By Norman Taylor, consultant
The countdown to Resolution’s fourth Family Dispute Resolution Week, which runs across November 23-27th , is a timely opportunity to flag up the alternatives to the ‘traditional’ court hearing route for divorcing couples.
Supported by the Law Society and the Family Mediators Association, this year’s theme, ‘putting children first’ promotes the benefits of adopting a more conciliatory, non-court based approach to family disputes, as courtroom battles can be very emotional and distressing for all involved, especially children.
Collaborative Family Law (CFL) Practice Groups UK wide are organising activities to promote non-court resolution in family breakdown. My own local Group, CFL Leeds, is holding a food-making challenge at Chino Latino restaurant, where we will “collaborate” in teams with our non-family lawyer guests to produce a variety of sushi dishes together. This will be on Wednesday the 25th November at 17.00. The idea is to demonstrate how working together produces far better results than being in competition.
Litigation is an option which can bring many disadvantages, including high costs, substantial distress, and a prolonged process. It assumes there is conflict, whereas there is often only disagreement – which can nearly always be solved creatively through discussion, asking questions and finding solutions together.
Going to court is usually the most expensive option, and can be a cold, clinical, very public and daunting experience, where you hand over the decision-making to a judge who does not know you and has no real idea what is truly important to you.
In mediation, trained intermediaries meet with both partners together and help you reach agreement on those issues where you disagree, such as arrangements for any children.
The collaborative process sees each party appoint their own collaboratively trained lawyer, meeting to work things out and backed up by support and legal advice. All sign a contract committing them to trying to resolve matters by agreement, without going to court. The lawyers will agree only to represent the parties within the collaborative process, and not in court.
These non-court options involve both parties far more, encourage a greater understanding of the other’s point of view and are designed to forge a long-term solution, without lingering bitterness, based on a fair, realistic settlement.
Rather than the adversarial court process that can leave a family at war, they are all intended as a launching pad for a more positive future, which minimises impact on children.
These non confrontational options ensure that youngsters are as happy as is possible post-divorce, seeing that their parents who, while no longer together, are not at each other’s throats or pressuring them to take sides for years or even decades. The children are watching and can be dramatically affected by the way in which their parents resolve their difficulties.
Family arbitration is where both partners agree they need a third party to decide a financial issue or issues, but do not want to go through the court process. An experienced family lawyer, trained as an arbitrator, will make a final, binding decision.
Our regular blog visitors will know that it has always been our driving aim at Jones Myers to ensure the best outcomes for children.
Court really should be a last resort. Generally, you can achieve much better solutions for all the family, especially any children, by cooperating and working out agreement in private meetings with your ex and their representatives in a safe, private and non-threatening environment. Here, a solution is worked out based on your respective long-term goals, rather than imposing a ‘win-lose’ philosophy.
Jones Myers family lawyers are members of Resolution – professionals committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes. All follow a code of practice that promotes a non-confrontational approach to family issues.
As Winston Churchill, at his wisest and most succinct, memorably advised, “To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.” Although he was alluding to a different kind of battleground, the principles he advocates are no less pertinent in family law.
If you have any comments, queries or concerns on divorce related issues, leave a comment below, call the team at Jones Myers on 0113 246 0055 or tweet us on @helpwithdivorce