Most of us have had the ever-enjoyable experience of being at a barbeque and listening to our neighbour’s step-father’s monologue about his dealings with his horrific ex-wife during their divorce. Or dodging the coleslaw flying from the teeth of a distant cousin’s sister-in-law as she thoroughly details the character flaws of her ex-husband and his grub lawyer. During such conversations I tend to take the opportunity to go for a seventh sausage, chat to the dog, or stare blankly at the clouds.

High conflict matters occur in family law from time to time, and are occasionally unavoidable. Those circumstances do require a tough approach, however are never glamorous or enjoyable for the families caught in the middle. Their glorification is rarely a good ice-breaker, particularly considering the likelihood that others at the barbeque may be dealing with similar issues privately.

The Family Court and its lawyers have recently received some controversial, though recently overshadowed, attention from our federal politicians. With no small degree of irony it’s been suggested, among other things, that we’ve allowed conflict to spiral out of control and get in the way of the task at hand. While I don’t intend to vent my personal views on such matters, I certainly accept and agree that swiftly and amicably resolved disputes ought to be the primary objective of lawyers in all family law matters. I am also confident however, that most well-informed and reputable family lawyers do exactly that.

I recently had the privilege of becoming involved in a matter for a client who had previously been stuck in litigation for just over two years. It involved some complex issues concerning a business valuation, and had resulted in each of the parties becoming deeply entrenched in their respective positions. The lawyers for the other party were well-respected and reputable practitioners, and over a relatively short period of time we had discussed the issues to be addressed and ultimately resolved the matter on a final basis amicably without the need for further litigation. With the benefit of practical legal advice and an approach which focussed on the benefits of commercial decision-making, both parties were able to set aside their significant personal differences and reach an agreement. That agreement likely saved each party tens of thousands of dollars in legal and expert fees, months of litigation, and immeasurable stress and emotional turmoil. The matter also involved children, which exponentially increased the value of an amicable outcome.

Everyone certainly needs an opportunity to tell their story, and in some circumstances the only appropriate response to a particular story is to get a little stirred up and call out appalling behaviour. On a lot of occasions however, hurt or upset as they might be, many people consulting a family lawyer simply want a sensible result as quickly as possible. They certainly want to be heard and understood, but not simply for the purpose of lining the pockets of the lawyers or generating a good “war story”.

The secret to an amicable and swift resolution to your family law dispute is that there is no secret. It is important to surround yourself with sensible and credible advisors, however ultimately the majority of even the most complex matters can absolutely be resolved in an amicable manner. Despite the trepidation that is sometimes associated with commencing or becoming involved in family law issues, it is absolutely possible to move through those issues in one piece (emotionally and financially).