We should blame the Hollywood movies with the separating couples dramatically threatening one another with the iconic line: “I’ll see you in court”.

As if “court” is the very first step in a break-up.

It’s not.

Increasingly people understand that court can be avoided in many separations … and that is absolutely the best way forward.

Avoiding the Family Court when separating saves money, time, stress, dignity, upset and a further collapse of the relationship which can make it impossible to co-parent successfully. Worst of all, important decisions about family’s futures are made by a judge who doesn’t actually “know” the family and has limited information, resources and time to predetermine their lives.

And now, with Covid-19 changing the world we live in forever, the family court system is becoming harder than ever to navigate.

THE AFFECT OF COVID-19 ON FAMILIES

No-one can get a handle on what’s happening in the world like Google, and an article from news.com.au discussing Covid-19 and separation explains that:

“Google searches for the term ‘divorce’ surged to their highest point in 12 months at the end of June, surpassing the usual spike after Christmas and new year.”

Note: The actual rate of breakups could be much higher when considering those in de facto relationships.

So, separation rates are rising now and expected to continue rising well into the future as a consequence of the Coronavirus.

This comes as no surprise.

Families find themselves under overwhelming stress as they cope with unpredictability across many areas of their lives, including lockdowns, home-schooling, isolation, restrictions and financial and career uncertainty. For many, it is all too much as they buckle under the strain of the present and the prospects and worries for the future.

HOW CORONAVIRUS IS IMPACTING THE FAMILY COURT SYSTEM

Again, it comes as no surprise that as separation and divorce rates increase, so does the need for support.

However, with a family court system that was gridlocked pre-Covid, it has minimal capacity for the increased number of preempted cases. This will result in longer delays with cases being dragged out over months, even years – a situation that many couples are already experiencing on the Family Court circuit.

In fact, with such a backlog, it is expected that only cases of an urgent nature involving children or domestic abuse will get through. Should your case be related to financial separation only, wait times could be extortionate. Such increased wait-times can cause extra problems and further costs due to the impact of Covid-19 on financial separation now and in the future such as the transient state of the economy and lack of financial foresight.

FAMILY LAWYERS AND CORONAVIRUS

Family lawyers are set to see increased work due to these drastic forecasts for family breakups, and this combined with the frustrations around Family Court wait times, will make their work particularly challenging and drawn out, at the client’s expense.

Unless a couple is unable to communicate to any extent about their financial separation, hiring separate lawyers that may escalate your case to a Family Court, is unnecessary, costly and possibly inefficacious, especially in times of Covid-19.

COVID COMPLICATES YOUR PROPERTY SETTLEMENT

With Coronavirus upon us, property settlements just became even more complicated. So much so, that many Family Lawyers are unable to advice on financial matters in a manner that is in the best interests of their clients.

Asset valuations are ever-changing influencing the asset pool, which is the most important starting point in any financial separation. Future expenses are harder to predict with less job security, and superannuation just hit a new high on the complexity scale with many people taking advantage of the Coronavirus Super Early Access option.

If a Family Lawyer’s expertise does not reach far enough into this financial minefield, they will have to take advice from a specialised separation accountant, most likely at a cost to their client.

HOW BEST TO AVOID LAWYERS AND THE FAMILY COURT

It is possible to avoid using lawyers for your property settlement.

Firstly, we recommend ex-couples try to find common ground to discuss their separation and to get an idea of what they would like the end result to be. Communication and amicability between ex-couples is a sure-fire way to save time and to secure an outcome where both parties have more money to begin their new lives.

Next, get professional support from a separation accountant, such as Divide, to discuss options and determine the most economic and fairest way forward. Working as a team with an accountant and each other, rather than against one another with separate lawyers will achieve better results in nearly all cases.

A specialist separation accountant is able to formalise a financial settlement by submitting it to the Family Court for approval and applying for consent orders. A consent order is an agreement between parties that is approved by the Family Court and then becomes a court order. This process does not require attendance at court, instead it is a paperwork formality to make an agreement legally binding.

Not only is this a speedier process but by avoiding lawyers and possible court, the relationship is more likely to remain healthy allowing both parties to move forward as co-parents. This is especially important when navigating co-parenting during Covid-19.

And … instead of two separate lawyer’s bills, there is only one bill to be paid by both parties. Bonus!

If you would like discuss separation without lawyers with Divide, feel free to book a free chat with us.

 

Belinda Eldridge
Posted by Belinda Eldridge
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