Good divorce week – the benefits of getting advice early
Family courts are overstretched and facing unprecedented backlogs; they remain challenged by delays that were aggravated during the Covid-19 pandemic. This is causing undue delays to proceedings, which magnifies the stress and hardship for families already experiencing a difficult time. The reality is that many cases presently before the court could be resolved by alternative methods of dispute resolution, but not enough information is available at present for families to know what those other alternatives are.
This year’s Good Divorce Week campaign, led by Resolution, is focusing on the importance and need for early advice and out of court solutions for families. It intends to raise awareness in Government about the difficulties faced by the Family courts at present, and to highlight the importance of access to early legal advice and information for families.
The Family team at Axiom DWFM are members of Resolution and are supporting this year’s campaign by offering a free 30-minute telephone consultation to discuss alternative dispute resolution with interested parties. We understand that whilst the court can be an essential intervention, it should by no means be a first resort. Depending on the facts of each case, our team can help to settle disputes through an appropriate alternative method.
Negotiating a Divorce Settlement
Parties should focus on reaching an agreement with each other, outside of the courts, wherever possible. This will meaningfully reduce the associated stress and costs for individuals and families.
The Family team at Axiom DWFM can assist by facilitating discussions with the other party and / or their representatives (through written correspondence, or by way of a roundtable); or by drafting a legally binding document encompassing that which parties have already agreed together and ensuring that no important factors or considerations have been missed.
Collaborative practice involves both parties and their respective lawyers attending face-to-face meetings to engage in negotiations, having signed up to work together on a solution to avoid going to court.
All discussions about all matters take place in meetings with both parties and both solicitors present. Other than practical arrangements, no letters or emails are sent in a collaborative case.
The idea is that parties need to solve the problem as to how their finances will be divided, by looking at what both parties wish and need. It is a particularly helpful way to deal with matters where the parties have children (whether minors or adult); as it enables the communication to continue between the parties and assists in keeping a productive and civil relationship for the future, when issues regarding the children need to be discussed.
Parties need to choose specialist trained lawyers, who will work collaboratively to help achieve the parties jointly desired outcomes – Catherine Hancock in the Family Team at Axiom DWFM is a trained collaborative lawyer and can assist parties considering this method of dispute resolution.
Mediation in Divorce
Mediation can be an extremely valuable tool for helping parties to settle ongoing disputes, through guided negotiations. The Mediator is a neutral third-party, who is trained to assist parties in reaching agreement about children, money, and property.
A “Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting” will usually be required before parties can initiate Children or Financial proceedings. The necessity vs the requirement of a MIAM has recently been reflected upon by Family Law Professionals, and there is a general shift in ideology that these are simply a check-list exercise. Where possible, these meetings should provide parties with a genuine understanding of whether their case can be settled through mediation or whether alternatives methods of dispute resolution should be considered.
It should be noted that a Mediator is not able to provide legal advice during regular sessions.
Hybrid Mediation is an alternative to standard mediation and requires a specially trained Mediator. It can be helpful when the relationship between parties is particularly difficult.
In either standard or hybrid mediation, the solicitors can be present, if agreed by both parties and the mediator. It is usually something that would be discussed with the mediator before they are invited to attend.
Catherine Hancock, Partner at Axiom DWFM and Head of our Family team, has over 10 years’ experience as a Mediator, and is qualified to undertake Hybrid sessions.
An Arbitrator is usually a judge or senior legal professional experienced in Family law. Where parties cannot reach an agreement, it is possible to either jointly agree an Arbitrator or have one appointed, to adjudicate over any outstanding issues between parties; their decision in Arbitration will be legally binding. This can offer a quicker and less expensive resolution for parties that are struggling to come to an agreement over some or all issues on their divorce / separation, including children and financial matters.
There are other methods of dispute resolution that are not mentioned above but which the Family team at Axiom DWFM would be happy to explore with you, dependent on the facts of your case