“I personally found family mediation far more successful than using family lawyers. Mediation centres around your emotional well-being rather than billable hours. You walk away with positive results and an amicable relationship with your ex, which is the best outcome where children are involved. I’ve tried both family court and mediation and would recommend family mediation without hesitation, not just for the lower costs but the emotional support too.
The family court system through family lawyers is not a transparent process. The law firm which acts on your behalf doesn’t care about your emotional or financial situation. They sell the idea of a quick and easy fix that begins with a letter and ends with you gaining financially. The lawyer will encourage you to speak to them about anything that bothers you and ask any questions that you may have, which are billed for at a substantial cost later down the track.
Initially, the lawyer gives you a sales pitch and talks you through a pathway and gets you to pay a retainer in the thousands, often with the idea that you can win up to 75% of your costs back from your ex if you should end up in court. You walk away thinking that what has been put out on the table will be covered in the agreed retained amount and that you will get the results in your favour. What they don’t tell you is the work performed is always above and beyond what you have retained them for. The law firm then sends you invoices for thousands of dollars with very little time to pay and now you’re fighting a nasty battle with your ex and their lawyer. An application to the court in my case was estimated at $20,000 above what had already been paid.
This process is highly stressful and you make emotive decisions which aren’t necessarily the ones you would normally make."
“I first entered the Family Court system in June 2014. It is now May 2019 and I am still fighting for shared care. In the 5 years spent as a self-represented parent, I have had to come to terms with an absolute minefield of forms, the preparation of affidavit upon affidavit, and schooling myself in Family Law legislation. I have estimated that if I had engaged a lawyer at the start of the proceedings, I would easily have a bill upwards of $200 000 by now. I estimate that even just representing myself in Court I’d still have spent close to $70,000.
My health has suffered and in 2016 I had a serious stroke. The stress caused by the past 5 years cannot be easily explained unless you have been through it. Our children have also been impacted, spending the past 5 years being ‘bounced around’ in care and I hope they suffer no long-term effects.
When people mention the words ‘Family Court’ what often first comes to mind is the obvious high financial cost. What people also don’t realize is the high mental and physical impact. I don’t care whether a parent is self-represented or not; the stress of being in limbo for possibly years on end is no way to live your life and certainly can be detrimental to your children’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem. The truth is that Family Court should be viewed as an absolute last resort and for parents who can’t or won’t communicate.
I would encourage any separated couple with children to try as hard as they can to avoid Family Court proceedings at all costs. Any genuine service offered that can mediate a solution with the goal of having consent orders ‘stamped’ by Family Court is both an investment in time, money and your health. My strong advice is to get in and get it done as quickly as you can. You communicated just fine when you were together for all those years. You can surely do it for a few more hours…the alternative is an absolute nightmare.
Put your emotions behind you and your children in front."
My Separation story:
“My ex-partner and I had what I would call a pretty good relationship after we separated. We could communicate about the children face to face, we met each other’s new partners and on days or nights, we had events to attend we would swap our agreed time very easily. I remember talking to him about his stressors of not being able to find a new job and making sure we had the same structure in place for our children.
Then a few years in, my ex moved away. We had different ideas regarding the time he would have with our children, which can happen no big deal I am sure we would reach a compromise as we always had but then he spoke to a lawyer and started Court Proceedings.
I was served an affidavit and our life of 13 years, all the bad bit and none of the good, was written there for the world to see, I went from being a person he used to love and a great parent to the worst person in the world. Every fight, every family trauma right there in black and white.
The first day standing in front of the Judge was one I will never forget, two people who use to be married now on different sides of a Court with a Judge now in charge of your life.
Lawyer costs were too expensive for me, I was quoted $60,000-$80,000 if this went to a trial. I didn’t have this money. This first $5000 was going to be used to just write my response document and file it to Court, not even enough for the first Court appearance. The hourly rate back then was $550 an hour and every minute was billed. He had a lawyer and her communication was purely to create conflict not to help us resolve this.
The Court process was lengthy and horrific. The family report process was stressful for our children. The report writer dismissed any of my concerns. I had no say in what was best for our children. In the end, the recommendations that she wrote were not suitable for either of us.
This Court process went on or 5 years. Not the 12 months they promise you, but even 12 months of the stress involved would be too much.
Nobody explains the emotional burnout and stress. Your whole life while this is going on is all about fighting. Nobody understands the pain unless they have lived it.
I wish there had been an option back then that would have saved my time, my health and most importantly the wellbeing of our children. These days as a result of Court my ex-partner and I do not communicate at all, we do not sit near each other at our children’s events, there is no relationship and the children feel this and suffer.
Please do everything you can to stay out of this system. It costs you more than money. You and your children are important, we only get one life I wouldn’t waste any of it in this system ever again."