This blog explores the alternatives you might consider when resolving disagreements during the divorce process.
In any divorce there are often seriously difficult issues to resolve between the parties, so what are the sort of methods we can use as lawyers to help with that and to reach a resolution?
Traditionally the perception may have been that a waring couple appoint solicitors who take very strident positions on behalf of their clients and head for the courtroom – to appeal to the Judge to put an end to their disagreements with a final ruling.
The situation today in family law disputes can be very different to this. There are a range of solutions and one size doesn’t fit all.
Take some initial advice
If a couple are unable to reach an agreement between themselves sometimes practical legal advice for one or both parties can help them realise the true options open to them and make them more willing to reach an agreement.
Very often we have calls from distressed clients who has been told by their ex that they are going to take them to the cleaners or stop them seeing their children and without some pragmatic and practical advice positions can become entrenched very quickly. If both parties take some initial advice from experienced family lawyers some of these problems can be averted.
Agree a collaborative approach
In the collaborative model both parties appoint a lawyer who agrees to abide by a set of guidelines, aimed at achieving a resolution for clients outside of a courtroom. In this process, rather than negotiation happening via written exchange the parties meet together to negotiate and reach an agreement between themselves.
This is a very useful model that allows the parties to listen to one another, understand what their respective concerns are but also have professional legal advice on hand and move towards a solution with the help of the solicitors present.
Try mediation OR consider arbitration
One of things that we encourage all clients to try is a process called mediation. The idea of mediation is to help parties that have fallen into difficulties to learn to communicate with each other again. It is widely accepted that a solution that the parties reach themselves is better than one that is imposed on them by, for example, a Court or somebody making the decision for them.
Of course, family mediation is not for everybody, but there are other ways to try and address things before you resort to court. Arbitration is one that is becoming increasingly popular, not least because it allows the parties much more control over the process and timescale. In arbitration the couple (with the help of their lawyers) effectively appoint their own Judge, who then decides the case for them. So, it is similar to going to court but with arbitration you agree the timing and location of the ‘hearing’ and are not in a long queue with your local family court. You can also guarantee that the arbitrator is a family law specialist and will have read all of the case paperwork, not always true if your case is heard by an overworked judge or in the magistrates’ court for example. And perhaps most importantly you know your case will be given all the time it needs on the day of the hearing.
All parties are being encouraged to consider arbitration as a way of resolving their disputes more quickly and often more cost effectively than the traditional court route.
Take the case to court
Unfortunately, some people come to a dispute with very entrenched positions and with the best will in the world, these less formal methods just don’t work. It is important to understand that even if you do end up in Court, the process is still very much geared towards encouraging you to reach a settlement whether that is by the lawyers who are representing each party, or indeed by the Judge. It is perfectly possible to reach an agreement even within the room of the Court, without having to go to a full trial. We often say to clients that neither party will be happy with a ruling imposed by a judge whereas a negotiated settlement at least gives you an element of control.
Any of the Woolley & Co lawyers will talk you through the options and help you to resolve your divorce disagreements with the least acrimony possible.