Simple Dispute resolution methods: Can we resolve the conflict ourselves?

No matter how close you are, all families argue at one time or another. Sometimes these disagreements can escalate and may require formal mediation to resolve them.  Family courts are designed to provide support and legal representation to individuals and families during civil proceedings. However, there are many alternative options and it’s important to explore every avenue for conflict resolution before taking the matter to court.

Negotiation, mediation and arbitration are just a few of the dispute resolution alternatives available. Whether you are involved in a small family dispute or a lawsuit involving thousands of dollars, these methods of dispute resolution can result in a fair and reasonable outcome for both parties. By employing alternative dispute resolution methods, you may reduce the financial and emotional cost of legal proceedings and improve communication with your family member for the future.

The following describe some of the alternative dispute resolution options available:

Negotiation

Negotiation is the most basic means of settling differences. It is back-and-forth communication between parties with the goal of trying to find a solution to the conflict. An individual may wish to negotiate directly with the other person or hire an attorney to negotiate on their behalf. Negotiation allows you to participate directly in decisions that affect you. In the most successful negotiations, the needs of both parties are considered. There are no strict procedures to follow but it works best if all parties agree to remain calm and work together.

Mediation

Mediation is a voluntary process in which an objective third party assists communication and facilitates negotiation between parties. A mediator does not make a decision nor force an agreement. Instead, the parties directly participate in negotiating their own settlement or agreement. Most people uphold a mediated agreement because they were a part of making it. It can become a contract and be enforceable.

Arbitration

Arbitration involves submitting evidence in a disputed matter to an impartial person for resolution. The arbitrator controls the process and will listen to both sides before making a decision. Like in court proceedings, only one side will prevail. If all parties agree to be bound by the decision an arbitrator’s award can be enforceable by law.

The best method of conflict resolution will depend upon your personal needs and the nature of your dispute. You may want to consult with an attorney to help determine which process best serves your particular situation.

Looking for family lawyers in Brisbane? Rostron Carlyle’s highly trained team of family law solicitors can assist you in seeking alternative conflict resolution.  For more information, visit their website or call them on (07) 3009 8444 and start working towards a resolution today.

Is it time to get a family lawyer involved? – A scenario involving child support

Despite our best efforts, family disagreements can sometimes evolve into full blown legal disputes. For those involved, it’s often hard to take a step back from the issue and figure out ways forward. A solicitor specialising in areas of family law may be able to help you deconstruct the issue and identify your options.  Here is just one situation in which a family lawyer may be valuable:

Paying Child Support

Michael paid his former wife, Sarah, $400 a month to support their 4 year old daughter. When Michael was laid off, he called Sarah to arrange a change in his child support payments. He explained that, due to the layoff, he could not afford to pay $400 to which Sarah responded, “Okay. Pay $100 for now”. Six months later, Michael found another job and raised his support payments back to $400. During this time, he had made 6 payments of $100. Two weeks after starting at the new job Sarah called and told Michael she expected him to pay the $1,800 he had not paid during the layoff. Michael replied that he did not owe any money because they had agreed to the child support reduction during his layoff. Sarah disagreed, claiming she had not given up the right to $400 a month but had merely permitted Michael to defer full payment until he was rehired. When Michael refused to pay, Sarah took him to court.

Unfortunately this type of scenario is all too common. Many different scenarios can create changed circumstances which would affect the amount of child payment required. For example, if the paying parent experiences a large decrease in income, the court can order the child support reduced. Or, if the child’s needs grow, such as if the child becomes ill or disabled, the amount of support can be raised. Child support payments may be modified at a parent’s request or in the event of a change in circumstances but these modifications will not happen automatically. One of the parents must request the change by a formal motion to the court.

In the case involving Michael and Sarah, the judge ruled that the evidence did not support Michael’s claim that he was excused from the $300 per month and he was ordered to pay the outstanding $1,800 in addition to the usual payments of monthly support.  In this case, Michael made the mistake of reaching an informal oral agreement with Sarah to modify his child support payment. The problem with oral agreements is that they are often vaguely worded and the memories or understanding of the parties may often differ. Thus, any agreement by parents to modify child support should be put in writing. It is also a good idea to have a judge sign a court order based on the agreement.

