Family Law Blog

A Gold Medal Winning Property Settlement?

Posted by on 10 Aug 2012

The speed in which Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes reached a divorce settlement would surely have won "gold" in any family law Olympiad! Leaving the world, and more to the point, the world's media, stunned by the outcome, Tom and Katie have recently proven that not all divorces need end up in the Court system.

With the rate of divorce in Australia trending upwards (http://www.abs.gov.au/), and as many as two in every three marriages ending in divorce, a large portion of our population are now struggling with the impact of the breakdown of a relationship.

Despite the perception of greedy lawyers in television shows, the dramatised celebrity break-ups, or the interesting “spin” placed on stories in the media, there are some promising statistics available to those going through a difficult relationship breakdown. In particular, about 6% of all applications filed in the Australian family law courts are settled by consent and without the need for a Judge (or Federal Magistrate) to make a final decision.

As the Courts move towards compulsory mediation and family dispute resolution, the American-born model of "collaborative law” is also becoming increasingly successful for separated couples who want an efficient and individual-based resolution of their family law matter.

Avoiding the Court system and negotiating your own settlement can have significant advantages emotionally and financially.

The Sydney Morning Herald on 24 July 2012 reported on recent research that shows women are generally poorer, and men lonelier, after divorce (http://www.smh.com.au/national/women-poorer-men-lonelier-after-divorce-20120723-22kpd.html). The article summarises the available data in relation to a woman’s income and employment following the breakdown of a marriage. It suggests that while couples are not only dealing with the financial strain of re-establishing their lifestyles following the breakdown of a relationship, their ongoing financial circumstances will also take time to recover, if at all. This is particularly relevant when the divorce follows costly litigation in the family law courts.

Changing times give way to changing attitudes however, which is followed by adjusting the systems we have in place. The good news for everyone is that there are options now for couples to negotiate their own settlement, independently of the Court. Mediation and family dispute resolution practitioners can help couples take control of their own issues and determine their own settlement. Whilst the financial stakes may not be as high as in the Cruise/Holmes matter, we can follow their approach and negotiate a settlement that both parties are happy with.