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Litigation in Family Law Proceedings

Contact Armstrong Legal:
Sydney: (02) 9261 4555
Melbourne: (03) 9620 2777
Brisbane: (07) 3229 4448
Canberra: (02) 6288 1100

In the context of Family Law proceedings, litigation is commonly branded as being Time Consuming, Expensive and Stressful. Certainly, these drawbacks are common and evident in many family law matters and result in cases settling out of Court.

However, in other cases, litigation can bring an end to a Family Law matter in a more cost and time effective manner and reduce the emotional toll of the dispute.


Depending on the Court and Registry where Family Law proceedings are filed, the length of time between commencing Court proceedings and a Final Hearing is usually between 2 and 3 years. It is therefore unsurprising that litigation is considered ‘time consuming’ and ‘lengthy’, especially in the context of family law, where parties are seeking to move forward with their lives as quickly as possible.

Reaching agreement out of Court is usually more time efficient than litigation. However, out of Court negotiations require cooperation and a commitment to settle from both sides of the fence. Too frequently, parties are frustrated by the other side’s unwillingness to provide information and cooperation for any negotiations to be fruitful.

Parties may wait months, if not years for the other side to provide essential financial records and other documents, agree to having assets valued and a commitment to mediate or exchange offers of settlement before losing faith and commencing court proceedings.

A common misconception with Court proceedings is that once they have been commenced, the opportunity to settle is taken out of the parties’ hands and a Judge will make a final determination about the future care arrangements for their children or the division of their assets. This is far from the case, as the vast majority of Family Law proceedings do not proceed all the way to a Final Hearing, and of those who do, many settle at the door of the Court.

By commencing Court proceedings, the Court will implement timeframes for documents to be exchanges and valuations obtained. There may be consequence, such as costs orders, for non-compliance with Court Orders that can motivate parties to ‘cooperate’.

Once Court proceeding are commenced, parties have avenues to obtain necessary documents, such as bank account statements via subpoena to the other side’s bank. There is also access to the resources from the court, such as Family Consultants in parenting matters and Conciliation Conferences (meetings to discuss financial settlement).

Whilst an attempt to settle a matter prior to commencing Court proceedings is always a good idea, in some cases litigation is necessary to get the ball rolling and will bring about a more timely resolution to the dispute.


In reducing the time it takes to finalise a family law dispute, a reduction in legal costs usually follows.

Lengthy correspondence back and forth between parties about issues such as disclosure of financial information prior to the commencement of Court proceedings can quickly amount to large legal bills and little else.

You should be advised about when your costs would be better applied to preparing an Initiating Application and a Subpoena rather than another letter to the other side seeking copies of their bank account and superannuation statements.


Uncertainty about your future parenting arrangements and separation of your finances with your former partner is stressful.

Litigation provides a timeframe for when decisions will be made and several opportunities along the way to mediate, discuss your matter with Court appointed experts and attempt to settle. Having a timeframe and smaller stages to work towards can assist people manage the stress that uncertainty produces.

Litigation also affords outside perspective from a Judge and Court Registrars who deals with Family Law matters every day, to child psychologists and social workers, valuers and mediators.

Litigation delivers certainty when parties are completely incapable of agreement. Interim certainty is also available in the form Interim Orders, as 2 to 3 years is a very long to wait with your life in limbo, to manage in the meantime.


Sometimes litigation is the only option, especially is there is a fast approaching limitation period that you cannot afford to miss.

where to next?

If you have any questions regarding family law, we invite you to telephone Armstrong Legal’s experienced, knowledgeable and approachable Family Lawyers. We look forward to discussing your family law questions with you and can also help you arrange a no obligation initial consultation at our office so that we can meet you in person and discuss your case in greater detail. Our office is conveniently located in Melbourne CBD at Level 13, 575 Bourke Street, Melbourne, VIC.

Why Choose Armstrong Legal?

Contact Armstrong Legal:
Sydney: (02) 9261 4555
Melbourne: (03) 9620 2777
Brisbane: (07) 3229 4448
Canberra: (02) 6288 1100

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