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Reach a separation agreement without going to court


08.02.19

Typically when a couple separates, there needs to be some agreed outcome reached in relation to the following:

  • If there are children, an agreement about their care arrangements and all things relating to them, including how they’re going to be financially provided for ie. child support (periodic and non-periodic expenses, for example, extracurricular activities, medical and dental)
  • The split of the pie: assets, debts and superannuation (formally called your ‘property settlement’)
  • Maintenance: ongoing financial support—either there is or there isn’t.

You can reach an agreement with your partner after separation in many different ways and you can do so without having to go to court:

Get together and talk:

Have kitchen-table negotiations. Simply get together, talk and reach an agreement without involving a third person

Mediation:

Participate in mediation through a mediation service or a third person (for example, a trusted friend, family member or professional mediator).

Consult a professional:

Speak with a professional to help you agree. You could speak with your trusted accountant, financial advisor/planner about finances. You could speak with a child psychologist or counsellor about your children’s care arrangements.

Solicitor-aided mediation:

This is where you both have your own lawyer and participate in mediation.

Lawyer letter-writing negotiation:

Engage a lawyer to write and respond to your partner on your behalf, putting forward different agreement proposals.

Parenting agreement:

You can participate in child-inclusive mediation, which assesses and incorporates children’s views as part of the mediation.

Collaborative family law:

Collaborative family law is where you and your partner each have a lawyer and everyone works together as one team to achieve an agreement outcome that is consistent with your interests. It is a process whereby you negotiate on interests (needs, goals, priorities) rather than a traditional positional bargaining approach.

You both sign a legally binding contract saying that you won’t go to court or use threats of going to court. If you go through the collaborative-family-law process and don’t reach an agreement, you cannot use your lawyers in court proceedings. (There is the obvious financial incentive of sticking with the collaboration so you don’t waste money having to engage new lawyers).

Which one is the best option for you?

It might be the case that not all of the options are  suitable or appropriate for you and your circumstances. If you’re unsure about which option to go down the route of, speak with someone.

Call one of the mediation centres, speak with a lawyer at your local Law Society’s Legal Advice Bureau, Legal Aid or the Women’s Legal Centre. Speak with your counsellor psychologist or a crisis support service. There are professionals, organisations and people out there that can help steer you in the right direction.