So, in early March 2020 you were in the midst of negotiating a property settlement. Letters were being sent back and forth between your respective lawyers, bank statements and other documents were being collated, and perhaps even a mediation was being scheduled. Your focus was on achieving an equitable settlement ASAP, for as little cost as possible and with the hope that your co-parenting relationship (if there are children) would be as robust as possible after it was all done. Then COVID-19 happened…
What does COVID-19 now mean for this process?
- Whilst there are many, many unknowns, swift resolution might be the most important thing now. In such challenging times, no one has time for unresolved conflict or a lack of clarity about your financial future. Your children need you on the same page, and the focus must be on removing anything that prevents you both from moving forward.
- Working with a collaborative, focussed lawyer becomes essential. Read this article: “Let’s Welcome Evolution – Working in the Cone“
- There is no time for positional negotiation. What was an offer for 60% of the pool a month ago, is now 80% and completely unrealistic. There will be many that deeply regret not accepting an early offer in a matter. Whilst no one was to necessarily know what was down the path, perhaps this is all the more reason to get pragmatic and embrace a resolution. Read this article: “The Power of Pragmatism in Difficult Times“
- You will need to look at your property pool with fresh eyes. The market, be it property or shares, has been affected by the pandemic. You will need to consider further valuations, and the fresh extraction of value for shares and superannuation. Whilst it might be a bleak picture now, where there is trough there is bounce, so remain hopeful.
- Where you were previously proceeding on the basis that your employment potential was robust, is that still the case? Perhaps retirement on the same timeline is no longer an option given the impact of this pandemic on your superannuation holdings.
- Where you were planning to sell a property as part of a settlement? Perhaps thought needs to be given to hanging onto the property in light of the current market and the desire to maximise what you collectively have before dividing it.
- Going to Court is not the option it once was. It remains to be seen as to the impact of COVID-19 upon already heart breaking court delays, but litigating cannot be a realistic option for the majority of parties.
- Having a legal practitioner mediate between you, rather than allowing two practitioners to pull you further apart as part of the adversarial process must be the aim. In times of crisis, symbiosis will trump the adversarial (symbiosis being a mutually beneficial relationship between two people or a group). Each of you has interests or needs that a property settlement ideally will meet, let’s focus on an outcome that collectively meets your needs. Collaborative practice has similarly never been so important. Read this information about Collaborative Family Law.
- If a mediated or collaborative agreement is completely out of reach, then please explore arbitration, which is the determination of the matter on clear terms by an experienced legal practitioner rather than waiting on the Court. Read this information about Arbitration
Finally, the global crisis that we are enduring brings the focus back to our survival, be it physical or emotional. It’s never been more important to make sure that you are okay, and getting the support you need. The aeroplane oxygen mask analogy is a beautiful one, put yours on first and then take care of everyone else.
Contact our Toowoomba family lawyers today to find out how we can assist at this time, or you can download our free property settlement guide here. If you would like to get started straight away you can begin with our free online separation pathway questionnaire here.