Family Dispute? Don’t go to Court

9th February 2015

By Lisa Wagner

Are you going through a family dispute or thinking about a separation?

If you are, then you should continue reading this article as it contains valuable information.

Family dispute and separation are widely understood to be one of the most stressful experiences that you can live through. Doing what you can to keep your emotions in check and to continue functioning in the middle of a family crisis is really hard.

Family disputes rip at the core of who we are, lead us to question ourselves, and have the potential (if not handled well) to undermine our children’s wellbeing.

If you are separating and involved in a family dispute it really helps that you do all you can to manage the “fall out”. It is like adopting a “damage control” approach. No one is going to end up a winner through the experience but with the right strategies you can emerge from your separation and divorce with your integrity intact and your respect for your former spouse or partner preserved (mostly).

Staying out of Court is probably the most desirable and highly valued “damage control” strategy for anyone in the middle of a family dispute.

Presently the delays in both Sydney Family Court and the Sydney Federal Circuit Court are such that you are likely to be waiting at least two years before a Judge can hear your case if you can’t reach an agreement with your former partner. This is significant in at least three ways:

Firstly, in the meantime you are left in limbo and simply cannot get on with your life.

Secondly, you are likely to spend tens of thousands of dollars on your lawyer who will be required to assist you prepare and present a lot of paperwork and attend to day to day matters that arise while you are waiting; and

Thirdly, things change. The pool of assets that was available to divide at separation may no longer be there or on the flip side, the available pool of marital assets may have increased significantly in value (making it more difficult for you to refinance and retain a property that you were perhaps wanting to try and keep).

Going to Court to resolve a family law dispute (at least without exhausting other avenues first) is nearly always never ever the best option.

So what other “damage control” strategies can be employed?

Collaborative law, negotiated settlements, mediation, arbitration and family therapy are all good options. It is usually not a case of “one size fits all” and you should discuss your particular situation with your own family lawyer who is hopefully an accredited specialist and therefore usually more adept at discerning the right “fit” for you.

Family dispute resolution has a high success rate for most separating couples. Family dispute resolution provides a mutual and impartial environment to discuss all of the issues and challenges that arise at separation. It is a flexible process that supports your communication with your ex by adopting broad rules of engagement.

The likely success of any family dispute resolution is a result of a variety of factors. In my experience three of the most critical ingredients are:

  1. Competence;
  2. Confidence; and
  3. Connectedness.

In short this means that if you are feeling like all reasonable out of Court options have failed and you are no longer able to even talk, text or email your former partner and you want to stay out of the Family Court you can consider a successful resolution of your family law matter with family dispute resolution if:

  1. You engage the services of a qualified family dispute resolution practitioner (they must be registered with the Attorney-General’s department) and also retain an accredited specialist family lawyer to advise you of your options, responsibilities and your likely outcomes – the “competence” factor.

  2. You feel confident in both the process and the people. This factor requires you to rely on your gut instincts to hire the right people – the “confidence” factor.

  3. You look for that special “x factor” – some practitioners are highly qualified and/or highly personable but if they cannot connect with each of you and pull it all together it will not work out well and you will be back in “damage control” mode – the “connectedness” or “x factor”.

This “Triple C” plan can save you thousands of dollars on legal fees and limit the months of your life that would be otherwise lost if your family dispute ends up in the Family Court.

In my experience, adopting a “Triple C” family dispute resolution plan if you separate can prove very successful. It is one of the best insurance policies you can get to stay out of the Family Court.

So, if you are living through one of the most stressful experiences that you can ever go through, are exacerbated by your options and feel that you are pulling your hair out trying to secure a resolution with your ex then seriously consider getting in touch with me, Lisa Wagner from Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers on (02) 9437 0010 or enquiries@familylawyersdw.com.au. We offer qualified family dispute resolution practitioners and accredited family law specialists to help you sort out your family dispute without going to Court.

These posts are only intended as an overview or comment on current issues that may interest you and are not legal advice. If there are any matters that you would like us to advise you on, then please contact us.

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