as they sent them. My barristers continued this arrangement when they were hired to help as well.
I was extremely lucky with this. When my lawyer went on maternity leave and another took over he said he had never seen this arrangement but since I never missed an invoice he was happy to continue it. Don’t expect to be so lucky. Be prepared to have to put down thousands. You can save a little if you self-represent and the court is usually helpful if you choose to do it that way. My case had been so long and messed up I wasn’t willing to self-represent.
You know what is best for your kids and if you have left an abusive relationship, it will be hard but it is worth it. This nearly broke me, completely. My ex-husband used things I wrote or said online against me (well, tried to) which made me shrink completely and question everything I was doing.
When he played mind and control games, it messed with my head. Hearing things from my daughters, seeing the impact on them and the amount of money it cost us wore me down. However, I held onto the hope we would be free. I kept the image in my mind of us at Mane Bay and eventually, we won. We are still waiting for the judge to finalise to upload the paperwork so they can leave the country for the first time but right now, we are free.
How to Prepare for Court to get the Best Outcome
Heading to court is scary, especially if it involves your safety or your kids. Recently, I went to court for the hearing of our IVO (also known as an Intervention Order/Violence Order/Protection Order/Restraining Order). As I sat there and watched people come, speak to the judge and go, I realised many people simply don’t know a few minor things that can make a big difference to your day in court.
I was given advice back when I got divorced and more when I had to do the protection orders. These tips have a significant impact, whether we want to admit it or not. We like to think all judges and magistrates are fair and impartial but certain things about how you look and speak do have an impact.
1. Dress Corporate
Every single time I have been to court I have been the best-dressed non-lawyer there. In fact, I am usually mistaken for being a lawyer or similar. When you think of dressing for court think corporate or Sunday best. Think conservative, modest, neat and tidy from your head to your toes.
I always wear a skirt and heels, my shoulders are covered and often some of my arms. My skirt comes to my knees and my heels are not platforms, they are modest nude or black heels (not patent/shiny ones).
If you don’t have any suitable clothes or cannot afford them, borrow some or reach out to a charity. There are numerous charities offering clothing for court and job interviews.
Why does it Matter how you Dress?
It takes years to become a magistrate or judge so most are over 40 before they are appointed and can work into their 70s. Also, there are significantly more males than females. If you want to make a good impression, think about how grandparents or a church priest would expect you to dress and go for similar. Be conservative.
Dress however you want anytime you want, it’s your body, your choice. However, people make judgements in a split second based on how we appear. It’s human nature and not something we are conscious of most of the time.
You are appearing in front of someone who is going to make decisions for your life. Dress to impress and appeal to them.
2. Wear Blue
This is based on the psychology of colour. Blue conveys loyalty, trust, dependability, all things you want to represent when in court. Look at our police, uniforms for firefighters (when not fighting fires), ambulance officers, doctors, nurses and similar. The majority wear blue for this reason.
Think about it, you want to align yourself with that side of the law. Sky blue shirts, navy suits, navy skirts and dresses or royal blue all work well. Add the black shoes and the immediate impact is you are similar to law enforcement.
3. Have All Your Documentation
Be prepared with dates, times, locations, facts and any relevant documentation to provide evidence. Depending on your case, this may have needed to be submitted when you lodge your originally cas. You cannot turn up to court on the day and be all over the place.
Respect the courts time. Be prepared, have a timeline, have your proof and if necessary, lodge it before you go to court. Take copies with you of anything and everything to give the judge and the other lawyer if necessary. It might not be needed but it is better to have it than to not.
4. Be Conscious of how you Speak and Act
Firstly, when you enter the courtroom, bow to the crown. It will look like you are bowing to the judge/magistrate but it is to the crown and a sign of respect. They notice who does and who doesn’t. Do it every time you enter or exit the room. When the judge enters or exits and everyone stands, make sure you do too! All these things seem minor but they make a difference.
Not standing and not bowing to the crown shows you are being disrespectful. A good lawyer will tell you to do these things but if you are self-representing you might not know.
Next, the judge, magistrate or registrar is the one making the decisions. Even if the lawyer asks the questions, direct your answer to the judge/person at the front making the decision. The questions are being asked for their benefit. The few times early on in my custody case that my ex actually showed up and with a lawyer, doing this really irritated his lawyer. The judge loved it but my exes lawyer hated it so answering to the judge had 2 benefits.
