LawTalk Blog

How can I settle my family law dispute without going to court?

How can I settle my family law dispute without going to court?

At Andersons we strive to settle our clients’ family law disputes without going to court.

Our family lawyers know that by settling out of court, much time, stress and money can be saved. Going through a dispute about a property settlement or in relation to the living arrangements of children can be a very stressful time and people do not need the added stress or financial strain of taking their matter through the court system unless it is absolutely necessary.

"Once in court it can then take several years to get to the end of the process."

If you do go to court you are not likely to get a first hearing in court until about 1 to 2 months after you file in court; even if it is urgent!

Once in court it can then take several years to get to the end of the process. The preparation of the required court documents and attendance in court significantly increases the overall costs.

Given the benefits of settling matters out of court, our family lawyers try to finalise the majority of matters out of court. We do this by what is called alternative dispute resolution processes.

Alternate dispute resolution methods we use are:

Family Dispute Resolution (commonly referred to as FDR)

FDR is a confidential process where an accredited family dispute resolution practitioner assists people to resolve disputes where some or all of the issues that arise from separation and divorce.

This includes property settlement and childrens’ issues. There are a range of individuals and organisations such as Family Relationship Centres, community organisations, lawyers and social workers who provide FDR services.

Usually FDR is done without the parties being represented at the FDR however, a lawyer can still be required to give people advice beforehand and afterwards to legally draw up any agreement reached at FDR.

You might also find our article "What is Family Dispute Resolution?" helpful.


Mediation is usually done where each party and their legal representative meets and attempts to settle disputes about property and parenting with the assistance of a qualified mediator.

In family law there are a range of choices of independent mediators including senior family law practitioners or family law barristers.

Negotiation by letter

Sometimes parties can have difficulties reaching an agreement on their own.  A Family Lawyer can guide you through the legal process and negotiate on your behalf with the other party or their lawyer to reach an agreement.

Sometimes parties will reach a point in negotiations where they are at a standstill and it appears no other options but going to court will work. When that happens an informal conference can help the parties move forward and resolve the matter without court action. In these instances the parties and their legal representatives can meet (with no mediator in this case) to try and negotiate a settlement.

During the conference the lawyers will represent their client and the parties can either be in the same room or in different rooms and they can discuss possible outcomes and put forward offers and counter offers in an attempt to reach an agreement.

If an agreement is reached, can it be formalised?

If an agreement has been reached, we can then assist you with drawing up the relevant documents to formalise the agreement reached, being either Consent Orders or a Binding Financial Agreement.

You can hear about Binding Financial Agreements on our YouTube Channel.

What happens if no agreement can be reached through these informal options?

Of course, there are some cases which unfortunately cannot be settled out of court and in those circumstances court proceedings will need to be instigated.

Such matters which might require court include urgent childrens’ issues where the safety of the child is at risk, matters which involve family and domestic violence, matters where one party has disappeared with a child or when the other party bluntly refuses to participate in attempting to resolve the matter.   

Please note, this Blog is posted in Adelaide, South Australia by Andersons Solicitors. It relates to Australian Federal legislation. Andersons Solicitors is a medium sized law firm servicing metropolitan Adelaide and regional South Australia across all areas of law for individuals and businesses.

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