Collaborative Family Lawyers & Mediators | Finding a solution for your family
Family breakdown, separation, divorce, child custody disputes and property settlement negotiations can cause an incredible amount of strain and can come at a huge expense both emotionally and financially.
At Stanfords Solicitors and Mediators, we partner with you in planning an approach and mediate to resolve issues promptly, cost effectively and where possible, without litigation.
The Family Law Act provides for a range of methods as to how you can reach a solution, negation, mediation, collaboration, litigation or arbitration. The end result of any agreement can be formalised as either a Parenting Plan, Parenting Orders, Consent Orders and Financial Agreements reflecting an adjustment of property are just a few.
Each family has its own unique requirements and our team will take the time to understand your situation and develop a solution to suit your family.
Our Family Law clients come from many varied situations and have often suddenly found themselves in unfamiliar circumstances which require ongoing guidance and support. That’s where we excel and we’ve helped hundreds of families in this way since 2000.
Where you have already reached an agreement and want that agreement to be formalised we offer a fixed fee service.
Family Law Alternatives
We are able to assist our clients negotiate and reach a settlement using one of the following methods:
Collaborative Practice, or Collaborative Law as it is also know, is our favourite method of dispute resolution. This is where the parties and their lawyers form a team in order to reach a solution that is right for the family as a whole. Each party retains their lawyer and the legal advice and support that comes with a lawyer.
The parties and lawyers enter into an agreement. The agreement sets out the rules of negotiation and most importantly for clients, a condition whereby the lawyers agree not to continue to represent their clients should the matter proceed to contested court proceedings in the future.
This act of good faith by all parties shows a true desire by both the parties and the lawyers to reach an agreement and resolve all the issues that the parties are facing. The Collaborative process also allows the involvement of other collaborative practitioners known as “neutrals” such as accountants, financial planners, and child family psychologists. The benefit is that as a team we can discuss and reach agreement on things that the Courts normally wouldn’t be involved in such as questions relating to who will pay the electricity bill? Who will pay for the internet or pay tv? How should the parties communicate about issues relating to a joint investment or the children’s health or education, how do the parties want the children introduced to future partners, whose birthday is going to be important (grandparents, cousins, family friends etc) and can the family attend celebrations together. All of those day to day questions that impact the future life and well being of the parties that a Court wouldn’t usually have time to address in any detail that would improve your life.
The result of any agreement reached during the collaborative process can be formulated into consent orders to be made by the Court. This agreement and the consent orders that follow are private and not reported as a decision of the Court.
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This is a process where the parties and their lawyers come together with an independent mediator of the party’s choice or via a family relationship centre . The role of the mediator is to assist and facilitate discussions so that the parties are able to reach an agreed position. This usually occurs in one meeting but it can be more. If the parties are unable to reach an agreed position, the parties can commence legal proceedings. A mediator cannot impose any “ruling” or make any “orders”.
If the parties are unsuccessful in reaching an agreement, the mediator/family dispute practitioner can issue a certificate pursuant to section 60I of the Family Law Act to certify that the parties attempted to resolve their dispute. The parties may then commence legal proceedings.
The Legal Aid Commission of NSW sometimes assists parties seeking mediation or what is sometimes referred to as a “litigation conference” or “early intervention conference” by funding the costs associated with the conference. To see if you are eligible, please feel free to complete an application and deliver it to our office with the required documents (outlined on the application) and we will make an application on your behalf. You can obtain an application for a grant of legal aid by visiting www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au.
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Once formal Court proceedings have commenced or before Court proceeds have commenced, parties and their lawyers can agree to step out of the regular court list and opt for the services of a private arbitrator. This process is faster than waiting for a trial date in either the Family Court or the Federal Magistrates Court (between 12 to 18 months wait).
The arbitrator’s award is binding upon the parties in the same way in which a decision of the Court would be binding. Just as the decision of the Court can be appealed, so can a decision of an arbitrator on a question of law. The result of any arbitration is private and not reported as a decision of the Court. In essence, you are hiring your own private court room.
Arbitration is flexible and can be completed, including the hearing and the award by the Arbitrator delivered in as little as 2 or 3 months. It is the fasted way to receive a decision if you can’t reach an agreement with you partner. Kelly Stanford has written an article about her experience as an Arbitrator. Click here to read the article.
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Today prior to commencing court proceedings, parties are required to comply with what is known as “pre-action procedures”. In disputes relating to parenting the parties are required to attempt to mediate any dispute with an authorised “family dispute practitioner”. Parties are not permitted to have their lawyer present if this process is undertaken at one of the Australian Government funded “Family Relationship Centres”. See Mediation
However, parties are permitted to seek legal advice prior to attending the centre and can seek legal advice prior to entering into any agreement reached during the process. If the parties are unsuccessful in reaching an agreement, the family dispute practitioner can issue a certificate pursuant to section 60I of the Family Law Act to certify that the parties attempted to resolve their dispute. The parties may then commence legal proceedings.
If a dispute relates to property the parties are required under the Family Law Act to provide each other with financial disclosure. This ensures that the parties enter into any negotiations with a clear understanding of what the assets and liabilities are of each of the parties and discussions can then be had as to what asset or liability will form part of the parties “property pool”.
Once litigation is commenced, there are lengthy Court delays and a long and emotional road ahead for the parties. The team at Stanfords are experienced in assisting our client’s through this process and explaining each step along the way so that we ease the burden of our client’s who allow us to do the worrying for them. When you engage Stanfords you become part of a team that wants to resolve your legal issue as fast as possible with the least amount of angst for you.
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