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Family Law

Do I have to go to court? What are the alternatives?

By July 25, 2016No Comments

By Angela Li

Going to court, for most clients, is a stressful and expensive ordeal. The first thing a lot of our clients say to us is, “We don’t want to go to court.”

So, what are the alternatives to court?

There are a number of options that you could consider as alternatives to going to court. Here are a few below:

  1. Settlement conference between you, your ex, and your lawyers. This is a process where you and your ex, with the assistance of your lawyers, meet around a table to try and resolve the issues then and there. Sometimes all it takes it for all parties involved to get together around a table and discuss all the issues together, rather than having the lawyers write endless letters back and forth. In our experience, a settlement conference will be most ideal if there is a relatively narrow scope of issues and where there is some respect between the parties. The advantage of a 4 way settlement conference is that you and your ex can make the final decision about what’s going to happen to your assets or your children.
  1. Private mediation. This is similar to a settlement conference, but having a mediator involved. The mediator will facilitate the meeting and work with both parties (and the lawyers) to try and reach an agreement. We often suggest using an experienced mediator, for example, a family law barrister or an ex-judge.
  1. Arbitration. This is a process where the parties choose a private arbitrator to act in the shoes of a judge. The process essentially is the same as court in that both parties will prepare affidavits, be cross examined, and the lawyers will make submissions. The arbitrator’s decision will be binding upon the parties. The advantage that arbitration offers over court is that the whole process can take place much faster, with a final decision made within 6 to 8 weeks (as opposed to the court process which could take years).
  1. Collaboration. This is a process where the parties, together with their respective Collaboratively trained lawyers, meet in a series of 4 way conferences to explore the deeper interests and needs of each party. Collaboration is a process that requires both parties to be able to ‘stand in the shoes’ of the other, and may, in many cases, involve ‘thinking outside the box’ to reach a ‘win-win’ solution, without simply focusing on your rights under the Family Law Act. For more information on Collaboration in Canberra, have a look at the website of the Canberra Collaborative practice group here: http://collaborativepracticecanberra.com.au/

If you would like to discuss whether any of these options might work for your matter, even if you’re already in court, please don’t hesitate to call Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.

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