How to Achieve a Fair Family Law Property Settlement?

06 January 2014

Achieving a fair Family Law Property Settlement is the aim of most people who end up separating, but what is fair?  It is very difficult for a person to work out what is fair when going through the emotional turmoil of a separation.   An experienced Family Lawyer can help you.  Whilst well-meaning friends who have been through it themselves may well be able to provide some emotional support, don’t rely on their “advice” as every case is different and will require an objective expert assessment.  An experienced Family Lawyer will ask you questions about your personal and financial situation so that we can apply the factors detailed in the Family Law Act to make a proper assessment as to what is fair in your particular circumstances.  We will not give you an “absolute” answer (no-one will be able to do that as Family Law is a discretionary jurisdiction) but we will give you the range of possible answers and discuss with you the practical options available.

Once you have comprehensive legal advice as to where you stand, then you need to consider the process whereby a settlement can be achieved.  Some clients, despite having separated, still have a communicative working relationship with their spouse or partner and may be able to have direct discussions in order to achieve an agreed settlement within the fair range.  However, such discussions can often be difficult and emotionally charged and it may be a good idea to adopt an alternative approach. 

Sometimes, in straightforward cases, it may be possible to quickly settle your case if both parties (and their lawyers) adopt a reasonable and cooperative approach.  A series of frank phone calls (or an informal meeting) between experienced lawyers can sometimes result in a very cost-effective settlement being achieved promptly.

In more complex cases, mediation (prior to any court proceedings) can be utilised once all of the relevant facts are on the table.  Mediation is a form of dispute resolution where the parties to a dispute agree to discuss the disputed issues with a view to exploring the settlement options to achieve a settlement with the assistance of an independent mediator.  A mediator will keep the discussion on track and ensure that discussions are respectful and focus on the real issues.  A mediator will not provide legal advice to you as you will have your own lawyer fulfilling that role.  In many instances, a client will want to have his/her lawyer also participate in the mediation process and speak on behalf of the client or assist the client in negotiations, as an experienced Family Lawyer has successfully taken clients through the mediation process on many previous occasions.  Mediation can also used to settle disputes during court proceedings in order to save the time, and expense, of waiting many months for a case to be listed for a Final Hearing for determination by a Judge.

Unfortunately, it is not always possible to settle a case in a cost-effective manner using one of the above settlement processes.  So, you may end up in Court.  The main reason why some clients find it impossible to settle without court proceedings is that one of the parties has unrealistic expectations as to the outcome which can be achieved.  This is why it is very important for both parties involved in a property settlement dispute to ensure that they are getting the best legal advice available from a reputable, honest Family Law Specialist Law Firm rather than from a lawyer who just gives a client the “legal advice” they want to hear-which only serves to prolong the legal proceedings and escalate legal costs for both parties.

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