You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘jack of all trades but master of none’ before.  Sometimes you need a master: a specialist in a particular area that is an expert in that field. In the areas of family law and criminal law having a master in your corner is essential.

The specialist areas of family law and criminal law intersect more than most people would initially expect. It is not uncommon for allegations of family violence, including sexual assault, to emerge during a messy separation or child custody dispute. Similarly, from time-to-time relationships breakdown amidst the stress of serious criminal charges and the parties need assistance in the family law arena.

Adam Bak, Director at Canberra’s leading family law firm, Farrar Gesini Dunn and Peter Woodhouse, Managing Partner of Canberra’s preeminent criminal defence firm, Aulich, have been collaborating with each other for in excess of 10 years. They each know how the other operates and they know their respective clients are in great hands if they refer to the other.

In family law proceedings, usually the best strategy for a person who faces an allegation is to address it promptly and comprehensively.  If they don’t address it then the court can, in some circumstances, infer that the evidence they would have given would not have helped them.  This is a significant risk in the short term and the long term; it can result in adverse outcomes in both financial matters and mean that a parent may not see a child for an extended period (or on a final basis).

Criminal proceedings are different.  Every accused person has the right to silence and, in most cases, it is a very bad idea to go ‘on the record’ and give a version until the full extent of the case against you is known.  Many times, it is best for an accused to retain their right to silence right to the end of their criminal proceedings. Forgoing the right to silence by speaking to police or giving a version in writing can severely restrict your defence to a criminal charge.

It is necessary therefore to ensure the risks for both family and criminal law matters to be weighed against each other and a considered, well-crafted strategy be arrived at.  Both areas of law are very specialised.  Using a generalist solicitor might mean that one lawyer handles both cases for you but means you don’t get specialist advice in either field. We think the best course is to have two specialists handling each matter but working together.

This is not always black and white. In some cases, the risk of being found guilty in criminal proceedings and facing a lengthy prison sentence might be the most significant factor. In other cases, mismanaging the family law matter could have dire financial consequences or mean you don’t have a relationship with your children. 

Family and criminal law matters are some of the most stressful legal disputes people can experience in their lives.  The consequences for each can be life changing in either a good or catastrophic way.

Bak and Woodhouse, and their colleagues at Farrar Gesini Dunn and Aulich are lucky to have an excellent working relationship in cases like this.  Each are aware of the issues the other is dealing with in their specialised area and will work together to ensure you are best protected.

If you or someone you know is involved in a case like this, and worried your case isn’t being properly managed, contact us to see how we can help.

Peter Woodhouse is a criminal law specialist and Managing Partner at Aulich.

Adam Bak is a family law specialist and Director at Farrar Gesini Dunn.