We understand that the prospect of separating from your spouse or partner can be very daunting, particularly when the costs of court proceedings are well publicised. However, there are various ways to settle a family law dispute outside of court. In fact, lengthy and expensive proceedings should always be considered an option of last resort.
So, what are the options?
If you are not sure whether your relationship is at an end, a therapist or counsellor may be able to assist you both in addressing any underlying issues. Having done this, you may find that you wish to reconcile and that you no longer require legal assistance. Remember, divorce or civil partnership dissolution is a “means to an end” that should only be pursued if you have the ultimate goal of bringing your marriage or civil partnership to an end.
The “kitchen table” method
If your relationship has irretrievably broken down, then you and your spouse or partner might wish to negotiate your own agreement about finances and any child arrangements, at home, “over the kitchen table”. However, not everyone is able to do this, as you will need to be able to communicate with each other openly and amicably. If this is an option, it would generally be a good idea to take legal advice before negotiating directly, so that you understand your options and what the realistic parameters of outcomes may be. This option is not advisable if one party has suffered from domestic abuse during the relationship.
Mediation is a process whereby a trained mediator helps you to reach an agreement. You can find your local mediator on the Family Mediation Council website (Find your local mediator – Family Mediation Council). It is important to take legal advice, independently from your spouse or partner, so as to ensure that the legal implications of any agreement reached in mediation are suited to your circumstances. Background legal advice can be provided in advance of the mediation and during the process, if helpful. Again, this option is not advisable if one party has suffered from domestic abuse during the relationship.
Collaborative law is a process whereby you and your spouse or partner, together with your respective solicitors, sign an agreement stating that the matter will not result in court proceedings, but rather you shall all endeavour to reach an agreement. You all then work together, in a series of round-table meetings, to resolve the issues between the parties. You would need to ensure that your solicitor is a fully qualified collaborative lawyer.
You could ask your solicitor to negotiate a settlement on your behalf. The negotiations usually take place in correspondence, during telephone communications and potentially face to face meetings.
During this process, an arbitrator is appointed to hear your case and to make a decision that will be final and binding on you and your spouse or partner. it is advisable to appoint a solicitor to support and advise you throughout the process.
Whilst court proceedings should always be an option of last resort, in some circumstances they are the most suitable option. Again, you should appoint a solicitor to support and advise you throughout the process. Your solicitor will also be able to provide guidance on what you can do to prevent your legal costs from increasing unnecessarily.
If you are considering any of the above options, please do speak with a family law solicitor. To contact one of us, please click here.