Our courtrooms are not all like the ones you see on most TV shows. Often the witness box is positioned so you can see both the lawyer and the judge. Address them properly and if you are unsure what to call them, pay attention to how the lawyers speak and copy them or ask your lawyer. Your honour, Your Magistrate and similar are most common.
Next, speak clearly and concisely. They don’t need your life story. Answer questions in a simple manner. If it is a yes or no question, answer yes or no. You do not need to spend 5 minutes explaining why. This is especially important when you are going against an ex and things can get emotional.
The reason being, everything extra you say can be used against you or twisted by their lawyer. Keep it short and simple and it will frustrate them as they can’t ‘trap’ you.
When asked to explain something, keep to what they have asked you to explain, not everything that has happened to you at every point in your life. Be factual and have evidence to back up your claims.
Be honest and genuine and things will go much smoother.
5. Get legal help
I know lawyers can be expensive, some things you can do yourself, others are better with a lawyer. It is up to you to decide. However, in my experience, a good lawyer is worth it and will make things go much smoother when it comes to custody or protection orders.
For starters, they know what needs to be lodged, they know what different magistrates/judges are like and how to best appeal to them, they know what to ask for and can remove the emotion.
Get referrals, get pricing structures and an idea of how long things will take, how expensive it will be, then plan for it. You can go to legal aid and community legal centres. If the matter is more complex, you are better off with a private lawyer though.
Rebecca Neale of Bedford Family Lawyer suggested on my Facebook page: “If representing yourself, I suggest you develop a short narrative, like an “elevator speech,” to start your argument and then focus on the facts that support your argument that you’re in imminent fear of serious physical harm. To identify the most potent facts, I suggest sharing your story with a friend and seeing what she responds to the most. Frequently, survivors are used to certain atrocious behaviours, that they can lose perspective on what is the most egregious.”
This is fantastic advice in my experience!
How can you Afford Legal Help?
Your lawyer could cost anything from $300 through to $700 an hour and they charge for everything. If you need a barrister, you are looking at $2,500 to $10,000 a day easily. Every email, every phone call, draft, all of it is charged in 6 minute increments.
Get the costs agreement so you know what you are paying for. Whenever you need to talk to them, do all of it at once rather than 5 different phone calls. Also, ask about pro bono work, looking into legal aid and all your options.
Also, don’t allow them to call to ‘update’ or ask you to come in a lot to check a few things. More often than not, this is a tactic to ring up your bill. The first lawyer for my child custody was great but my case went for so long she got pregnant and went on maternity leave before it was finished.
My case was given to another lawyer and he was hopeless. He lost a lot of paperwork, doubled up on things, would call to update or check things when it was completely unnecessary. I hated him wasting my time and money and told him as such. He was not really needed in the end as I had a barrister but it still cost me thousands because of his underhanded tactics and disorganization.
Make Extra Money
When it comes to paying for a private lawyer, do everything you can. Online surveys might not pay much but something is better than nothing (most people get $2,000 to $5,000 extra a year with these ones). Take on extra shifts or a second job. Sell off anything you can, mow lawns, do babysitting. Check out these 43 ways for single mums to make money.
Or grab my eBook 99 Side Hustles for Aussies which includes side hustles, how to get them set up and how to market them to make more money. Many can be done simultaneously so you can make more.
How you can set and Achieve Your Goals
One of the most common questions I get is how I set and achieve my goals. I like to set big goals and work hard to achieve them. It can be hard finding balance, or even knowing what goals to set, so here is everything I do, from the idea right through to completion.
1. Know Yourself
What do you actually want in life? Don’t think about what society expects or whatever goals your parents set for you. How do you want your life to look and how can you make that happen? What is important to you?
Setting goals because they sound good but you aren’t thrilled about isn’t going to work. Doing goals because others are doing them is not going to motivate you to stick to them and it is not going to get you the life you want.
Take time to think about what you value in life, what matters to you and how you enjoy spending your time. For me, my family is everything to me, as is my health. Community contributions and being financially free are also important to us.
As such, my goals revolve around having a financially free life so my family and I can travel, spend time together and enjoy our lives. Health includes yoga daily with my kids, walks and going to the gym. Joining classes I want to do, reading books that are important to me and making my family a priority.
