Even though conflict is part of human nature, few of us like conflict situations because even fewer of us like to lose. And this is especially true in divorce.

The emotional and financial impact of divorce is stressful enough, without the added strain of dividing assets and working out parental arrangements in the traditional family court setting.

Given less than 10 percent of family disputes make it to a final hearing, where possible, it makes sense for couples to consider other options and ideally avoid the conflict of court.

And the experts – lawyers, social workers, psychologists and relationship counsellors agree; it’s far better for separating couples to resolve their family law disputes by negotiation, mediation and alternative dispute resolution proceedings, rather than through the courts.

But sometimes out-of-court settlements just aren’t possible.

When is family court an option?

There are several scenarios that make the Family Court a good option, and a common scenario is when one party isn’t willing to be fair and reasonable or cooperate and communicate to reach an ideal outcome for both parties.

In this instance, there are good arguments for the other party to take the dispute to the Family Courts.

Why go to family court?

Few family dispute cases are settled in the courts with a majority being resolved along the way and usually at an early stage. However, there are several reasons to turn to the traditional family court setting to help resolve disputes, particularly difficult or complex family matters:

  1. The court is a good way to compel an early resolution.

    The prospect of a hearing puts a great deal of pressure on both parties to be realistic, face up to their responsibilities and come to an agreement.

  2. The court requires both parties to put down on paper just what it is they want, and why.

    They hear from judges and officials at an early stage as to whether their proposals are realistic and what their legal obligations are.

  3. The couple must attend settlement conferences convened by officials.

    They must disclose and value their assets, which is often the crucial issue in property settlements.

  4. The couple is obliged to hear and understand what the law expects of parents and the court considers to be in the best interests of children.

    Sometimes urgent interim applications covering parenting arrangements, child maintenance or measures to preserve assets become necessary, and these orders then help the parties to resolve the larger issues.

The key to success in making court an option is having a clear plan of action and understanding how the process works.

You need to have the correct documentation, specifying the orders you want, setting out the reasons for your claims with supporting evidence, including affidavits and financial statements. These documents will need to be disclosed to the other side and you have the right to view theirs.

It helps greatly to have an experienced family lawyer by your side, who can help you prepare your case and assist with preparing the documentation.

For most people, resolving matters by negotiation and mediation is the better option. But where this isn’t possible, going to court may be the only way of avoiding an unjust and unacceptable situation and in the great majority of cases will give you an early and effective resolution.