How long will my divorce settlement take?

16th January 2017

By Lisa Wagner

Have you separated?

Are you wanting a quick and amicable settlement?

Understandably family law clients want to put their family law matter behind them and move on with their lives as quickly as possible. How easy is this to achieve?

We are usually asked 3 questions by a new client when first approached about a family law matter. The first question is what a likely outcome looks like for them. The next question is usually what steps they need to take to secure that outcome. Last but no less important is the question, “how long will the whole process take?

I have seen parties separate, reach agreement and have Consent Orders made by the Court in the space of six to eight weeks…that is some heady experience.  I have also acted for one or two clients over many years in relation to parenting matters where new issues continued to emerge and conflict was extremely high. Each of these examples probably lie at the extreme ends of the spectrum when considering the length of time it realistically takes to resolve a family law matter.

In 2014 the Attorney-General’s Department released a report entitled “Post-Separation Parenting, Property and Relationship Dynamics After Five Years”. As part of that study the researchers looked at the time it took hundreds of separating couples to resolve their family law matter. That study showed that in 45% of cases couples had resolved their family law dispute within twelve months of separation and another 25% of couples had resolved their dispute within two years of separation with the remaining families taking longer than two years to reach agreement. The report also suggested that the matters that took the longest to resolve were likely to be matters where the size of the pool of matrimonial assets was greater.

These findings support what my experience suggests to me, namely that family law matters take a bit of time to resolve. How long it will take to settle a family law matter however depends on a number of issues including:

  1. The level of complexity involved in the case;
  2. How well organised each party is;
  3. The amount of time that is required to negotiate the particular issues and generally;
  4. The willingness of both parties to reach agreement;
  5. Each party’s readiness to negotiate;
  6. How much each party is dependent on third parties to finalise the process. If a person is waiting on their accountant to prepare updated accounts and the accountant is “snowed under” then the process can quickly “blow out” by many months;
  7. Whether court proceedings are required;
  8. The nature and extent of any forensic tasks that need to be undertaken, e.g. engaging experts.

In most cases the time it takes family lawyers to draft agreements and the time it takes the Court to consider settlement documents and make Orders is usually a small part in the overall settlement process.  The time (and delays) that arise usually do so because:

  1. There is a difficulty in obtaining information and/or documents;
  2. One or both of the parties are reluctant to readily exchange all necessary and relevant information;
  3. One or both of the parties get stuck negotiating and are unable or unwilling to compromise; and/or
  4. One or both of the parties are not emotionally ready to disengage from the other and accept that a separation has occurred.

What does this all mean? After separation it is important to appreciate that a family law settlements can take time. Being realistic about not only what to expect in the settlement but also about how long it will take to reach a resolution allows each person to feel in control of the situation and not get disappointed with the process.

This ultimately frees you up to concentrate on what matters most, your family.

Our office is conveniently located in St Leonards on Sydney’s Lower North Shore and our team of family lawyers are ready to speak confidentially with you.

If you would like to know more about separation and divorce or want to talk about progressing your family law matter smoothly, then get in touch with us at Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers by calling on 94370010 or enquiries@familylawyersdw.com.au to discuss in complete confidence. We are conveniently situated in St Leonards on Sydney’s Lower North Shore and have a team of experienced and caring professional Family Lawyers available to help you.

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.

Close Menu