Family Law Mediation

25th June 2015

By Lisa Wagner

Are you separating or thinking of separating? If you are then you are probably wanting to know how long it will take…

If you are separating and wanting a divorce you more than likely want it to be settled quickly and not have it drag on. Most separating couples look to achieve an out-of-Court settlement with their ex as soon as possible so they can spare themselves more grief and avoid hefty legal bills. Lots of people who are separating have been unhappy for a long time and simply want to be able to move on with their lives.

How realistic an expectation is it to have a quick settlement?

Last year the Attorney-General’s Department released an extensive report about post-separation parenting and property which I have talked about elsewhere.

The findings in this report provide some helpful information about the length of time it usually takes to resolve a family law property settlement matter after separation. This research is useful because more and more we are finding that one of the main questions that many separating people ask us is “how long will it take to resolve my matter?”

The comprehensive five year study found that about 45% of separating couples had resolved their property dispute within 12 months of their separation. That is good news – almost 1 in 2 of you reading this will have your separation behind you within a matter of months and you will then be able to move on with your lives. About 25% of the separating couples surveyed had resolved their property dispute within 2 years of their separation. The remaining 30% took longer than 2 years to reach agreement. The most common feature in this later group was the fact that they had a higher matrimonial pool of assets to divide and accordingly there were usually more complicated legal structures to unravel…and you want to take your time to get that right, so the timeframe is understandable…

Family dispute resolution and mediation is one path separating couples take to achieve a settlement. As a family law option it can work really well for many separating couples. Family dispute resolution allows you to tailor the solution to your particular family. Essentially you remain “in the driver’s seat”.

In choosing family dispute resolution or family mediation it is worthwhile to remember the findings of this extensive national report and be realistic about the process. We have recently seen websites offering mediations within 7 days. We have also been approached by couples who have attempted mediations, spanning short periods of time, without success.

In our experience separation is a process. When a couple separates there is a good chance that at least one of the parties have been thinking about it for some time, often years. The other party is often left stunned and in shock and needs time to “catch up” and emotionally come to terms with what has happened before they are ready to adjust to their new situation and discuss the issues that they face. Without giving the “stunned” party an opportunity to “catch up” there is a risk that the family law mediation will be undermined and close to pointless.

It is understandable that no one wants any settlement to drag on let alone one that is as painful as settling matters after the breakdown of an intimate relationship. However it is also important to appreciate that just and equitable financial settlements that will stand the test of time and best suit a newly configured family do not necessarily come quickly and not certainly over a matter of days or even weeks following a couple separating.

In family law parenting matters, mediation and family dispute resolution can provide an opportunity to reach short term agreements for your children while everything and everyone settles down and gets used to the new arrangements. Parenting plans can be a very effective tool to document these types of arrangements and for some families can be an appropriate long term solution. Family dispute resolution and mediations for parenting matters can then take the form of several sessions over several months in order to reach the best outcome for your children.

If you are contemplating family dispute resolution or family law mediation to resolve your matter it is a good idea to be realistic about what to expect.

With our wealth of experience in this area of family law we provide the following comments to help ease your stress and uncertainty about this family law process:

  • Allowing a period of 3 to 6 months for most property settlement matters, and possibly even longer for more complex matters, is not unreasonable in all of the circumstances.
  • Don’t be afraid to have ongoing negotiations about your settlement before and/or after any formal mediation. Being amicable and keeping the lines of communication open between yourself and your former partner or spouse will usually serve you and your family well in the long term. If you can both continue to speak to each other and attempt to “work through” the issues then you are more likely to be able to put in place workable solutions and plans which will be in everyone’s best interests.
  • Get the right advice and guidance from the right professionals along the way so that you can quickly get in control of the process and feel confident to begin unravelling your assets in a way that will best suit you.
  • The best family law mediations are usually the ones where everyone comes prepared. Being prepared can take time. Trying to gather all the necessary financial disclosure documents and information together when you may be in the middle of a crisis can seem like an almost impossible task. Obtaining market appraisals, collating and exchanging financial documents and engaging valuers if an agreement about the value of particular assets cannot be reached is not a quick exercise. But if you are armed with these facts when you separate it can assist you plan your immediate next steps and decide what is the best thing for you to do.
  • Approach negotiations willing to compromise but understand what your “bottom line” really is, that way you are less likely to be pressured into doing something in a mediation that you might regret during what can be an incredibly stressful time where you feel vulnerable.

If you would like to talk more about your particular situation, are thinking about separating or have recently separated call us on 9437 0010 to discuss your matter. Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers offer Accredited Family Law Specialists on Sydney’s North Shore who are experts in all areas of family law.

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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