Newcastle and Hexham’s Best Lawyer, Joanne Major comments in the North East Times: January’s media has been full of the usual post Christmas divorce talk, claiming an increase in the habitual January spike in the divorce rate following the strains of the festive period.
One recent broadsheet article asserted that “six out of 10 parents who had been through a family break-up said that they did not believe in the idea of a good separation”, while a study conducted by a popular parenting website found that in separate surveys of “adults and children who have experienced a divorce ….. youngsters are three times as likely to have seen their parents fighting as the adults realised, while significant numbers had turned to drink, drugs and self-harm”.
To some, these findings will come as no surprise. After all, our world is bombarded with data, media, and preconceptions of the acrimonious nature of divorce and separation. Courts and lawyers did not create the situation; rather, the system developed as a response to the need to deal with such situations arising.
Somewhere between hostility and lawyers, however, there is a route that can lead to a more empowered, reasoned, and fair end to a marriage end. That route is called Lawyer Supported Mediation, and combines negotiated agreement with technical and legal support from a senior family lawyer.
The key to the concept lies in both parties to the marriage actively opting to negotiate with each other, without resorting to Court proceedings, and supported in those negotiations by an independent professional mediator. The whole process is backed by individual expert legal advice for each party from locally selected family solicitors.
Family mediation is a proven space to reach an agreement that each party will be prepared to abide by. It beats the uncertainty of going to court, not least because over two-thirds of people who began mediation in 2012/13 went on to reach agreement.
People are often unsure of what mediation actually is, confusing it with marriage guidance and attempts at reconciliation. On the contrary, what family mediation actually does is to help couples come to an agreement for the arrangements of their children and/or finances in a constructive and structured way. It is a voluntary and confidential process which gives the parties a chance to explain their issues, hopes, concerns and needs to each other in the presence of the mediator, providing a safe environment, which can help to reduce hostility and improve the chances of long term positive communication.
With Lawyer Supported Mediation, the process is enhanced by each party having the support of their own solicitor. Initially, the solicitor can explore the issues and possible options with their client and advise on appropriate courses of action. When the mediation process has concluded, the parties’ solicitors can work together to draw up the necessary documentation to give legally binding effect to the agreement, and of course, the solicitors can also process those aspects of the separation not covered by mediation, such as the divorce itself.
This is not reinventing the wheel; what the process does do is to combine the advantages of both existing options to offer a non-acrimonious and cost-effective route through divorce. The whole process is subject to prescribed fixed fees, paid in instalments by the client, offering certainty and value for money. And even if the mediation process should break down, the parties are in the fortunate position of not having to start from scratch, leaving them free to explore a full range of options with their existing lawyer, including -if necessary- court action.
Here at Major Family Law we are so confident in the Lawyer Supported Mediation model that we became the first solicitors in the North East to champion the process and we are now proudly the lead suppliers in this area for LSM. To find out more, visit www.lawyersupportedmediation.com or contact Major Family Law on 01661 824582.
Joanne Major is the principal and a trained Collaborative Lawyer of Major Family Law, the Divorce and Family Law Specialists, 12 West Road, Ponteland, Newcastle Upon Tyne. T: 01661 82 45 82
www.majorfamilylaw.co.uk. Twitter: @majorfamilylaw