The Court does need to be involved to formalise the divorce process; however, it is possible to resolve the majority of issues (for example matrimonial finances) amicably and by consent.
Agreeing matters by consent can provide parties with more control over the outcome and can save tens of thousands of pounds in legal fees. We now present our top tips for reducing tension in family proceedings:
Communication is key
A common reason why family proceedings are contested is that communication breaks down between the parties. Depending on the circumstances, keeping a line of communication open can be one of the best ways to resolve matters amicably. If speaking with your ex-partner is difficult, choosing a solicitor that favours a more conciliatory approach can often be the first step in attempting to reduce hostility in proceedings. The tone of communications can often be just as important as the content and being overly aggressive towards the other side can often create a conflict atmosphere. Unfortunately, when this occurs, court proceedings are often the only way to resolve the issue.
Focus on the Issues
Although the relationship has broken down, it can still be possible to agree on how to deal with the finances, or what arrangements are appropriate for the children. If the parties can agree on certain aspects of the separation before starting proceedings this is a positive step to assisting with the matter. It can also be helpful to put in writing the matters that the parties agree on and the matters that the parties do not agree on. In doing so, this will focus the parties to the areas in dispute. Taking legal advice early on in the process can assist, as a solicitor can explore a client’s priorities with them and enable them to identify where there is agreement, and where the attention needs to be focused. It may be possible to agree on everything outside court. If this happens, the process can be done mainly by consent and as a necessary step towards implementing an agreement, rather than a contentious battle incurring substantial legal fees.
Agree the Petition in Advance
One reason the divorce can turn contentious is when a petition is presented without any warning to the other party. This can cause one party to feel like they are being blamed for the breakdown of the marriage (rightly or wrongly) especially when the fact of unreasonable behaviour has been used. This can cause increased hostility which can affect related children and financial proceedings. A more conciliatory approach is to prepare a draft petition in advance, ideally choosing the least contentious ground and asking the other side to agree or propose reasonable amendments. This way both parties feel they have been listened to from an early stage and can encourage co-operation between the parties, increasing the chance of other related issues proceeding by consent and more amicably.
It is hoped that there will be a new divorce procedure later this year which will enable parties to divorce without blaming the other which should help with any animosity.
Consider Alternative Dispute Resolution
Even when negotiations do not lead to a settlement, it is not inevitable that court involvement will be needed. There are a number of other approaches that can be considered, which are often less confrontational than a traditional trial. A few options include:
- Mediation – a neutral third party works with the parties to try and reach a settlement.
- Collaborative law – a process whereby the parties agree to settle matters without making an application to Court and the process is based on round table meetings with each party having solicitor representation. To engage in this process, solicitors are required to be collaboratively trained.
- Arbitration – this is most like a trial set up. The parties will jointly instruct a trained arbitrator (neutral party) who will review all documentation and listen to the parties and decide how the matter should be settled. The parties have to agree prior to attending that they will be bound by the process.
Consider the Children’s Interests
By putting your children’s interests at the forefront of negotiations, the parties will be reflecting the approach of the Court, especially in decisions involving where they might live and how this will work for both parents. By adopting a child focused approach from the start the parties will reflect the approach of the Court and may find it easier to reach a consensus and agreed settlement. When an application to Court is made the parties are asking the Court to make a decision, the decision making process is therefore outside of the parents’ control.
Consider other support
The process of separation and divorce can be very stressful for the whole family which can manifest itself in various ways. Having the support and guidance of professionals can be very important to the outcome of a case and we do work with various other professionals too. These include barristers, financial advisors and pension experts as well as Family Consultants. By using them and working together, this can assist you to make considered and informed decisions as will trying to manage costs by using and referring to their specialist knowledge at the appropriate and relevant times.
Fixed Fee Meeting
At Barrett & Co Solicitors LLP we offer an initial fixed fee meeting for £95 (inc. VAT). If you would like to book an appointment please call 0118 958 9711 or email [email protected].
Paul Wild, our Head of Family Law, is a trained mediator and collaborative lawyer who places an emphasis on reducing conflict and working with clients and other solicitors to reach agreement on the key issues.
Be Better Informed About Family Law
Know your rights and keep up to date with the latest changes to the law affecting families dealing with divorce and separation – sign up for our monthly legal newsletter.
Enter your email address below to start receiving our monthly legal bulletin.
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.