Monday, February 19, 2007

How solicitors escalate conflict

Family Court system of Australia is a social disaster

(I have decided to break up my first post into smaller manageable sections)

The devil is in the detail
In this account of my experience with the Family Court system in Australia, I have tried to keep to the point and be as brief as possible. Unfortunately, to give a clear picture of some of the many failures of the current system, it is necessary to describe incidents in detail. In my view, if one is not prepared to examine cases in detail, there is no point attempting to understand the problems.

Family Court - two years of anguish and escalation. Why not three months ?
After my separation and subsequent divorce, the Family Court process took two years to complete – two years of anguish which saw the relationship between myself and my ex-partner degenerate from a time when we would still hug each other, make jokes, and offer cups of tea, to one of bitter arguments and physical violence. I believe the Family Court system and Family Law industry is partly responsible for this escalation of conflict.

If nothing else, the length of a case in the Family Court is a major flaw of the system as it is bound to exacerbate the tensions and anguish. Why can’t a case be completed in three months or less ? Presumably this would be “in the child’s best interests.”

“My solicitor says I can get 70% and I want 70%”
In October 2002 I organised to meet with my ex-partner at the Dispute Resolution Centre. By my ex-partner's own account, she had contributed 45% of the assets (I maintained it was 24%). The mediators put it to her “So you would be happy with 45% ?” My ex-partner replied “No, my solicitor says I can get 70%, and I want 70%.”

This was the first of many examples of how the solicitor had managed to ‘up the ante’.

In the Family Court process there were three ‘conciliation conferences’. Solicitor for my ex-partner, Eddy Lago (Cairns), undermined chances for reconciliation at two of these three sessions. In the first session, my position was that my ex-partner had contributed 24% of the assets. Solicitor Eddy Lago, acting on behalf of my ex-partner, wanted 70%. In the spirit of negotiation I offered 35% (and was prepared to go to 50%). The solicitor facetiously responded “Ok, we want 90%” - thus swiftly and effectively ending any prospect of a negotiated settlement.

(Solicitor Eddy Lago asked me straight after that meeting what my bottom line was and I told him 50%).

My ex-partner ended up winning 68% of the assets at the Final Hearing, however 40% of this, it is estimated, was spent on the solicitor's and barrister's fees, implying that she received about 41% of the assets.

No comments: