Do you have any idea of the time it could take to resolve a property settlement where the separated parties are in dispute as to who gets what? Would you believe some files spend two to three years in a filing cabinet before they are resolved?
Let’s say you each retain a lawyer to guide you through the process. There are certain steps to go through before discussions can even start as to how property is to be divided. The Family Law Act provides that each party make full and frank disclosure of all of their assets and liabilities. This step usually takes the longest to complete, as partners will often delay producing the relevant documents, bank statements, superannuation member statements, valuations or market appraisals of real estate, motor vehicles, furniture etc. If one party remains in the house and wishes to stay there – this can often be another reason for that party to delay.
The lawyers keep writing to each other demanding production of any documents – more legal costs! If the lawyer is busy, your file may often find itself at the bottom of the pile if nothing is happening.
Finally, when the lawyers are satisfied that all disclosure documents have been provided, proposals for settlement can begin. More correspondence back and forth between lawyers and clients, more telephone calls, more conferences to discuss the proposals and counter proposals – legal costs are rising!
By this stage several months have elapsed with no resolution, and if settlement negotiations then break down, one party will file an application in the court. This involves the preparation of lengthy documents from both parties. You will then wait weeks for a conference, maybe months for a second conference. If the proceedings are still unresolved the matter is set down for a hearing. By this stage up to a year or more has passed – legal costs rising even further!
There could be months of further delay waiting for a hearing. During this time your lawyer will prepare several other documents that need to be filed in the court by way of evidence, and will probably brief a barrister to represent you at the hearing – legal costs are going through the roof!
And how do you think you are feeling at this time? I can tell you that you will be feeling overwhelmed and totally out of control with the court process, exceedingly stressed about how high your final legal costs will be (particularly each time you receive your lawyer’s interim tax invoices) and worried silly as to whether you will be successful in getting what you want from the Judge who hears your matter. There are no guarantees when it comes to litigation.
Why would you put yourself through this when there is an alternate course? In my twenty five years of experience I have never seen a client walk away from a family law property settlement getting what they wanted, most of them become very disgruntled with the family law process, and depressed about the time it takes to resolve. They learn the very expensive lesson that the best way to settle a property settlement is to reach a compromise so each party walks away feeling that maybe they could have done better, but they can live with the amicable settlement they have agreed to, and what’s more they have saved $40,000+ in legal costs.
We can refer you to divorce coaches, counsellors, psychologists, mediators, accountants, financial advisers etc who can provide information and advice to assist you to discuss a settlement and come to an agreement – then you can visit your lawyer to draw up the relevant documents.
This is by far the best outcome.
Lyn Lucas is the owner of Online Divorce Lawyer. With over 25 years experience in family law Lyn empathises with couples going through a separation and a property settlement. Her focus with Online Divorce Lawyer is to reduce the pain and deliver excellent results in the process of a property settlement and to keep clients out of the Family Court. With a negotiated fixed fee for this service, couples have certainty as to their legal costs. Visit Lyn’s site and opt in for a complimentary e-book “Guide to Saving Money with a Divorce Property Settlement”