Divorce, separation, conscious uncoupling. All result in the dissolution of a relationship, almost half of which involve children. Luckily, there are many resources available to families and individuals facing the daunting tasks of divorce and separation.
Alternative Family Dispute Resolution
Many families seek to avoid actually going to court if at all possible, especially when children are involved. The benefits to resolving issues outside of the court system are numerous, including cost-effectiveness, lower impact on emotional/mental health of all involved (particularly children), efficiency, increased involvement in the process, an opportunity for closure.
When children are involved, the couples involved in family disputes will be required to maintain a relationship for the duration of the child’s life. Often, by resolving conflicts outside of court, ex-partners are afforded the opportunity to avoid bitterness and are encouraged to uphold civility through communication and collaboration for the benefit of their children.
A lawyer will often be necessary to successfully resolve family law dispute matters. Primarily, the role of a lawyer might include representation before, during, and after mediation, negotiation, or court appearance.
In a negotiation, a lawyer may be used to go between the parties or simply to help make the agreements legally binding. In mediation, lawyers can help you understand your situation more clearly and explain legal implications. Though, because generally these are facilitated by one or more impartial mediators, you may need to check with the mediation service to see if you are able to have your lawyer actually present during the mediation. If no agreement can be reached, you will be forced to take your case before a Family Law Court who will determine the issues for you.
Your Family Lawyer will listen to your concerns and help separate the emotional concerns from the legal ones, while still representing your rights as best they can.
A mediator is an impartial party who helps both sides explore options in the interest in coming to an agreement. The mediator’s main goal is to focus on the welfare of the children, putting their best interests at the forefront of the discussion, though both parties must agree to any point in the Parenting Plan or Consent Order.
In many cases, courts will not hear a case with children unless you have already explored the options of Family Dispute Resolution.
A mediator cannot pick sides and will focus not on representing you, but on facilitating an agreement that is satisfactory to both parties and is in the best interests of the children.
There are some exceptions to the requirement to participate in Family Dispute Resolution prior to commencing proceedings. You should seek legal advice about those exceptions if there are issues of abuse or family violence.
Counsellors & Support Services
Unsurprisingly, many who find themselves in these circumstances experience strong, often negative emotions and most parents are very concerned about the impact of these proceedings on their children. Children are sensitive to the breakdown of a family unit, especially when they are young. It is often a good idea for children and parents to seek counselling or other support services to help ease the emotional burden and prevent further psychological distress.
Though extremely personal and often surrounding the most difficult and emotional trials of life, these situations can result in many complex legal issues. In this vulnerable time, it is advisable to seek the help of a legal professional familiar with Family Law to help navigate the troubled waters many find themselves left adrift in.