Let’s look at the alternative legal services that you could use, without a lawyer. I do want people to try and resolve things in a way that is quick and cost effective. When you go to a lawyer (and there are some situations where you really do need to), a lawyer will often position you and start taking you down a particular pathway, when actually there may be alternatives to that pathway. The pathway a lawyer chooses for you may not be the best one.
For resolving disputes without a lawyer, the Ombudsmans are really effective – they usually do a free dispute resolution process. The Ombusdmans cover a problem with your phone, internet, water, utilities, or financial products.
Your State Fair Trading or Consumer Affairs also offers a dispute resolution process without a lawyer for problems with products or services your buy, or for housing problems.
You can log your complaint with an ombudsman online, and they’ll set up a dispute resolution process. Whether it is like a on the phone mediation or whether they just sort of make a call to you, make a call to them, make a call to you.
There’s also a Small and Family Business Ombudsman to help you resolve your business disputes without a lawyer. This would be useful for that difficult relationship within your business – with a business partner, or other business service.
Justice Connect is one of the government funded Community Legal Centres that has a lot of effective online tools. If you’re dealing with fines, they’ve got a really great online system for helping you with that: Fine Fixer.
Like its name “Justice Connect”, they also try and connect you to the right thing that you need. So they can be a really good starting point. They have a pro bono scheme where like Justice Connects, does the intake, and then some larger firms actually pick up and run those sorts of things pro bono. Now the sorts of things that might be pro bono might be more human rights sort of issues, sexual harassment issues in a workplace that might be a bit more high profile. So those sorts of things, they don’t generally do separations.
If you’re not at each other’s throats completely, you may be able to do the financial settlement process via an online sort of AI tool called AMICA (as in amicable). So it eliminates having to talk to the other party too much, but it still requires both your cooperation.
Or try engaging a divorce coach instead of a lawyer, to guide you through your own negotiations to get to an agreement.
A private mediator may also help you resolve any dispute and come to an agreement (see Private mediation below)
For community disputes, there is the Dispute Settlement Center in Victoria, and may be similar services in other States. They can set up a mediation and do a dispute resolution for you. For separations, for workplaces, for contract issues, almost for anything else, you can also look for private mediation.
So, a mediator is not necessarily someone who’s come through the legal industry. They could be someone who’s come out of another industry, the building industry, engineers, psychologists, teachers, registrars. So all sorts of other professions come to mediation. The Mediation Institute keeps a really great list of accredited registered mediators. So the Mediation Institute might be a really great place to start narrowing down which mediator you might approach for a timeframe and a quote.
If you want to do a similar process online, there is a place that is set up sort of a no cost and completely online process, it is called Interact Support. Mediators and Interact Support both also do mediations for family separations.
The final alternative is collaborative practice. This is not without a lawyer, but has to be a special kind of lawyer.
There are lawyers that are collaboratively trained. They generally register with the Collaborative Association in their state. So for example, in Victoria, the Victorian Association of Collaborative Practitioners has a list of us all on their website. And you can approach us directly, or you can ask the Institute or the Association to put you in touch.
So, what is a collaborative process? Well, it’s a team of professionals that help you through rather than one single mediation, it usually is three to five meetings. And you have a team to help. So each person would have a lawyer. The other people in the professional team include a Financial Neutral and a Communication Coach. And the whole team is committed to taking you through the process to a resolution.
There are a whole lot of these resources and all the links inside the Legally Wise Women community hub.