Separation and Divorce means wealth, not for you, but for the solicitors profiting off your distress.

When a couple separate, one of the first things they should do is visit a Family Mediator. These trained Mediators assist couples with their De Facto or Marriage Separation Agreement, Parenting Plan and Property division after a legal separation or divorce.

A Parenting Plan is a residence agreement, organised by the parents, usually in consultation with a trained Family Mediator, to organise the living arrangements for the children after the parents separate. This can then be made into a court order if parents feel the need.

It is alarming by the number of times I am contacted by one partner of the disengaged couple wanting to sort out their parenting arrangements, finances and property division through Mediation, while the other person has engaged a solicitor.

Some years back the Australian Government took a leap forward by training Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners (FDRP) Mediators, like me, to keep these family matters out of court. This not only saved considerable time and money for parents but reduced the conflict between the separated couple. It was envisaged that parents should be intelligent enough to sort out their issues regarding living arrangements for the children, with the help of a trained non-bias mediator.

Here is the link to the Australian Attorney General’s website to locate a local FDRP Mediator.

In most cases, this works extremely well. The separated couple attends the Mediation session, brings all their documentation and preferences of what they want and the reasons they want it, and it is tabled, discussed and decided. Of course, always with the best interest of the children as paramount.

It seems over the past couple of years; solicitors are persuading the parent who has contacted them, to proceed down the conflictual road of litigation. The pretence, of course, is to settle the matter outside court while the fact appears many do everything possible to create additional conflict to drive the matter into court. After months of battle, many of these parents finally give up, call me and their issue is sorted and decided, by them, within hours of meeting in the office. No long drawn out conflict, no stress, no huge amounts to pay, just attend the appointment, mediate their matters and leave with their Plan signed and agreed.

The most common remark I hear is usually “If I only knew or was told about this at first, there is no way I would have spent months and thousands of dollars with a solicitor for what you did in a few hours”. I hear their frustration and concur that it is usually so very avoidable.

I am often asked by clients ‘why didn’t my solicitor tell me or advise me to seek mediation first’. This is a good question as they are certainly supposed to. However, many unfortunately do not. The reason is simple – Money!!!

Family court matters are a major money earner for solicitors. Sure, everyone needs to make an income. However, I often question many of the ethical standards of solicitors as, according to numerous clients, they escalate the conflict in a bid to extend the settlement and agreement or drive it to court. Is this unethical or is this purely a business decision?

Keeping children away from the other parent for no other reason except because you can, is shocking, yet common. I receive calls every week from dad’s in distress because they have received a solicitor’s letter stating the mother of the children is now refusing to allow the father to see them, except perhaps on one day a fortnight. This occurs commonly after months of the parents having an agreed arrangement for the children spending every second weekend plus a night during the week, with the dad. Many unfortunately have not recorded it in writing, so it is he says she says.

Are solicitors representing the best interest of the children or playing the conflict game between the parents to escalate the issues? Solicitors do not seem to have any idea of the ramifications they are creating within the family unit, between the parents and between the children and parents. They have no training or knowledge of the fallout these innocent children suffer.

I continuously have children, both young and older, attending my Counselling rooms from the distress their parents have caused them due to these ongoing conflicts, often escalated via solicitors.

I urge ALL parents who have separated to stop, breathe, think and consider their behaviour before starting down the conflictual solicitor route. The saying ‘Solicitors and court equal war’ is unfortunately so right. Have you ever met a person ambling happily through their day or week with litigation awaiting? Of course not, court is a fight, there is a winner and a looser and none of us wants to lose. Therefore, we fight. The only winner in that is the solicitors. The parents, the finances nor the children ever win.

I urge all parents to consider first and foremost to attend a Mediation session with a non-bias mediator, appointed by the Attorney General’s department. Their link is here for you to search for one in your area. I do suggest to avoid any who are working as a solicitor or work within a solicitor firm, as this can be precarious.

An example of typical issues I continuously hear:

Couple one: Separated for 16 weeks. Since day one mum had the children Mon, Tues, Thur, Fri and every second weekend. Dad had them every Wednesday night then every second weekend Friday to Monday morning. A friend told the mother she should go to a solicitor to formalise the arrangement, she did. The solicitor told her she didn’t need to have the children with the father for so long and she would get more child support if he only had them on the Saturday night. This meant he could have them Saturday and Sunday every fortnight, but only one night as this is what Child Support is so stupidly is based upon. The solicitor sent the father a letter stating this new arrangement; the father was aghast. He then needed to contract his own solicitor to respond to this outrageous demand. The mother then withheld the children and the fight was on. Letters of demand and negotiation were sent back and forth for months. Nowhere in any of this matter were the children considered.

Long story short, after about four months of solicitor arguing (and a lot of money earnt by each solicitor), mediation was organised by the father. The mother attended, the matter civilly discussed and the parents arranged their Parenting Plan based on the original nights. The mother could give no reason why she wanted the children withdrawn from the father as she stated he was a great and loving dad. The Counsellor in me stood up, discussed the reasons the withdrawal of the children from the father was imposed and I pointed out what was in the best interest of the children. The couple left the office with their fair and equitable parenting plan in hand, all agreed and signed. Both parents then united in their scorn for their solicitors who so far had charged the mother $7,000 and the father $5,500 while in they came to my office, all done in a couple of hours for only a few hundred dollars. We also worked on both parents behaviour being more amenable toward the other for the sake of the children.

Another story that is sad in relation to this matter from the UK Here

I regret to say I have so many stories such as this, often far worse. The damage caused by conflictual litigation can be irreversible. Of course, there are times when a solicitor is needed, however in many separation cases; this is not required.

Consider the children. You were once connected to your ex-partner. You may currently hate them for what they have done but when emotions escalate, logic fails to exist, this is when you are more vulnerable and suggestable by some ruthless individuals preying on your vulnerability and promising you the settlement decision you want to hear. Fact is, most all parenting plans and property settlements are fair, equitable and calculated, regardless of what you may personally desire.

Please consider the children. It is not their fault their parents were unable to make their relationship work. Children love both their parents unconditionally. The parent feels hurt, so do the children. Children are too young to understand blame, they may, unfortunately, hear the words but they are unable to connect the emotions. Please allow your children to love both of their parents and spend the time they want and need with each of you.

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