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Family Law: six critical things to have before seeking a settlement (Part 2)

As featured in The Jewish News on 26 April 2018. The Second of a two-part series, Daniel Myers shares his top six guidelines to achieving a smooth family law settlement. 

In last month’s article I shared part 1 of the guidelines I call “Six Critical Things to Have Before Seeking a Family Law Settlement, in summary being:

1. Be armed with legal information about what is a fair, appropriate or realistic outcome and what the strengths and weaknesses of the case are.

2. Have an understanding of your needs, fears and desires and that of your ex-partner.

3. Ensure you have an emotional support network, for example friends, family and, if necessary, a professional counsellor.

I now share Part 2 of my guidelines.

4. “Attack the problem, not the person” is a well-known line in the book, Getting To YES. Even in cases that end up in Court, it’s the most effective method of achieving both a favourable outcome as well as preserving relationships. In litigation, I help clients build a strategy that is focused on the things that will actually influence the result such as the legal “4 step-process” to dividing property, or the list of 16 criteria that make up the “best-interests” of children. Judges are never impressed by trivial point-scoring and want to be addressed on the things that matter. Having a strong and clear plan ensures you are less susceptible to being side-tracked every time the other party do or say something that’s upsetting or offensive.

5. If there are children involved, help shield them from any conflict as far as possible. Ongoing and unresolved conflict between parents is, according to the studies, the single biggest risk factor about the future welfare and development of children.

Professor Jennifer McIntosh, the renowned clinical child psychologist and developmental researcher, has written extensively about how bitter separations are linked to poor outcomes in terms of psychological, social, health, academic and economic domains, often well into adolescence and adulthood. For example, they’re more likely to use alcohol, cigarettes and drugs, to give birth as a teenager, to drop out of school early, to receive psychological treatment and to have earlier marriages with increased propensity to divorce. As noted by Professor McIntosh, parents should try to manage the risks and continue to provide a nurturing and stable presence.

If this sounds obvious or straightforward, in my experience even well-intentioned parents find it difficult to avoid exposing children of any age to these dangers when the conflict reaches a certain level.

The best approach I can recommend in these situations is one of prevention. The advantages of processes such as mediation compared to litigious avenues such as Court are demonstrated time and again.

6. Have the capacity to manage the conflict in a positive way. For example:

  1. Recognise the other party's perspective as well as their own.
  2. Be open to the possibility of making concessions and compromises if and when appropriate.
  3. Avoid automatically assuming or attributing negative intentions towards the other party's behaviour or communication.
  4. Focus on the bigger picture rather than get too caught up in minor detail (or too much detail generally) or relatively inconsequential matters.
  5. Communicate with the other party in a way that is constructive rather than damaging or harmful to the ongoing relationship.
  6. Avoid trying to impose an outcome on the other party. This is another fundamental principle of negotiation that is explored in the famous book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. This approach is not being “nice” or “soft”, but smart. It recognises built-in human traits that people are more likely to give ground or make concessions when they don’t feel bullied in making decisions and lose face by doing so. In short, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Please check out Part 2 of Daniel's guildelines and for more information, or for a complimentary one hour consulation regarding your family law concerns, contact Daniel Myers on 03 8673 5503 or or by email on dmyers@rbflinders.com.au.

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About the author

Daniel Myers
Principal Solicitor/Accredited Mediator

Daniel heads up the firm’s family law practice. Having grown up in Manchester, Daniel has been a proud Melbournian since 2007. He’s since practiced exclusively in all aspects of family law matters, including both simple and complex property and parenting disputes. Daniel’s experience also includes working for five years as a volunteer at the Fitzroy Legal Service family law clinic.

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