What should I keep in mind when I am trying to settle my Family Law Case?

What should I keep in mind when I am trying to settle my Family Law Case?

Keep your Emotions on Track.
You should try and deal with your own emotions first and avoid letting your emotions get in the way of making decisions. Naturally, going through a separation is a very emotional and difficult time for clients. Try and treat your settlement as a ‘civil business-like transaction’.

We do find emotions will often get in the way of parties coming to constructive practical settlements. The type of emotions that commonly obstruct practical settlements include anger, contempt, sadness/grief, lack of trust, fear, apathy, and guilt. If clients can work through their own emotions and respect the other parties’ emotions, it might go a long way to try and resolve a settlement.

Get Legal Advice early on.
It is very important to get legal advice early on. Clients may find the whole process of engaging a lawyer as very stressful and daunting. You can see a lawyer for ‘advice only’. This means that you can see a lawyer to get advice about your situation without having to have your lawyer represent you straight away.

If you receive advice early on, it will help you make informed decisions about your property issues or your children’s arrangements if you have had everything explained to you first. Not getting advice and making decisions without first getting advice can be risky.

Common Traps if you make decisions without advice
Some of the ‘Common Traps’ people make are:

  1. Clients will often make decisions that they want to later change;
  2. Clients will often agree to decisions in an effort to ‘make the other person happy’ or ‘for the problem to go away’ and they might have regrets that it was not the best decision; or
  3. Clients will often ‘not act’, and by not acting, it may result in a decision which is not favourable to them.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep
Avoid making promises to your ex-partner without first getting legal advice. As lawyers, we find it very hard to ‘undo’ poor decisions. If you break a promise or go back on your word it makes it very difficult for us to try and help you settle your matter.

For financial matters don’t agree to a figure or a percentage interest without talking to a lawyer first as you don’t want to promise more than you can afford.

For parenting matters, don’t make a promise for parenting arrangements, and then go back on the original agreement. Doing this, becomes confusing for your children and not helpful for your future co-parenting relationship with your ex-partner.

There is nothing wrong with saying to your ex-partner, ‘I will think about it, and I will get back to you’ or ‘I would prefer to get some advice about it first’.

Focus on your children’s needs, not your own needs and not your ex-partner’s needs
When negotiating arrangements for children, some parents get caught up with making sure that they are being fair to the other parent. You need to consider what is best for your children and not about what is fair or not fair for your ex-partner.

Try and keep it amicable.
It is best if you can try and keep things amicable between you and your ex-partner. If your relationship is an amicable and cooperative one, it is much easier for us to assist you to resolve your matter. It will improve your future relationship with your ex-partner which is particularly important if you have children.

Get advice from other experts/Counsellors/Financial Planners as well as your lawyer
Don’t be shy about getting advice from other experts early on as well. If you are finding it difficult to make decisions about your children yourself consider other options such as engaging in family therapy for the whole family, engaging with your own individual counsellor and/or psychologist and talking to them.

For financial matters, you might want to talk to a Financial Planner or Accountant about your current and future financial position now that you have separated. You might want to discuss what type of money you will need as part of any property settlement. This will assist you to set goals moving forward.

Keep records
“Expect the best, prepare for the worst”. Whilst we want you to come to an early settlement with your ex-partner it is not something that you can always control. Therefore, you should expect the best (as in ‘an out of court settlement’) but at the same time, still prepare for the worst (‘having to go to Court’).

Even if your separation is an amicable one, you should still maintain records of what has occurred leading up to your separation and what has occurred since your separation. Different clients have different abilities to remember and recall events that are relevant to your case. If you keep a diary of some sort which records important events this will help you if the need arises

For financial matters, it is important to keep records. Keep everything financial and don’t throw anything out as you might need a document to prove what you’ve spent or to prove an issue it is in dispute.

For parenting matters, we suggest client’s keep a ‘Contact Diary’ and they record important events or comments the other party or children have been making, and the times the children have spent in the other parent’s household.

Court should be considered as a ‘Last Resort’ for parties following separation. It is expensive, time consuming (there are delays for over three years at present), confrontational and unpredictable.

We trust that you have found this article will help you in managing your own situation. If this article has raised questions relating to your own matter, please do not hesitate to contact Solari and Stock Miranda on 8525 2700, or click here to request an appointment with one of our experienced Family Law Team.

Article written by NIcole Quirk.
Photo by Leo Rivas on Unsplash

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