In a Blog back in August, I discussed the outline of a letter I'd sent to Nick Clegg who'd invited views on the divorce process. I am pleased to say that he wrote a pleasant letter in reply and although I can't quote this from it, I also understand that significant changes are afoot.
I think these are relevant and important issues for us all to expect:
- it may well be that not only will we be able to help our clients avoid having to give grounds for divorce, we will go beyond what people refer to as "no fault divorce" and in fact end up with the "no Court divorce". So, register for a divorce and get one a little later. Why should divorce be harder than registering a marriage, birth or death? A new meaning to "quickie divorce"!
- This will likely significantly reduce costs for all our clients which is great news. I say "likely" as the Government does actually "make" about £400 inc Vat and Court fees from each divorce and at about 135,000 divorces each year that is £54 million each year they might need to keep their revenue somehow!
- Mediation being required for any cases involving children before people can involve the Court. How can one argue against that? We already mediate, negotiate or settle almost all of our clients' cases using collaborative family law so this makes little change for us but mediation will be very hard when trying to make headway with people who are disinterested in sensible discussion and there is nearly always one of them out of the two involved in any difficult case that goes to Court. (When there are two out of two very high legal costs occur)
- Collaborative lawyers and lawyer mediators will be very much in demand. Luckily we already have significant numbers of those within our firm. Maybe firms should align themselves more with outside divorce mediators and cross-train?
- We await the result of a case called Radmacher whereby we hope prenuptial agreements will be made binding in the UK. That would greatly reduce the arguments on the divorce financial settlement.
I am hopeful that this is the end of firms who "do a bit of divorce" and so it should be. This is not an area for the less trained divorce solicitor and it has special aspects and pressures.
I am also hopeful that costs will decrease significantly. Much will depend upon the government fees for divorce and also careful selection of mediators and indeed those % of cases right for mediation. A Court case after unsuccessful mediation would be a doubly expensive journey so care will be needed.