Article on family law in Luxe Magazine written by Joanne Major, Principal of Major Family Law, Divorce and Children Specialists Family Lawyers, Newcastle upon Tyne and family law weekly columnist in the Journal business page.

The beginning of the year is traditionally a time for reflection on what has gone before; a demarcation between old and new; and an opportunity to embark on a new phase. It’s the time of the year when the cyclical nature of life is most sharply in focus.

This is reflected in the traditional increase in commencement of divorce proceedings at this time of the year as people seek a fresh start for a new year.

The legal profession itself is undergoing a period of flux and change, particularly in the area of family law. It has been difficult to be unaware of the political maelstrom that has resulted from the recent withdrawal of funding assistance (legal aid) from almost all family law proceedings. Not only has it had a significant impact on individuals requiring legal intervention in their affairs, but also on legal practitioners and the structure and operation of law firms, and in the wider sense on the whole procedural nature of family law proceedings.

For many individuals, the ripples of legislative change have resulted in having to conduct Court proceedings themselves without the benefit of professional expert support. Litigants in Person have risen by almost 90% in cases involving children.

Sadly, despite reports and recommendations to make many Court forms and processes more user friendly, the legal landscape remains confusing, daunting and complex. The result? Figures also show a fall in the overall number of cases going to Court.

Whilst some would argue this is a positive statistic, that is only true if those cases that would otherwise have been settled within Court proceedings have been effectively and fairly concluded by other means.

There are many routes to resolution of family disputes available which do not involve going to Court, such as collaborative law, arbitration, and mediation. Proponents of each of these methods argue vehemently that their chosen method is the superior way with which to resolve family disputes.

It is true that, where families are involved and particularly children, reducing acrimony and choosing negotiation over litigation is favourable, but as with all things in life, one size does not fit all and there is no one ideal method for dispute resolution.

Aside from any other consideration, how do you determine which route you should take? Do you know the difference between the various methods, or even how to embark on them?

Whilst lawyers traditionally get a bad rap, most family lawyers work sympathetically and supportively with their clients’ circumstances to achieve the fairest possible outcome in the circumstances.

In this current environment, something as simple as seeking expert advice on the various dispute resolution options available could make all the difference in dealing with a relationship breakdown, and where direct communication has broken down between the parties, skilled negotiation by a lawyer can often be the most effective and expedient route to settlement.

At Major Family Law, we pride ourselves on our high rate of negotiated settlements. We have always taken a client focused approach to dispute resolution, and whilst the backdrop to our legal arena may be changing, our approach and level of service has not. Whatever level of guidance, advice or support you require, at whatever stage, we will listen, respond and help you to move on to the next chapter.

Going round in Circles