Although many people assume that their family law matter will end up in court, this doesn’t have to be the case, and it can often be in your best interests to settle your case before this point, saving you time, money and stress in the process. By settling your case and entering into a Financial Agreement or Consent Orders, you’re keeping the outcome of your matter in your own hands, and the process is often far more amicable than if litigation begins.
However, this doesn’t mean that resolving your matter is necessarily easy, and it also doesn’t mean that you should sign a Consent Order or Financial Agreement that isn’t right for you. In this post, we will help you understand when to fight and when to settle your case.
Set ‘red lines’ and areas for compromise to help make a decision
Lawyers, like their clients, want matters to be resolved as quickly as possible in a cost-effective manner.
For this reason, before you begin the process, you should discuss any limits with your lawyer and let them know what you believe is a ‘just outcome’ for your dispute. In turn, your lawyer will be able to give you advice as to what your likely entitlements are and what a ‘just and equitable’ outcome might look like.
Your/your lawyers view of what is just and equitable may be different to your partner’s/the advice they have received, but by being clear with your lawyer from the beginning, you can set realistic goals for settlement that you can both work towards as a team.
Remember that as negotiations progress, you may have to give something up to get something back. This may involve giving up ownership of one asset in exchange for another. Alternatively, this might involve settling for less than you had hoped for in order to avoid the time and costs associated with lengthy litigation.
So, to give yourself the best possible chance of settling sooner rather than later, make a list of outcomes you’d be willing to accept beforehand, as well as things you’re not willing to compromise on.
By setting these ‘red lines’ and preparing in this way, you’ll be better placed to accept or reject an offer, and you’ll have someone to help advise you either way based on prior conversations and bearing in mind practicalities (e.g. what you can realistically afford to do/retain).
Remember though, ultimately the decision is in your hands and nobody can force you to accept or reject any offer for settlement.
Avoid the idea of ‘getting it over with’
Family law matters can often be mentally draining and emotionally difficult. Nobody enters a relationship with the intention of it ending, but sadly, this is sometimes the reality. Once your relationship ends, it’s more than likely that you’ll just want to ‘get it over with’ and move on with the rest of your life.
At times like this, it’s easy to give in and give the other person what they want. However, if you make this decision while you’re still in a stage of grief or denial, then you’re only likely to regret it further down the line – a sort of ‘buyer’s remorse’ of family law settlements.
For this reason, before you sign any documentation or consider responding to or making any offers to or from your former partner and their legal representatives, you should seek legal consultation about whether that proposal is right for you.
Ask your lawyer for advice
Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of a family law matter, it can be simple to slip into a ‘me versus my ex’ mentality. If this happens, it can be easy to focus more on ‘sticking it to the other person’ than getting a deal that’s right for you.
Yes, it may be true that you may get slightly more if you go to court. However, it could be that the other party has made a reasonable offer because they want to move on with their lives, just as you do.
If your ex-partner makes you an offer, you should consult with your lawyer immediately. They will be best placed to determine whether the offer you’ve received is fair and is acceptable. If the offer falls in the realm of what a court would order, your lawyer will be able to advise you of that and may encourage you to accept it to avoid further litigating the matter – either in court or by correspondence.
Analyse the commercial sense of fighting on
When an offer is made and you’re thinking about fighting on, consider how much you’re reasonably likely to gain from continuing to fight the case verses how much it will cost you to continue to fight the case, both financially and emotionally, and in terms of time.
For example, it is not worth fighting over an asset or payment of $20,000 if you are going to spend $20,000 in legal fees to get there.
In instances such as this, it may be worth compromising, unless the item has a high level of sentimental value, which makes it far more valuable to you than its commercial price suggests. As a general rule, you should try to avoid litigation at all costs, as it’s risky, time consuming and expensive. However, ultimately, only you know whether fighting or settling is the best option for you based on your circumstances and the advice of your lawyer.