GP Fact Sheet | Relationship breakdown and patient health

Family & Relationship Law eBulletin - 1 July 2014


The breakdown of a relationship is a significant life stressor, and may contribute to or trigger anxiety, depression, and other health issues. Resolving underlying legal concerns regarding relationships with their children, financial security, or issues such as family violence, may assist in treating patients.

This brochure provides an overview of the legal services available to your patients to help them work through issues arising from their relationship breakdown.


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Mediation can facilitate quick, inexpensive and amicable settlement of contentious issues. Many people value the “ownership” they have over a mediated agreement, which assists them to move forward into a new phase of their lives.

For parenting issues, mediation can be tailored to a patient’s specific situation. Family Relationship Centres located throughout Australia, offer some limited subsidised mediation. Private mediation centres can provide focussed mediation services and have a high success rate. Patients can also undertake joint parenting counselling using a psychologist who is familiar with family law issues.

Property matters may require specialist technical knowledge to resolve issues in compliance with legislative requirements, and to avoid tax and other legal pitfalls. Private mediators (including lawyers) who specialise in property disputes
may help with these issues.


Counselling and parenting courses

Patients may benefit from attending a counsellor or course-based therapy, such as a parenting course. These can be undertaken in conjunction with other forms of dispute resolution, to good effect.

Collaborative Law

Collaborative Law is a relatively recent development in Alternative Dispute Resolution. Parties are involved in a multi-session process of collaborating (along with legal representatives) to resolve family law issues in a manner that is free from conflict. This can be a good option for certain patients, but should be targeted properly to the right candidates.


Court based services

The Family Law Act 1975 empowers the Family Courts to make binding orders regarding property and parenting matters if parties are unable to reach agreement.

The court process involves compulsory mediation, and over 95% of cases in the court system settle before final judgement. In some cases, the court system can be useful to parties, for example to compel financial disclosure, or order the parties to obtain a “family report” from an expert (usually a psychologist) to provide recommendations regarding parenting.


Choosing the best method of dispute resolution

Each family law matter requires a tailored approach, and depends on factors such as the parties’ personalities and interactions, as well as the specific issues which need to be resolved.

It is important that patients are aware of the various services and resources in the community, which can help to resolve the issues resulting from their separation, and allow them to begin rebuilding their lives.



Further information

All information on this site is of a general nature only and is not intended to be relied upon as, nor to be a substitute for, specific legal professional advice. No responsibility for the loss occasioned to any person acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material published can be accepted.