If you become unemployed or have some other extenuating circumstance, it is important you seek legal advice and have your child support amount modified. Only the court can change a mandated child support payment, so any modification would have to be submitted to a judge. If both spouses agree, it is usually a pretty simple process. Where disagreement arises, the request will need to be submitted a family law solicitor for review.

Child support is a topic which tends to divide opinions. No separation is easy but understanding your rights and responsibilities involving child support payments can be.  As Brisbane’s Family Law Specialists, Rostron Carlyle can help you understand family law matters such as child support, child custody, visitation and alimony. Their dedicated team of family law solicitors can answer all your questions and help you avoid situations like the one mentioned above.

How to help your family lawyer

Family LawyerFamily legal proceedings can be complicated enough without back and forth communication with your lawyer. You are entitled to high standards of legal advice and your solicitor must act in accordance with a range of legal duties in order to achieve the best possible outcome for your case. At the same time, a successful solicitor/client relationship requires cooperation on both sides. In order to provide quality legal representation, your solicitor needs access to certain information relevant to your claim.

In order to get the most out of your family lawyer, here are a few things you can do:

Have an open disclosure policy

When it comes to your legal interests, your family lawyer is your most valuable resource. But in order to be effective, your family law solicitor needs all the information relevant to your claim. Even facts which may not seem important to you may have significant legal consequences. For this reason, it is best to adopt an open disclosure policy from the start. It is a solicitor’s duty to maintain the strictest client confidentiality so you need not feel embarrassed or afraid to reveal facts that may be unfavourable. Being open and honest with your family lawyer is the best way to achieve the outcome you desire.

Prepare your relevant documents

Before you contact your solicitor, it is a good idea to collect all information that may be relevant to your case. Start by writing down a brief summary of the issue, including any events that may have lead up to the claim. It is also wise to include the contact details of any persons involved, as well as any specific questions you have for your lawyer. Finally, you will need to collect all relevant documentation to show to your family law solicitor. This may include documents such as birth certificates, marriage licences, bank account details, police reports or divorce papers. Being prepared will save your solicitor’s time and help to reduce your costs.

Follow instructions quickly and carefully

In order to achieve the best possible outcome for your case, you need to follow your lawyer’s instructions quickly and carefully. If your solicitor requests more information or requires further documentation, make sure you provide it to them in a timely fashion. If you can’t keep track of your lawyer’s instructions, ask for a checklist that details what you need to provide and when.

Understand the costs

Solicitors are required by law to tell you about the expenses that may be relevant to your case. This is known as the duty of disclosure. But just as your solicitor has a duty to disclose all fees, as the client you have a duty to promptly pay a fair and reasonable price for those legal services provided. If you fail to pay, your solicitor can withdraw from your case.

Ask questions

The law is complex and you are not expected to understand everything. You should sign any documents until you fully understand what it is about. If you are confused or have any questions, ask your solicitor for an explanation as soon as possible. This will limit misunderstandings and ensure you and your solicitor are working towards the same goal.

Keep in contact

Legal issues can take a long time to resolve. Your solicitor should keep you up to date with the progress of your case but it is also your responsibility to inform your solicitor immediately if your personal circumstances change. The best way to maintain open lines of communication with your lawyer is to agree on the frequency and method of your correspondence.  For example; some may wish to exchange a fortnightly email while others may prefer a monthly phone call.

Trust your solicitor

Your solicitor is there to protect your rights and ensure the best possible outcome is achieved. In order to do this you must trust that your lawyer has your best interests in mind. Take the time to do your research and choose your family solicitor carefully. A good family lawyer combines years of experience with a genuine passion for helping protect the rights of their clients.

Rostron Carlyle’s team of experienced family layers can help you achieve the outcome you desire. For more information about securing legal representation, or to discuss the documents you may be required to provide, contact them today on (07) 3009 8444.