How to Settle Your Family Law Matter…and Avoid Going to Court

7 February 2024

Ways To Formalise Your Agreement in Family Law

If you and your former partner can reach an agreement in principle about how to divide your property and financial resources, you can save an enormous amount of time, money and the stress of being in the Court system.  After agreed, making it legally binding, means you have peace of mind knowing you have covered yourself in the future for any possible claims against your current entitlement assets as well as for your future assets.

There are various methods of alternative dispute resolution, to help you settle your matter out of Court, if you don’t want to negotiate directly with your former partner on your own. One of these methods is Mediation/Family Dispute Resolution.  There is also the Collaborative Law method.  One of the most common, quick and effective methods- is Private Mediation involving only your lawyers together with each of you.  Private Mediation can be held in separate conference rooms or conducted remotely, otherwise  or together in the same room.

Once an agreement has been reached, you can make it legally binding in two ways:

– a compliant financial agreement, or

– consent orders.

What are Financial Agreements?

A Financial Agreement, also known as a Binding Financial Agreement, is a legal agreement that can be made during any stage of a relationship including after separation or divorce.  A financial agreement allows parties to make a contract which legally formalises a financial settlement.  It can be done either after a relationship has broken down, or even during a relationship before separation (planning for the unfortunate contingency should the relationship break down in future. A financial agreement can help parties avoid going to court to deal with the division of their property upon separation, saving time, money, and stress.

What are Consent Orders?

A consent order is a legal written agreement that is approved by a Court and made into an actual Court Order.   Unlike a financial agreement, consent orders can include binding custody and access orders as well. Although made in chambers and not open court, Consent Orders have the same legal effect as if they had been made by a judicial officer after a court hearing has taken place. Consent orders can finalise all agreements for child parenting arrangements as well as final property settlement and spousal maintenance, without attending court, thus saving you time, stress, and money.

How to Make Your Separation Agreements Binding and Valid

Rule 10.15(2) of the Family Law Rules requires that a draft consent order before being approved by the court and given a formal seal, should:

– set out clearly the orders that the parties want the Court to make; and

– state that it is made by consent; and

– be signed by each of the parties, and

– if made after court proceedings have already started, it must be accompanied by additional copies of the order so that there is a copy for each person to be served and an additional copy for the court each of which is certified by the applicant’s lawyer, or by each party to the application, as a true copy.

For a binding financial agreement to be valid, apart from the necessary legal technical references that must be included, there must be an independent solicitor certification on behalf of each party to confirm they understand the agreement is in effect contracting out of their rights to go to court to seek a different division of assets.

For legal advice about your personal situation contact our team of family lawyers.