A better way
  • 14th Nov 2014
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Almost all of us have a direct experience of the heartache of separation and family breakdown, whether it is personally, or through the experiences of a close friend or family member. The impact of family breakdown on children (both emotionally and in terms of academic performance) is well known.  Perhaps less well known is the impact on businesses, with the stress of separation often resulting in employees having to take time off work.

Media portrayal of separation tends towards the dramatic, with television reporters standing outside court buildings, the focus on high profile couples, and continually employing phrases such as “custody battle”, despite the fact “custody” no longer exists as a day to day legal concept.

Unsurprisingly, many couples come to expect this when relationships end, and have an understandable anxiety about the prospect of entering into such a process.

Whilst no process can offer escape from the heartbreak, there are better ways to make the difficult decisions that must inevitably follow, and in ways more sensitive to couples’ needs than the court process, with its strict deadlines and mandatory hearings.

One such option is mediation.  A mediator will meet you and your partner to work through the issues that cannot be agreed. With the assistance of a mediator you are encouraged to set an agenda and the mediator helps structure the discussions. The aim of the mediation is to find sensible and practical solutions that you are both comfortable with and feel to be fair.

A second option is the collaborative law process, where you and your partner work together in meetings with your lawyers present to resolve whatever issues there may be.  Everyone signs an agreement that they will not go to court. Rather than the lawyers and you and your partner taking opposing roles and exchanging letters and telephone calls, the majority of the work takes place in a series of round table meetings, with you and your partner and your lawyers all present.

Arbitration is a third option, where you and your partner agree to be bound by the decision of an arbiter.  It provides a swift, cost effective and flexible means of resolving disputes where there are issues between the separating couples that prevent them from being able to reach an agreement directly together.

All of these processes can be flexible and geared towards meeting the parties’ needs.  Meetings can be held at mutually convenient times, allowing more flexibility for couples to resolve things at their own pace.  All of these options also enable couples to focus only on what is still at issue between them, as opposed to the court process which can review the entire arrangement between couples, whether or not certain elements have already been agreed.

With Resolution’s Family Dispute Resolution Week running from 24 to 28 November there is no better time to consider and find out how you can choose a better way to separate for you, your family and your future. You can follow this on:

@ResFamilyLaw on Twitter using hashtags #abetterway and #resolutionweek in the lead up, and throughout the campaign. 

You can also find out more information on the family pages of our website on all of these options. The family team at Whitehead Monckton have a wealth of experience providing guidance and advice in all areas relating to separation or divorce. If you wish to discuss any of the points raised in this article, please contact a member of the Family team.