When you have taken the difficult step of deciding to divorce, working out your future arrangements for children, property, maintenance payments and shared business interests can lead to a great deal of anguish.
If you have not come to an agreement by yourselves, it may well be in your interests to consider the alternate avenues before asking the court to help you.
If you do later make an application to the court, you will be asked to submit paperwork confirming whether or not you have attended mediation.
When considering how to negotiate the best divorce settlement, there are now a number of options open to you beyond the traditional courtroom setting.
Mediation is a route that many divorcing couples find beneficial. An independent mediator will meet with you and your spouse, although not necessarily at the same time, so as to explore possible solutions to any disputes that you may have. Mediators may or may not be qualified solicitors.
The benefit of mediation is that you and your spouse can choose who you wish to mediate for you, and even which issues you want to mediate on. For example, if you have agreed the finances, but need help with agreeing contact arrangements for the children, then you can simply advise your mediator about the particular topics you want to discuss.
Your mediator will initially ask to meet you individually to discuss your case. If appropriate you will then have a series of meetings together to try to resolve your dispute. It is always best to take independent legal advice alongside your mediation sessions, especially if you are mediating about financial issues. Once you have come to an agreement, your solicitors will draw up a draft order for the court to ratify. Before granting the order the court will check that the deal you have reached is fair to both of you.
In terms of the time-frame, mediation sessions will be booked at your convenience, and therefore the process can take place at a pace that you and your spouse are comfortable with.
The concept of collaborative law started in the US and offers another approach which avoids the courts. It brings solicitors and clients to the table, in a series of four-way meetings, in which all issues can be raised as part of an agreed agenda to explore the resolution of any disputes together. Solicitors and clients sign an agreement that if the divorcing couple are unable to reach a settlement and have to resort to court, then these solicitors cannot represent them, which encourages everyone to commit to resolving the issues together.
When commencing the divorce process it can be all too easy to focus on your wish list and the ultimate outcome that you wish to secure. However, all divorcing couples could learn from one of the methods used in collaborative law where they are asked at the outset of the collaborative process to think about how they want to recall their divorce when looking back. Selecting the right option to resolve disagreements in as positive a way as possible may enable you to recall an amicable divorce.
Another option which you may want to explore is arbitration, which is like a private court appointment. You apply to a family arbitrator to make a decision about your case, and their decision is binding. Arbitrators may be former judges, barristers or solicitors, but all are expert family lawyers. They will apply their knowledge to your set of circumstances and provide you with a binding ruling. If you wish, you can ask your arbitrator to reach a decision on paper rather than having to meet you and your legal representatives.
This can be a quicker route than applying to court and can be particularly useful where there are substantial or complex finances or shared business interests.
Some couples may be tempted to approach the divorce from a DIY perspective, using one of the online tools now available. Family law disputes will usually be decided by looking at a particular set of circumstances, and therefore a “one size fits all” approach will rarely be appropriate. Your financial security is at stake and so the advice of a qualified solicitor is usually a sensible investment.
Family lawyers have expertise in resolving disputes arising from relationship breakdown, and members of Resolution will apply a conciliatory approach to the conduct of your case.
For more information on the different ways to a divorce settlement any other family law problems, please contact our family law team at our Chorlton office on 0161 860 7123 or Failsworth on 0161 681 4005
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice, and the law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.