In the context of family law disputes, unfortunately for many, the default position is to seek legal help and pursue a resolution through litigation. Whilst this approach is largely borne out of people simply not knowing all of their options, it can be a dangerous and expensive approach.
Australia’s Family Law Act 1975 recognises financial agreements made between married or de facto couples before, during or after their relationship as legally binding documents. Provided each party signed the agreement and received legal and financial advice before making it, the agreement will cover what is to happen regarding specific financial matters if and when the relationship breaks down.
What’s perhaps less well known is that mediation is an effective way for these agreements to be negotiated to ensure a fair and equitable outcome for both people in the relationship. Our Brisbane mediation experts are specialists in financial agreements achieved through mediation.
What do financial agreements cover?
A financial agreement can deal with a number of issues in the unfortunate event of a relationship ending, including:
- Financial settlement (including superannuation entitlements);
- maintenance and/or child support of one spouse by the other;
- any incidental financial issues.
Some couples may choose to include these arrangements under a broader (or complementary) property settlement that covers such assets as the family home, cars, household effects, jewellery and clothing, but also shares in a business, superannuation and investment properties. It may also address what happens with liabilities from the relationship such as mortgage and credit card debts.
What are the advantages of mediation in making a financial agreement?
When couples separate, sorting out financial affairs and division of property from the relationship is often an emotional and fractious experience. In worst-case scenarios it ends up in litigation, with all of the expense and conflict that accompanies the court process.
Family law mediation to achieve a workable financial agreement allows both parties in a relationship to take control of the decisions to be made in a collaborative, co-operative way. It’s also more cost-effective and quicker than court, and generally allows both parties to maintain a civil connection with one another despite the relationship ending. The mediation process allows for both parties to contribute to the resolution of their financial issues in a fair and equitable way.
Find a mediator
The practitioners in our Brisbane family law mediation office have wide experience in conducting mediations for separating couples. We have the advantage of also being family lawyers so can advise not only on the best way to negotiate a financial agreement but also ensure it is legally compliant and enforceable.
One way to do this is to formalise a financial agreement by applying for a consent order from the court, without you needing to go through the court process. A consent order is a written agreement that both parties agree to abide by and has the same effect as a court order made by a judicial officer after a court hearing. The order can deal with property and financial matters such as transfer or sale of a property, splitting of superannuation, and child and spousal maintenance.