Helen Waite, Partner in the Family team, recently wrote an article for My Tunbridge Wells
Going through a divorce or separation is an incredibly difficult time. It is completely normal to feel a wide range of emotions and have questions and concerns, whether it is your decision to start things or it has come as a complete shock.
Many people going through a divorce are naturally concerned about the emotional and financial toll it can take, especially when there are children involved.
While sometimes it is necessary to involve the family courts, it is often not in anyone’s best interest to do so, and to instead consider an alternative route – one that focuses on being open, communicative and transparent, rather than combative.
What are the alternatives to court when it comes to divorce?
There are a range of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) options to consider, which can help make divorce more amicable.
Mediation is a process that gives a couple the opportunity to discuss issues arising from their separation with the help of a mediator.
Family mediators are trained to act impartially and do not seek to apportion blame, but instead help you both to reach an agreement.
The mediation process usually involves both parties meeting with a mediator, some of whom are also qualified to meet with children as part of the process. The mediator assists you by explaining the law and the boundaries of it, and can give an indication of how – in his or her experience – the court might deal with an issue.
One Couple One Lawyer
‘One Couple One Lawyer’ is a relatively new approach, where couples appoint one lawyer between them to handle all aspects of their divorce, including child and financial arrangements.
This can help keep the process as amicable as possible, as well as make it faster and more cost effective. The process is relatively straight forward and involves a range of joint and individual meetings with the lawyer, as well as an opportunity for each party to take independent legal advice if they wish to do so.
Alternatively, if a couple would prefer to each have legal representation then they might consider Collaborative Law. Using this approach, discussions take place sitting round the table with each party having their own collaborative lawyer at the meetings. The lawyers work together to try and help you come up with a solution. The benefit of this approach is that it allows you to be a little more innovative than the family courts can be and find an agreement that works for your unique situation.
Any agreement reached can be drawn up as a document to be approved and sealed by the court.
Some couples opt for family arbitration. This is where a specially trained arbitrator is appointed to hear evidence / representations from both sides and will then arbitrate the decision. This approach does involve an additional cost, but it may not in fact cost any more money than a hearing.
It is also a much quicker process than going to court and is less formal and daunting than doing so. It also offers both parties more control than going to court as you have more of a say in how the proceedings run.
What is the best approach to take for divorce?
In our experience, the options listed above work really well, even in some very contentious circumstances. There is no one size fits all approach. Every couple and every situation is different and it is really important to get the right advice and support in place so that you can choose the approach which best suits your specific needs.
Unfortunately, sometimes there is no option but to involve the family courts. However, we always encourage a non-confrontational approach, and try to resolve issues in a constructive way, as we believe that produces better outcomes for the individuals involved and their children.
If you have any questions at all, please get in touch with our friendly and experienced team, who will be happy to help email@example.com