Kasey Fox tells you what NOT to do in a family law dispute
I can’t guarantee that your family law matter will be smooth sailing, but if you follow these 10 Family Law Commandments, you will be more likely to achieve the outcome you desire.
- Thou shalt not take advice from friends
As much as you trust your friends, they are not the ones to rely on for family law advice. You need to get advice from a family law expert and get it early. Once you have the correct information, you will be in a better position to make important decisions about your matter.
- Thou shalt not go straight to Court
This may sound strange coming from a lawyer, but Court is somewhere I want you to avoid if at all possible. Out of all of the options available to separating couples, Court is frequently the most expensive, time consuming and stressful. The best settlements are the ones that parties reach by agreement. Collaborative Law is one of the options available, and best of all, you control the process. Another option is mediation which is a good alternative if you feel comfortable negotiating directly with your ex and have had legal advice.
- Thou shalt not be rude to your ex
After a break-up it is very tempting to take out your frustrations on your ex. This is particularly the case if you feel wronged by your ex. Try to keep in mind that your goal in your family law matter is to reach agreement as quickly as possible. The quicker the settlement, the less it costs and the sooner you can move on with your life.
- Thou shalt not bad-mouth your ex to the children
If you and your ex have children together, your priority must be your children’s best interests, and those are not served by telling your children what a bad person their other parent is. To you, your ex may be the devil reincarnate, but to your child, your ex is part of them. Remember: the Court does not look kindly on parents abusing each other in front of their children. It is simple: do not do it.
- Thou shalt not post online
Online material is becoming more common in family law disputes. If you are separated, and in particular if you are in Court, you should assume that everything you post online (including photos) will be scrutinised. All communications with or about your ex should be short and polite. Remember: if you cannot post anything nice, do not post anything at all.
- Thou shalt not lie
This applies to your ex, your lawyer and most importantly the Court. If you are thinking about hiding assets from your ex, think again. Your goal should be a settlement that is final so you can move on with your life. Hide assets from your ex, and even years later the whole deal could be undone. Do you really want to be looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life?
- Thou shalt not sweat the small stuff
Trust me – as much as you love that tea cup, it is not worth the thousands of dollars you will pay your lawyer fighting over it or the stress it will cause. Focus on the bigger picture: if you can reach agreement on the big ticket items such as the house and super, it might be worth letting go of some of the smaller items.
- Thou shalt not be inflexible
If you approach your matter with an all-or-nothing approach, nothing is just what you might end up with! In property matters, fighting to keep the house could mean you end up selling it to pay the bills. This doesn’t mean you simply give up and accept a bad settlement. Instead try to be creative with the options you are willing to consider. There might be some middle ground where you get some of what you want and your ex gets some of what they want.
- Thou shalt not go it alone
Remember that you are not alone in this process. Support of friends and family can be important to help keep you sane after a separation. You may even want to seek counselling to help you through it. If you don’t know where to turn, ask for help.
- Thou shalt not fail to formalise
If you fail to formalise your settlement, it is not binding. Once you reach an agreement it is vital that you document it in a legally enforceable form that is recognised by the Court. This is the time to see a family law expert to make sure you are protected. It will be money well spent.
Published in B2B Canberra Magazine
By Kasey Fox