Joanne Major, Principal of the leading divorce and family law practice in the North East comments in the Accent magazine a man in a film once said, “If things didn’t end badly, they wouldn’t end”. Put another way, if things didn’t end badly, we family lawyers would be out of a job, right? Well, actually no. Despite the common conception that divorce solicitors capitalize on others’ misery and encourage acrimony, the truth is somewhat different.

Resolution (formerly the Solicitors Family Law Association) is an organisation of family lawyers and other professionals who believe in a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters. Although the wheels of justice are not inclined to move quickly, in April of this year they made a revolutionary leap by effectively endorsing the Resolution ethos with the most significant legal changes in a generation.

In future, it will be compulsory for anybody wanting to take court action against an ex-partner or spouse to have first explored whether the dispute can be resolved by way of mediation. This requirement applies to disputes over children, finances and property.

Mediation is an effective way of resolving disputes involving an independent third party (mediator) who helps both sides come to an agreement that can then be made legally binding. Mediators avoid taking sides or giving advice and will not attempt to get you back together. It can be quicker, less stressful and cheaper than going to court.

If mediation breaks down, parties can then still go to court. Details of the discussions from during mediation will not be used at any court hearing. Experience has shown, however, that parties who succeed at mediation tend to keep to their agreement because they have prepared the terms themselves.

Above all, mediation is a voluntary process and will only take place if both parties agree to it. Plus, whilst Legal Aid was all but wiped out from family cases last year, it can still be available to assist with mediation costs.

As modern family law solicitors, Major Family Law are committed to assisting in minimising the impact of separation, whilst ensuring a fair and lasting settlement of outstanding issues. Championing a national initiative here in the North East, we offer a unique service called Lawyer Supported Mediation where lawyers work at a fixed fee in partnership with an independent mediator to provide you with the legal advice and documentation you need to support mediation.

In short, the support you need to get the result you want.

Joanne Major is the Principal at Major Family Law, the Divorce and Family Law Specialists, 12 West Road, Ponteland, Newcastle Upon Tyne. T: 01661 82 45 82 Twitter: @majorfamilylaw