With divorce rates close to 40 percent, Australia’s Family Law system has never been under greater pressure, with many cases taking up to three years to be resolved through the courts.*
For those involved in separation, drawn out and often acrimonious proceedings have serious and lasting consequences for families, both emotionally and financially.
In particular, highly litigious divorce and property settlements can create long-term impacts on the children affected by marriage breakdown. Research shows that these children are more likely to earn less, have babies at an earlier age, and live in multiple relationships.*
Maroochydore family lawyer Micaela Chomley of Garland Waddington Solicitors, conducted a seminar on the new approach this month showing attendees there was now an alternate option for resolving separation disagreements, without the associated costs, delays and emotional hardship of seeking a judicial ruling.
Ms Chomley is the first Sunshine Coast lawyer to work in the field of Collaborative Law, which supports divorcing couples to come to mutually-agreed financial and custody outcomes without court proceedings.
“Around 40,000 children each year are affected by divorce, this approach is important in helping mimimise the devastating impact that separation can have on a family,” Ms Chomley said.
Under the client-driven process, separating couples and their lawyers sign a Participation Agreement which ensures full transparency, respectful behaviour and a commitment not to go to court.
“We then hold face to face meetings where separating partners and their lawyers can discuss all matters in an open, non-confrontational way, with the aim of coming to a fair settlement in the best interest of the whole family.”
Unlike in some other dispute resolution methods, collaboratively-trained lawyers take a problem-solving approach to supporting negotiations, and provide more than just legal advice.
“We bring in other professionals such as accountants, financial advisors, psychologists and counsellors, when necessary, to assist with whatever issues may come up along the way.”
While the Collaborative Law approach to dispute resolution can be used by married, de facto or same sex couples when separating, it is not for everyone.
“We find that this process works best for people who want to spare their children from the emotional damage of the breakup and create the best outcomes for their families,” Ms Chomley said.
“The collaborative approach requires dignity and respect, so does not suit couples in abusive relationships, those with a ‘win at all cost’ mentality, or those who are not willing to be open and transparent about financial matters.”
Garland Waddington Solicitors will host another seminar on Collaborative Law in April. For more information, go to www.garlandwaddington.com.au
* Australian Bureau of Statistics, Marriages and Divorces, Australia, 2014, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3310.0 (25/11/2015).
* Australian Institute of Family Studies, Family Matters No. 30 Effects of changing family structure and income on children, https://aifs.gov.au/publications/family-matters/issue-30/divorce-change-and-children