Family Matters and Alternatives to Court

Since the Covid-19 pandemic we have become increasingly aware of the impacts that the lockdown has had on family dynamics.

This has been both positive and negative with some families being able to spend a lot more time with each other but with some it has led to a realisation that their relationship is in difficulties and needs to come to an end.  Where there are children involved it can be difficult for everyone, because inevitably there can be competing interests as to what each party or parent believes is in the best interests of their child.  We have noted that whilst there seems to be a greater level of conflict, we would always emphasise to any potential clients that they should consider alternatives and other forms of support, rather than thinking (as some do) that they will need the Court to resolve any difficulties that have arisen.

Given the present pandemic, at the moment the Court is not, as such, open to most cases being heard with the parties physically attending Court, so Hearings are instead being listed where the parties attend via a Court link.  That can assist in terms of initial Court Hearings, where there may only be limited issues that need to be considered or are in dispute, but it can become more difficult and problematic if parties have to provide evidence and, for example, the connection to the Court is lost, falls away and so on.

We will assist our clients to identify if they might want to consider whether or not the Court approach is the best approach for them. Inevitably the Court approach  means that the parties are asking a Judge to make a decision about matters that involve them and their family, and that might not ultimately be best for any of them.  Are there alternatives that could be considered?

We recommend a whole host of potential ways in which parties can try to alleviate some of the stresses and strains even if ultimately they decide that they wish to be separated.  Do consider options such as family therapy (which can be both for the parties but with parental consent can also involve their children – they need to consider their ages and understanding as much as anything else but can be guided by the relevant family therapist). There are also couples’ counselling (and some might offer a form of family counselling). If considering a reconciliation, or the option of doing so, do still consider utilising agencies such as Relate etc.

Paul Wild is a Mediator and he would recommend that mediation be considered in the context of assisting the parties to explore all options. Mediation can cover children as well as financial and other related matters.

There is also the collaborative process which involves the parties obtaining independent legal advice and attending joint meetings with both sets of parties and their solicitors being present – the intention is to always try to focus upon the positives of the family relationship and building on areas in which the parties agree, rather than focusing on areas where the parties disagree (which is often why parties end up applying to the Court because they have reached the stage where they perhaps feel that they cannot agree anything).

We would always advise and recommend that the Court should be a last resort, in part because it often is.  It can be very expensive, it can be inflexible and based upon present experience, it can add substantively to delays which, especially if there are children involved, may not be in their best interests at all.  Having said that, sometimes cases require a Court application and input. This is not to say that the Court should not be considered, or an application to the Court not be made but the point of this article is to recommend that the parties always consider alternatives and look to access those alternatives before going to Court, as this may not be their only real or best option.  Often clients say after completion of Court hearings, that they wish they had been able to resolve matters in a different way, and it may therefore be worth exploring what those different ways could be, in more detail, earlier in the process.

Barrett & Co Solicitors are open and are able to conduct telephone meetings. Our Family Team offers a confidential one-hour fixed fee meeting for one hour for £95 including VAT, if you would like any advice on the above matters discussed. Please contact our Reading office on 0118 958 9711 to book an appointment or alternatively, email [email protected] and we will be happy to assist you.

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Get in Touch

Paul Wild offers a fixed fee initial meeting of one hour to discuss your personal circumstances, your options and your next steps, at a cost of £95.00 ( inc VAT) , followed by a free letter of advice.

Paul will meet you in our Reading Berkshire office. If you would like to meet with Paul please telephone the office so that an appointment can be arranged.

Paul is a Solicitor specialising in Family Law and is a member of Resolution (formerly The Solicitors Family Law Association) and has trained in and practises both Mediation and Collaborative Law and is a member of Reading Family Mediation (“RFM”) and also the Thames Valley Collaborative POD.

"barrettandco" and "Barrett & Co" are trading names of Barrett & Co Solicitors LLP, a Limited Liability Partnership incorporated in England and Wales under registration number OC356263, with registered office at Salisbury House, 54 Queens Road, Reading, Berkshire RG1 4AZ. Barrett & Co Solicitors LLP is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority www.sra.org.uk (SRA Number 549694).

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