The information provided below is general in nature and should not be relied upon legal advice. You should call 03 5445 1000 and speak to a lawyer at OFRM about your particular circumstances.

Is court the only option? Other ways of resolving family law disputes

Is court the only option? Other ways of resolving family law disputes

The vast majority of Family Law disputes are resolved without a Judge needing to determine the matter.

In the Family Court in 2015/6 only 319 cases out of the 3017 cases commenced (that’s only 1%) ended up with a judge making the final decision.

The Federal Circuit Court had 17,523 applications for final family law orders in 2015/6 but of those, only 1,479 cases had the judge make the final decision – that’s less than 9%.

Obviously this means many family law cases are resolved before a final hearing. Even more family law disputes are resolved by negotiation without people having to even go to court.

With our Family Law courts facing severe lack of funding and delay, resolving matters without having to go to court is more important than ever. At OFRM our main aim is to help you resolve your matter as quickly and smoothly as possible — which usually means without going to court.

The Family Law system encourages settling out of court, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) or outcomes without requiring a judicial determination has long been a feature of the Family Law system.

For parenting disputes, it is mandatory for the parties to attempt to resolve their matter through mediation known as Family Dispute Resolution (FDR). There are some exceptions to this requirement such as genuine urgency and allegations of family violence or child abuse but in most instances you cannot commence court proceedings without participating in Family Dispute Resolution.

FDR can be great to resolve matters. Even if agreement is reached it is often a sueful process to narrow and define the issues. However, it is essential that prior to FDR you obtain your own independent legal advice.

For property disputes between separated couples, mediation including lawyers is an extremely effective way to reach agreement. Even parties that find themselves in Court for property disputes are required to participate in this form of dispute resolution and make all efforts to resolve the matter without needing to progress to a Trial.

While not common, the Family Law system also recognises arbitration as a form of dispute resolution whereby an appointed “Arbitrator” effectively determines the outcome after a relatively informal hearing.

This form of dispute resolution can be attractive to both parties if the alternative is a very long wait for the Court to be able to determine the matter by way of a Trial.

A Court Trial or Final Hearing should be seen as the last resort and other options for resolving the dispute should be explored. Ultimately, it will depend upon the issues in dispute and it must be said, the attitude of the other party to the dispute as to what form of dispute resolution would work and the likelihood of its success.