Article in Tyne Valley Express

Family law is changing. When I first trained as a solicitor it was normal for a client experiencing family difficulties to turn to a solicitor and to expect a litigious process involving a visit to court.

The preference now is for a “dignified divorce” involving mediation and collaborative approaches, without the need for a court appearance at all. But how many people are aware of the options available to them outside the court route and how many are willing to use these alternative approaches?  Education about these alternatives is vital.

September saw the first “Family Dispute Resolution Week”, instigated by Resolution, an organisation of 6500 lawyers in England and Wales, who believe in a constructive, non-confrontational approach to all family law matters. Resolution said:

We want to ensure that non-court based options and the positive role that mediation, collaborative law, arbitration and other Dispute Resolution solutions can play in divorce and separation, are known to as many people as possible.”

The message is claimed to have reached over 8 million people* – were you, I wonder, aware of the campaign? In case you missed it, I shall briefly recap on what the two main forms of alternative dispute resolution are and you can see how they differ from the usual approach.

Under the collaborative law process, each person appoints their own collaboratively trained lawyer and you and your respective lawyers all meet together to work things out face to face. Both of you will have your lawyer by your side throughout the process and so you will have their support and legal advice as you go.

You and your lawyers sign an agreement that commits you to trying to resolve the issues without going to court and prevents them from representing you in court if the collaborative process breaks down. That means all are absolutely committed to finding the best solutions by agreement, rather than through court proceedings.

Mediators are trained to help resolve disputes over all issues faced by separating couples, or specific issues such as arrangements for any children. A mediator will meet with you and your partner together and will identify those issues you can’t agree on and help you to try and reach an agreement. A Mediator is not a judge and cannot impose a solution upon anyone. Instead, a Mediator uses their experience to guide and assist you to explore options and find solutions that work for both partners. Where there are children, the children’s best interests come first.

At Major Family Law we are all members of Resolution. We have three collaboratively trained lawyers and are the first Family Law practice in the region to be able to offer both alternative dispute resolution as well as the more traditional approach to Family Law.

If you require any further information please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Joanne Major is owner of Major Family Law, the Divorce and Family Law Specialists.Tel: 01661 824582  Twitter: @MajorFamilyLaw