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The Law and You: Three ways to reach a property settlement out of Court

Watts McCray Lawyers

If you know a family lawyer or anyone recently involved in family law litigation, you’ve probably heard them say the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court are sinking under the pressures of dwindling resources and an increasing number of cases. So if you’re involved in a family law Court matter, you can expect significantly more costs, time and stress in trying to settle matters.

That isn’t necessarily the case with property settlement after separation. A clever and experienced family lawyer will step you through ways to finalise your property settlement while avoiding Court.

Here are three ways to finalise your financial relationship cost-effectively, quickly and with dignity.


The first step is to seek specialist family law property advice. With good advice up your sleeve, you may be able to work with your ex-partner to negotiate a settlement. This can even be over a cup of coffee. If this doesn’t work, you and your ex can instruct your respective solicitors to negotiate an outcome, through letters or a four-way meeting with you and your solicitors.


If negotiation doesn’t work, you can opt for mediation. This is when a mediator (a neutral third party) helps you reach an agreement. Parties can choose to have their lawyers present or attend mediation by themselves. Mediation allows both parties to retain control of the outcome while having sticking points worked through with the mediator.

Mediation can take a couple of hours or up to a day. Mediation centers in Canberra deal with family law disputes. At Watts McCray Lawyers, we can recommend private senior family law dispute resolution practitioners (the mediators). Partner Debra Parker is herself a Nationally Accredited Mediator.


Family law arbitration is about to take off in Australia. In England and Scotland, arbitration is already routinely used by those looking for a cheaper and quicker way to settle property issues.

Arbitration is when a dispute is given to an arbitrator (a senior, experienced family lawyer trained in arbitration) to decide on an outcome in much the same way as a Judge would. An arbitration can proceed on the papers, or with the arbitrator holding a telephone conference or hearing. This is when the parties or their solicitors present their arguments. The parties need to pay the arbitrator’s fees, which are set out in an arbitration agreement which you and your ex must sign before the process begins.

An arbitrator’s decision has the finality and legal nouse of a Court decision. There is scope for the arbitration award to be reviewed by the Courts, but only where there is a question of law.

Final step in any property settlement

There is one very important final step in every single property settlement, no matter how agreement was reached. This is to have the settlement properly documented and made enforceable.

Property settlements should always be drawn up by a solicitor, so conveyancing, tax implications and transfers are all properly implemented when the time comes. These documents are usually fairly technical (even in simple matters) so it’s important to get this last step right.

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Watts McCray Lawyers

Watts McCray is a leading firm of family and relationship lawyers. We have the largest number of accredited family law specialists in Australia and are backed by years of experience. Our lawyers have the skills to provide you with sound, practical advice about issues such as relationship changes and separation, property and financial matters, parenting arrangements after separation, child support and divorce. Watts McCray can also provide you with legal help if you want to resolve matters without having to go through Court. We can help with negotiation, mediation, collaboration and arbitration services as well as the traditional Court litigation process. We can also help with your estate planning and wills. Call us on (02) 6257 6347 for more information and for tailored services to meet your specific legal needs. More about the Author

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