What does ‘Settle by Sunday’ mean in Family Law?

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Wasn’t that a movie in the 80s?

We don’t think so, but maybe it should have been.

While the granting of divorce orders for a married couple can only be done by a court order, there are other aspects of a relationship separation that can be agreed upon. Finances and property, parenting of children, visitation rights – these are some of the things that a couple can decide between them.

That said, under Australian Family Law, before filing in Court for parenting orders, an attempt at Family Dispute Resolution must be made. There are exceptions to this, one being where a couple has arrived at mutually agreed arrangements and are simply wishing to ratify those arrangements by applying to the court for consent orders.

This all raises the issue of couples finding agreement of their own accord. Litigation – going to court – can be a lengthy process. That potentially means a long, costly, and stressful process that can drag on and on when both parties are just wanting to move ahead with their lives. Importantly, only around one in twenty cases end up being decided by the court – in most instances, the parties come to mutually agreeable terms before that happens.

Why not look for a way to facilitate that outcome, rather than endure a drawn-out and stressful period before ending up at essentially the same point?

Settle by Sunday

The concept of Settle by Sunday is a way of getting both parties, their respective lawyers, perhaps a mediator, an expert in child support, finance expert, all together over a two- or three-day timeframe with only one aim: to lock in a mutually agreeable set of arrangements by Sunday evening.

A couple of terms need highlighting here:

  • Mediation – in this process an independent mediator will act as a facilitator between the two parties (who may or may not have their lawyers present).
  • Collaborative Law – this may be a new term for some. It means that lawyers for both parties will act with only one aim, to negotiate between the four participants – the former parties to the relationship, and the two lawyers – to arrive at an outcome. There is no to and fro’ of letters, no point scoring, no threat of litigation. Indeed, if the end result is litigation, rather than agreement, it is binding that each party will need to retain new legal advice. This provides great motivation for lawyers to drive towards a mutually acceptable agreement.

Considerable preparation is done beforehand: including details of property and finance; and outlines of desired outcomes. The various participants then meet at an agreed, independent location – perhaps a large hotel or country retreat – neutral ground. It is paramount that both parties are enthusiastic about the process, and the desire to achieve an acceptable result, anything less dooms the weekend to failure before it begins. The time is outcome-driven with all parties laying their cards on the table for all to see, and all options available and free to be discussed in a transparent and supportive environment. The only desire is to satisfactorily agree, not to win at all costs – or perhaps, win-win for everyone!

 Key takeaway

Settle by Sunday: With all parties driving towards a fair and agreeable resolution, with all tools readily at hand in a neutral and supportive environment, it is quite possible to close the books on Sunday and forge ahead with a new life on Monday.

Family Law – outcome driven with Owen Hodge Lawyers. We are here to help. Contact us today if you have any questions about the issues raised in this article, or if you have any family law related queries. 

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