39, South Brisbane
My ex-wife (Sandra) and I agreed a deal when we split up in 2011. We both signed an agreement that I drew up. We had a house worth $700,000 and the mortgage was paid off.
We agreed that our twin 13 year old daughters would live with Sandra but that I would see them every second weekend and every Wednesday during school term after school and would spend extra-long holidays with the children at my mum’s house in New Zealand. We also agreed that Sandra would stay in the family home until the girls turned 18, and sell it at an increased price, splitting the gain 50-50. We both thought that was fair and that was what we agreed.
Three years later when the girls turned 16, Sandra re-partnered. When that happened, things started to go wrong. Sandra’s new partner told her that what she agreed to was unfair and convinced her to hire a family lawyer. The family lawyers Sandra hired then wrote me nasty letters and asked for 75% of our joint assets - including a small business which I had established after we separated. They said that it didn’t matter that Sandra and I signed an agreement because agreements like that just aren’t enforceable under the Family Law Act.
It was a complete nightmare. Sandra also refused to let the kids go to New Zealand with me, claiming that I would never return to Australia. I had to go to court to have the girls’ passports released and allow them to travel - that alone cost me $15,000.
It’s now 5 years after we first split and it’s still a complete mess.
My advice is that things change. People change. And it may come at a large financial cost. We had a fair agreement that had been struck at the time. That was before the lawyers got involved and tried to unstitch it all.
52, Balmain, NSW
I was an accountant until I left to become a full time mother. David and I decided to get divorced in 2012 because David had an affair and left me for another woman. I was extremely upset. It was not a perfect marriage but I loved him and I would have taken him back but he didn’t want to come back. We have two boys – at that stage aged 6 and 9.
So I went to a boutique family law firm in the city. I was told my “best case”. David was told his “best case” by his lawyer. We couldn’t agree and both our lawyers couldn’t help us agree. When that happened my lawyer filed an application with the Family Court. That involved countless hours of putting affidavits and supporting documents together. That cost me nearly $50,000 in legal costs. David spent around the same amount of money to respond to my court application.
I ended up spending a further $85,000 to keep going once we were in the Court system. I borrowed that money from my dad.
What was worse - it consumed all of my time and my life. Hundreds and hundreds of hours of my time was spent on affidavits, supporting documents, financial statements, subpoenas, court appearances. There were countless meetings, phone calls and emails. And it was all a complete waste of time and money. I was so wound up I sat in bed for weeks crying and not looking for work.
When I eventually ran out of money my lawyer simply dumped me – after I had spent $135,000 with him. So I became self-represented.
In 2014, I was told by David’s lawyers to accept my “worst case” or risk paying David’s legal costs if I lost. I couldn’t cope with all of the stress and in the end I agreed to accept my “worst case”.
I’m devastated to this day. I wish there was another way to resolve our divorce. Had I known about Divorce Partners I would have tried them for sure. David now tells me that if I hadn’t gone to court, neither would he.
47, Malvern, Victoria
I'm a school teacher and my former wife works as a nurse. We were married for 20 years. We got tired of each other and all the arguing and decided in 2011 to get divorced.
We have 3 children, then aged 8, 10 and 12. We both earn a similar amount of money. Our family assets were around $600,000 after paying down the mortgage, and we had limited superannuation.
We both used lawyers at the start of our divorce, but we agreed not to go to Court.
The lawyers wrote letters to each other. Months went by. They arranged meetings with a mediator lawyer which failed (and was expensive). It was a complete mess for our children. I spent weeks gathering financial information, answering questions about old tax returns as well as questions about my possible earnings capacity if I was made school principal. (I didn’t become a principal, by the way, as the stress of the divorce drained pretty much all my energy and focus).
After one and a half years the lawyers’ bills had become ridiculously expensive. It had cost me around $38,000 to that point. Gillian had spent $45,000. We just realised one day that there was no end in sight with the legal fees and we didn’t think we’d made any progress. A good friend pointed out that we were just burning up the value of our house, leaving way less for each of us and the kids.
So we struck a deal without the lawyers. In the end I didn’t get the best outcome but it was an outcome that I was prepared to accept and I was just so happy to move on in my life. That was two years ago. I am so much happier now. We should have achieved the same outcome faster and everyone would have been much happier.
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