The breakup of a marriage or civil partnership is about much more than a relationship coming to an end. Divorce and dissolution are when two lives, which up until this point have been tangled together, now need to be carefully unpicked and separated.
Who will be the primary carer for the children? What will happen to the family home? How will the family business work? All of these questions and more have to be dealt with so that both parties are able to move on with their lives.
Fortunately, if you and your spouse are unable to agree on some (or all) of these issues, help is at hand in the form of various alternative dispute resolution methods.
Mediation – someone neutral to aid your discussions
When emotions are running high, it’s all too easy to find yourself having the same arguments every time you meet your spouse to discuss your future. Mediation – where an independent third party is there to help you and your spouse work towards reaching an agreement about everything from childcare to your financial settlement – is one way to try to avoid an expensive and lengthy court case. Indeed, most couples will have to attend an initial mediation meeting known as a MIAM (Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting) before heading to Court.
Collaborative law – working together with your solicitors
Another way to attempt to resolve your issues is for you, your spouse and your respective solicitors to meet to try to work together to reach an agreement. Just like mediation, these “four-way meetings” can be a good way for both parties to have their say and hopefully work more collaboratively (compared to being on opposite sides in Court) in order to reach a solution.
Court proceedings are sometimes necessary
If you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement, Court may be the only option. Normally, it should be viewed as a last resort, as court proceedings can be time-consuming and costly.
Going to Court may also be necessary in certain circumstances, such as if there is domestic violence or if there is an international element to your divorce and time is of the essence.
It is always possible to negotiate alongside Court proceedings.
It is highly advisable to seek independent legal advice specific to your situation before making a decision on whether to head straight to Court or to try alternative dispute resolution methods first. Get in touch with us to book your free initial consultation with one of our experienced family solicitors.
Neil Graham, a Partner at Grayfords says: “Attempting to resolve issues without going to Court should always be a priority, not just because it is likely to avoid the financial and emotional costs of going to Court but also because people generally feel more positive about solutions in which they have had a hand themselves or in which they feel that their voice has been heard as part of that resolution process. However, alternative means of trying to resolve issues first outside Court are not always suitable if, for example, there are concerns over financial disclosure or a fundamental welfare issue and in some cases can even place you at a disadvantage when the legal arguments in your case are subsequently advanced. We always aim to deal with cases in a consensual and conciliatory way but we are also experts in our field in knowing when and how to fight your case in Court”.
This article was written by Lauren Howells and Neil Graham.