A growing number of Queensland couples are changing the way they separate in an attempt to do away with protracted legal battles and minimise the impact on their children.
Emotional warfare is how separation has been described in recent times. New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics puts the 2014 divorce rate at 38%, with more than 40,000 children impacted in that year alone. *
Courts are overwhelmed with cases in relation to matrimonial property settlements and custody of children. This means people can wait up to two years for a hearing and then have to wait again for the judgement of the Court to be given. This is a long time to be ‘on hold’ and is exhausting and expensive for everyone.
However, there is a silver lining. Much like Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s famous ‘conscious uncoupling’ approach, more people are trying to reach agreement with goodwill instead of animosity, a change which has lead to the development of a new branch of law known as Collaborate Law.
Recently 74 Queensland lawyers underwent further training to use the Collaborative Law approach, which is considered to be the ‘friendlier’ approach to solving separation issues.
The first Sunshine Coast based Lawyer to work in the Collaborative Law field is Garland Waddington family lawyer Micaela Chomley. She says the adversarial nature of traditional legal processes in a marriage or relationship can be detrimental to ongoing relationships.
“Parental separation disrupts the lives of one in five young Australians*, whether that’s financially, physically or emotionally,” Ms Chomley said.
“Parents may not realise it at the time, but they are writing the story their kids will tell about their childhood. Most people don’t want their kids to remember those years for the endless bickering that happened in and out of the Courts.
“Couples these days realise they will always be linked by their children and, because of that, there is a desire to resolve disputes quickly and smoothly.”
In Collaborative Law, each partner works with a specially trained Lawyer and agrees to a collaborative contract which ensures transparency and respectful behaviour.
“We hold four-way meetings in which everyone works together and gives full and frank disclosure in relation to property and discusses what the praties want to achieve. We also discuss what is in the child’s best interest in order to come to an agreement that both parties are satisfied with,” said Ms Chomley.
“The parents are present at all times during negotiations and are empowered to participate in their own negotiations. The clients drive the process instead of the lawyers, resulting in greater ownership of the outcome as they address their specific needs, issues and those of their families”.
“The parties sign an agreement that the parties will not use the threat of going to Court in order to reach an agreement. This approach advantages both parties and disadvantages neither.”
However Ms Chomley stresses that just like every family, every family law matter is unique and people should seek tailored advice for their circumstances.
“Obtaining the correct advice at the time of your separation, or even before you separate, can minimise the devastating impact separation has on the family unit.”
Ms Chomley will be hosting a series of free information seminars on Collaborative Law in February 2016. If you’d like to find out more and reserve your seat at a seminar, contact Garland Waddington direct on 5443 4866.
For more information in relation to a family law matter or to obtain professional advice, visit 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