Trends Towards Out-of-Court Settlements
It’s only natural to want to conserve as many assets as possible once a relationship breaks down. Spending lots of money on lawyers and the like does not appeal – and is understandably avoided where possible! And as for you or your kids going to court and facing a judge – you probably couldn’t think of anything worse. For these and other associated reasons, a lot of people are keen to organise an out-of-court settlement in relation to both children and property issues. We see this as a totally understandable and suitable option for many separating couples, and have all the tools that you need take this path. In this article, the options for an out-of-court settlement are examined.
The ideal situation
The perfect situation for a fair and amicable out-of-court settlement is where a certain level of good will and cooperation exists between the separating parties. And in fact, this situation is far from being a rarity. Current trends show that 95% of family law matters actually do settle out of court. For the remaining 5%, these matters might not even need to go to the final stages of court resolution, with agreement eventually being reached along the way. In those situations where finances are straightforward, the issues around parenting are simple, and partners generally get along, a mutually agreed arrangement could be the best solution all round. It can be a good idea to lodge a form with the court, simply setting out the agreement. Talk with your family law solicitor about the benefits of taking this option.
A straightforward financial situation can greatly assist in the equitable division of property between spouses. Plus, where both partners agree on parenting arrangements, a complete out-of court settlement might be perfectly adequate. Yet on occasion some couples will be unable to reach agreement on one or two vital points. For example, the financial side of things might be quite easy to agree upon, but the parenting plan proves problematic. In this case, it might well be possible that the financial settlement can be sorted out-of-court – but the parenting arrangements reach an impasse because of different ideas around what ‘shared’ care means. Your expert family lawyer can help you to discern which elements of your post-separation arrangements can be simply documented – and those that could be a little more complicated.
Mediation and family conferencing are just some of the court-approved tools that couples can use in their attempts to reach agreement. Family law has come a long way since the win/lose idea that dominated thinking in past decades. Now, professional counsellors, mediators and family conferencing specialists are available to lend their expertise to the process of reaching agreement.
With all practitioners keeping fairness, safety and the best interests of the child at the forefront of discussions, such pathways can help separating couples to find the best solutions for all concerned.
Unfortunately, one party will occasionally attempt to strong-arm the other into entering into an out-of-court settlement. Family violence may well have been a component of the relationship breakdown, and you could find yourself in the situation of feeling that you should ‘just sign’ anything they want in order to move on. Yet not only is this often unnecessary, it might not be the best for any children of the relationship. If violence has been part of ‘persuading’ you to agree to a proposed settlement, both your family lawyer and the family court itself have access to professional help for you and the kids. Help is available to ensure that the best, safest and fairest decisions can be made.
An out-of-court settlement shouldn’t be seen as a quick and cheap way to avoid the courts. Both financial and parenting matters need to be analysed and documented in detail, in order to avoid any misunderstandings in the future. Further, lodging the arrangements by consent with the court will ensure that what has been agreed can be enforced at any later stage. So while such settlements can be cost effective and relatively simple, it is important to make sure that all relevant issues are covered. Seek specialist family law advice prior to signing anything, and make sure that you understand fully the flow-on effects of your out-of court settlement.