By knowing myself, the life I want and what is important to me, it’s been easy to set goals.
2. Clear your head
Get out a few pieces of paper and ‘brain dump’. Write down all your ideas, aims, desires, goals and anything you think you want to do. Getting it out of your head and onto paper makes it easier to see all of it and sift through to find what you truly want.
I generally have a piece of paper for the following life categories: health, finance, career, community, relationships, travel/life experiences and home. This way, I dump whatever I am thinking in terms of goals on those specific pieces of paper. This also makes it easier for me to work out which areas of my life I need to focus on more.
Which goals are most important or most urgent? Making decisions is not easy. When it comes to setting goals I write down each goal on its own piece of paper, the timeframe I want to achieve it in and the pros and cons of the goal to help establish goals to achieve first.
Having them on individual pieces of paper, I can easily move them around to place them in order of priority to me and see what will work. You cannot do everything at once, so pick a couple or even one to start with then do the rest later as you progress.
Taking on too much at once will cause overwhelm and make you more likely to fail.
4. Plan of action
When I set goals I make sure they are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound. I write down exactly what I want to achieve, how I will do it and the steps I need to take to achieve that goal. Sometimes this means creating mini-goals, other times it is a simple 3 step process. This is crucial. A goal not written down and without a plan is just a wish.
On top of this, I add emotion. What is the emotional drive behind this goal? How will it make me feel to achieve it?
Once you have your plan, take steps to make it easy. For example, if it is saving a specific amount of money, set up automatic payments to your savings account. You can do this for investing and other things too. If your goal is to lose weight, join a class or group to be accountable and start moving.
Break down your goals into bite-size steps, with small actions you can take every day to achieve your goal in the timeframe you’ve set. Using smaller goals to achieve your overall goal makes it feel achievable.
5. Create a Motivation Wall
Once I know the things I want to achieve and want in my life I get visual and create a motivation wall. It includes a vision board, my calendar, motivational quotes or affirmations, saving graphs and anything I am working on. It’s on my bedroom wall so it’s the first thing I see every morning and last thing I see at night.
Take a photo of your vision board and use it as your background on your devices as well.
To help me stay focused and remember what I am working towards I create reminders. Write your goals in permanent marker on your mirrors and read them out loud every day. Say them with conviction as if you have already achieved them. The more you do this, the more you will believe it.
Change the background and screensaver on any device to match your goal along with changing passwords to match.
Write them down and check on them daily. By having all these reminders and by writing them down, you can check where you’re at with all your goals easily.
For many people, having someone they are accountable to helps immensely. This doesn’t mean you have to be public on social media about your goals (although that does help some people). It means having someone you can check in with regularly, brainstorm with and get help to stay on track.
My sisters and I support each other this way. For my weight goals, they are fantastic. When it comes to money, business and other lifestyle goals, my partner and I are on the same page, working towards the same things so we check in with each other all the time.
Each week we have an abundance meeting where we discuss our finances, check out net worth and go over our goals. We love visualising our goals and discussing our future as if it is our now. This helps us stay motivated.
My vision board, reminders and accountability are all great motivators. What motivates one person is different to what motivates another. Being a mother and wanting a better life for my kids, it has been easy to be motivated at times.
Whenever I was faced with a choice or a goal that gets too hard I think about my daughters, the life I want for us and go spend some time with them. Sometimes, I use tools such as motivational books, podcasts, webinars, courses, friends, anything which motivates me to get back on track.
Life changes and sometimes the plan of action you had for your goal is not the best course of action to help you achieve it. I’ve set numerous goals in my life I’ve had to change either how I did them or if I was going to do them at all anymore.
Too often I see the pressure to achieve your goals no matter what. I do not believe in that. Yes, be resilient, work out how to overcome obstacles to achieve your goals and do what you can. But if you life has changed and that goal no longer aligns with what you want, it’s ok to ditch it.
Make time to reassess and evaluate if what you are doing is working and if it is indeed what you still want. Be sure to know the difference between it simply feeling too hard/having a bad day vs it actually no longer being the right goal for you.
Celebrate goals as you achieve them. Revel in your success. You don’t have to jump straight into the next one. Sometimes completing the goal is reward enough, but sometimes it is nice to go out to dinner/buy some new clothes/have a party/go on a holiday as a reward for achieving your goal. Recognize and celebrate your achievements.
What tips would you add?