What is ‘Settle by Sunday’?

The goal is to ‘settle by Sunday’, thus avoiding the negative effects (mainly expense and delay) of a, drawn out process. By the end of the weekend, you should be able to walk away with an agreement and your legal documents drafted.

The immediacy of a solution is very attractive to many of our clients as being together for a settlement weekend prevents misunderstandings developing and enables settlement to be reached speedily. 

At the weekend we recommend we use Collaborative Law to help you resolve your differences. There are other process options which include:

  1. Mediation;
  2. Arbitration;
  3. Negotiation through lawyers;
  4. Going to Court.

Both Mediation and Collaborative Law are excellent ways of resolving issues without the delay and expense of going to Court. They both focus on things that are important to you rather than exclusively what the law says.

The advantage of Collaborative Law over Mediation is that each party has a trained lawyer advocate and with them and is committed to reaching an interest-based outcome without going to Court. This means that the outcome you achieve will be one that balances each of your competing goals, interests, hopes and concerns to find solution that you the two of you the best mutual outcome.

On the other hand, negotiation through lawyers often leads a client to defer to what the law says they’re entitled to or delegates their settlement decision to a third party who is bound by the parameters of the law. This approach is needed in an adversarial process when parties get stuck in other negotiations or there is delay, dishonesty or unreasonableness.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Clients and lawyers work together as members of the settlement team, rather than working against each other as “opposing parties”;
  2. Both clients have skilled legal advisers at every stage of the process. Both lawyers understand how to reach creative settlements.  You are never on your own; your lawyer is at your side, explaining issues and helping you to achieve goals by mutual participation and agreement;
  3. Both clients will usually spend less money and time using the Collaborative Law Process than in other processes, particularly going to Court;
  4. Both clients and their lawyers agree in advance to work only toward a settlement acceptable to both clients. Litigation can never be threatened.  Neither of you will be permitted to play games or take advantage of each other;
  5. The lawyers share with their clients a financial incentive to make the Collaborative Law Process work. The lawyers have not succeeded unless they help you create a win-win solution.  They are “out of a job” if the process breaks down. 

At the start of the process, both lawyers and each of you must sign a binding legal contract which provides that all four parties to the contract will not go to court or use threats of court to solve the dispute. If the collaborative law process fails, both lawyers and their firms must withdraw from acting for their respective clients and the clients must start again with new litigation lawyers.

This process creates an incentive for a solution that works for everyone, which means that in our experience as specialist family lawyers, it has the best probability for success.

Settle by Sunday came about as we reflected on what clients need and what they want from us.

The feedback we hear from people who have been through the family law process was that:

  1. The family law negotiation process was lengthy (sometimes feeling indefinite) and expensive;
  2. They were unhappy that their lawyer had encouraged them to go to Court; and
  3. They wanted everything to be over and done with as quickly as possible.

Even if a couple think that they are a long way from a resolution now, the statistics say that only 5% of the matters filed in court actually end up going to a final hearing — so a judge isn’t actually determining the outcome for 95% of those couples. By the time a couple eventually settles out of court, they’ve already incurred the significant wait times and legal costs that come with filing a matter at court.

This means that the significant majority of family law matters resolve with a negotiated outcome; even if a couple needs a little help getting there.

There are a lot of people who think they can’t reach a settlement by themselves but with the right expert help, you can avoid the court process and get your matter resolved within a timeframe that works for you.

We’re specialists – we only do what we are good at. We use a network of trusted referrers to help you, but we stick to what we’re best at.

We’re client focussed. We treat you like a person and not like a case. We want to discuss with you how we can best help you (like a doctor, not a mechanic).

We collaborate. We commit to helping you reach agreement without taking you to court.

We’re offering our clients fee flexibility. We tailor our service to meet your needs. We offer certainty about fees, all the time.

Generally, lawyers negotiate on their client’s behalf through a combination of letters and phone calls with the other party’s lawyer.

Preparing written communication takes time, and can often lead to miscommunication. By having everyone in one place you can correct and clarify any misunderstandings on the spot and keep the momentum going.

Before the weekend

First, you and your lawyer will have an initial meeting to discuss your broad needs, hopes, concerns, and gather information about your situation. It is important that you have a solid understanding of the process and that your lawyer understands what your needs and wants are. It is vital we all have the information we need to negotiate fairly.

We might also ask for certain documents after the meeting so we can better prepare for the Collaboration. It may be that we have a short four-way meeting together before the weekend.

On the weekend

On the weekend you will have a series of meetings with your lawyer and four-way meetings with the other party and their lawyer. Depending on your needs we may also schedule meetings with an independent account and/or child & family specialist.

All four-way meetings in the Collaborative Law Process always follows the same steps:

  1. Identify what is important to each client (interests);
  2. Identify what questions the clients need to answer;
  3. Gather information;
  4. Create the maximum number of choices;
  5. Evaluate options and modify and refine them;
  6. Negotiate to an acceptable agreement; and
  7. Closure.

It is designed to be an intensive process, but there will also be plenty of breaks for meals and rests.

At the end of the weekend

Once an agreement is reached both lawyers will work on drafting your agreement and have it ready by the end of the day. Each of you will be able to sign off on them if you are happy with the agreement.

Our team will then file your agreement with the Court (if applicable) and make sure that all the legal requirements to put your agreement into effect are in order.

After the weekend

At a later time, as agreed between the two of you, there might need to be some further paperwork (for example a property transfer) for you both to sign to comply with your agreement and put it into effect. We will make sure that you understand what this looks like at the end of the weekend.

Mediation is a dispute resolution process where a mediator (an independent third party specially trained in helping two parties reach an agreement) facilitates communication between you and your former partner in the hope of reaching an agreement.

During a family law mediation, you and your former partner (and your legal representation if you choose to have representation) will discuss both parties’ wishes and try to come to an agreement that suits both parties and any children involved. Depending on the type of mediation, you can discuss all aspects of your dispute in a mediation including property settlement and arrangements for the children as well as other issues which you might not normally bring up in court, for example who gets to keep the cat, the children’s time with their friends or the baby’s feeding and sleeping routines.

Unlike a Judge or Registrar at Court, the mediator is not able to impose a decision on you or your former partner. Mediation is all about coming to an agreement together. It puts you in the control seat and enables you to make sure that all of your concerns have been addressed.

It may be that there are some issues that you are unable to reach agreement on. If there are outstanding issues, we can draft what we have reached agreement on and work out the finer points after the weekend. This may be through a further meeting or through arbitration.

Your lawyer will discuss this scenario with you in more detail, in the event it arises.

All of our Settle by Sunday programs are tailored to your needs as a separating couple and we will offer you a fixed fee for the service.

During your first meeting, your lawyer will talk to you about your needs and come back to you with a tailored package with fixed prices depending on:

  1. Whether you need the involvement of accountants or child & family specialists;
  2. The complexity of issues relating to your asset pool; and
  3. The complexity of your children’s issues.

You can also let us know if you have a particular preference for location, hotel, or other activities. Our team will do their best to cater to your needs and wishes.

Our fixed fee rates for the weekend will be more cost effective than if the process was prolonged by corresponding between lawyers separately and you were charged you an hourly rate. This is because an intensive collaborative process has all of the stakeholders at the table; so the time spent communicating between you and your lawyer, and your lawyer and the other party’s lawyer is significantly reduced.