Resolving disputes

Resolving disputes

You and your former partner may have decided to separate, but have trouble agreeing on things, like property and money matters, or arrangements for your children.

Sometimes people go to court over disputes, but in many cases there are alternatives to court, such as family dispute resolution and mediation, that can help you and your former partner to come to an agreement. This video has information about a number of different ways to resolve disputes and where to get help.

This video is part of the When separating series of videos.

Watch this video


Text: When separating. Resolving disputes. Victoria Legal Aid Lawyers And Services.

[Gentle acoustic music plays]

[Vision shows of a young couple and an older couple having discussions with their lawyers as a male speaker begins a voiceover.]

Male speaker: Have you recently separated from your partner? You may be wondering, “What do I do now?” A lot of people think they have to go to court when they separate.

[The male speaker appears on screen as a young man wearing a white open–collared shirt and standing in front of a white background as he addresses the camera.]

[Vision shows of an older middle–aged woman sitting with a young lawyer who is smiling and writing in a notebook.]

[Vision shows of a small, sparsely occupied courtroom with the camera positioned behind the judge.]

[Vision shows of the older middle–aged couple sitting at a living–room table and going through paperwork. ]

[Vision shows of the man from the young couple sitting attentively in a discussion. A computer desk sits in the background.]

Male speaker: In reality, most people end up working things out without needing to ask the court for help. Let’s take a look at four different ways you can go about making arrangements for children and property division after a separation. The ones we’ll focus on here are negotiation, family dispute resolution, collaborative law and litigation.

Text: Negotiation

Text: Family Dispute Resolution

Text: Collaborative Law

Text: Litigation

Male speaker: Have you been talking with your former partner?

Text: Negotiation

[Vision shows of the older middle–aged couple sitting at a living–room table and going through paperwork. The camera pans out and the male voiceover is standing in the foreground of the kitchen, while the couple continue their discussion in the background.]

Male speaker: Perhaps putting forward some ideas about what you can do about the children or the house? You’re negotiating. This can be a pretty flexible process and might involve sitting down with the other person, talking over the phone or writing letters or emails back and forth. You can negotiate with or without the assistance of a lawyer, however it’s always wise to get some legal advice first so you’re working with the best information possible.

[Vision shows of the older middle–aged man talking on a phone.]

[Vision shows of the older middle–aged woman typing an email.]

[Vision shows of the older middle–aged woman going through paperwork with a young lawyer.]

[Vision returns to the older middle–aged couple sitting at a living–room table and going through paperwork.]

Male speaker: If you need to sort out arrangements for your children, family dispute resolution can be a good option.

Text: Family Dispute Resolution

[Vision shows of the young couple sitting in a room while a legal practitioner stands at a whiteboard addressing them.]

[Vision shows the male speaker addressing the camera in the same room as the young couple.]

Male speaker: This process can also be used for sorting out property issues. It’s confidential and what goes on cannot be brought up in court later unless the law requires it. Family dispute resolution often takes the form of a mediation where the people involved sit around a table with a person called a mediator and try to reach an agreement. A mediator’s role is to ensure that each of you gets to discuss what’s important to you and facilitate constructive discussions, and the majority of people who attend family dispute resolution end up reaching an agreement.

Male speaker: Another way of sorting out your property and/or children’s issues is collaborative law.

Text: Collaborative Law

[The older middle–aged couple sit in discussion with their lawyers while the male speaker stands in the background addressing the camera.]

[A series of shots show the same occupants of the discussion room in different clothing, indicating a series of separate discussions.]

Male speaker: Collaborative law takes a team approach to problem solving. Each person and their lawyer agree not to go to court. If one person does go to court, then neither lawyer can continue working with the couple. This helps everyone to commit to sorting out the issues without court intervention or the threat of court. Negotiations are confidential and cannot be referred to later if you do go to court. This process will usually involve a series of face–to–face meetings between the people involved and their lawyers. The parties can jointly enlist the help of a psychologist, counsellor, financial adviser or other expert.

Text: Litigation

[Vision shows of a young man wearing a backpack and entering a courtroom. An older woman carrying a clipboard directs him to his seat and the proceedings begin. The camera pans out and the male speaker is standing at the back of the courtroom addressing the camera.]

Male speaker: Litigation means bringing court proceedings. Going to court can take a long time. It can get expensive and it’s often very stressful. Before you go to court about children it is usually compulsory to attend family dispute resolution. If you go to court, you’ll proceed through a number of formal steps controlled by a judge or magistrate. If you go all the way through to a trial, at the end a decision will be made for you. There is no fixed formula a court uses when making decisions about how much time a child spends with each parent or who gets what in a property settlement, so a particular outcome can never be guaranteed.

[Vision shows a series of different people interacting in different courtrooms.]

Male speaker: There are times that litigation is the best option. These usually involve matters where there is either a significant lack of information being made available, or urgency or risk. If you are unsure whether the Family Court should be your first option, go and talk to a lawyer who can help you decide what to do. And, if you have tried the alternatives and have not managed to come to an agreement, then you can ask the Family Court to assist. So, which road is right for you and your former partner? There are many things you’ll need to consider but you might want to start by asking yourself some questions like…

Text and Male speaker: Is it safe for me to meet one–on–one with my former partner? Am I concerned for my safety or my children’s safety? How well do my former partner and I communicate Do we trust what the other person says? Do I feel confident negotiating on my own or will I need someone to help me? Are there any complicated legal or financial issues, or particular issues about the children’s needs? How much is it going to cost and can I afford it? How long will it take? Is assistance available from Legal Aid or a community–based service?

Male speaker: It really is a good idea to get legal advice early on.

[Vision shows of the older middle–aged woman getting legal advice from a young lawyer.]

[Vision returns to the male speaker addressing the camera against a white background.]

Male speaker: A family lawyer can provide you with information relevant to your specific situation. Going to see a lawyer does not mean you have to go to court. A lawyer can be involved as much or as little as you want.

[Vision shows the older middle–aged couple sitting at a living–room table and going through paperwork.]

[Vision shows the younger couple having an amicable discussion.]

[Vision returns to the male speaker addressing the camera against a white background.]

Male speaker: Remember, even if you try one road and don’t resolve all your issues, you can always try another. If you are having trouble working through your issues relating to separation, it can be helpful to access extra support. Call Legal Aid for an appropriate referral, or access our website.

Text: Where to get help

Victoria Legal Aid Legal Help

Tel: 9269 0120 or 1800 677 402 (country callers)

For your nearest community legal centre:

Tel: 9652 1500

Family Relationship Advice Line

Tel: 1800 050 321

Text (next screen): The information in these films is a general guide to the law. You should not rely on these films as legal advice. It is recommended you talk to a lawyer about our particular situation. © 2012 Legal Aid WA. This film has been adapted from resources produced by the Legal Aid WA When separating project. Victoria Legal Aid thanks Legal Aid WA for permission to reproduce this content. This information is copyright. All persons or organisations wanting to reproduce this material should get permission from Legal Aid WA.