For many people, the first thing that comes to mind when they think of divorce is a long, drawn-out, painful and expensive court case. But the reality is – you don’t have to go to court to get divorced! In fact, you really should look at it as an absolute last resort.
Many, many couples are able to divorce or separate without ever stepping foot in a court a room. And, in most cases avoiding going to court means that they:
- Finalise their separation or divorce sooner – and can get on with their lives.
- Are happier with the outcomes – property settlements and parenting arrangements.
- Part ways more amicably – the emotional and financial drain of going to court can be hard to recover from.
How to separate or divorce – without going to court
While you don’t have to go to court to get divorced – you really should get legal advice from an experienced Family Lawyer, BEFORE you agree to, or start negotiating a divorce or separation settlement with your partner.
This is because every case is different. Just because Georgia down the street walked away with the house and full time custody of the kids, doesn’t mean you will. The same as the fact that Lily and Brett ended up with a 50/50 split of everything, doesn’t mean that you will, or should for that matter. And, just because Google suggests you’re entitled to x, y and z – it doesn’t mean that you are.
Only an experienced Family Lawyer can look at your situation and provide you with advice and guidance as to what is and isn’t reasonable to expect. Once you have an idea of what to expect and what you want, there are a few different ways you can work with your partner to come to a divorce, separation or property settlement – without going to court.
Work it out between the two of you
Yes, it can be done. If you are both keen to separate or divorce amicably, you can reach an agreement yourselves. It could save you a lot of time, energy and money. And, if you can’t reach an agreement between the two of you, you can always take things a step further.
Use a mediator to reach an agreement
Many couples find mediation a great way to reach agreement quickly, amicably and cost-effectively. An experienced mediator will help you identify the things you see eye-to-eye on and work through the things that you don’t.
Get a lawyer to negotiate a settlement on your behalf
If you and your partner aren’t on good terms, or you haven’t been able to come to an agreement through mediation, then it may be wise to engage a lawyer to negotiate a settlement on your behalf. Family Lawyers do have a reputation for being ‘money hungry beasts that draw divorces out and make them cost a fortune’ – but I can assure you, we’re not all like that.
A good family lawyer will be focussed on helping you achieve a good outcome, quickly, so that you can move on with your life. They’ll be transparent about their costs and tell it like it is.
What if I can’t afford a lawyer?
If you don’t have money to pay for a lawyer, there are options available to you. Some lawyers will be prepared to be paid once you receive your settlement. You may also be able to borrow money from family or friends, or even access a loan from a litigation lender.
You should get your lawyer to provide you with regular updates on where the costs are at and also look to do as much ‘leg work’ as you can to reduce the amount of time your lawyer has to put in (time=money for lawyers).
How to find a good family lawyer
If you do decide to engage a lawyer, don’t just engage any lawyer. You should look for a lawyer that:
- Specialises in, or has extensive experience in family law.
- Offers mediation, as well as representation – this is a good indicator that their focus is on helping you achieve a good outcome.
- You feel comfortable with – you may need to share some personal information, you want someone who you are comfortable talking to.
- Who is going to put your interests first.
- Is transparent about their fees.
- Provides sound advice and doesn’t just tell you what you want to hear.
Often the best place to start is by asking family and friends or trusted advisors (like your accountant, psychologist, financial planner or counsellor). It doesn’t hurt to look for options on Google – but make sure you do your homework, look at reviews and don’t be afraid to meet with different lawyers until you find one that you’re comfortable with.
If you’re thinking about separating or getting a divorce, feel free to get in touch – we can help you to understand your different options and offer some valuable advice.