FAMILY DISPUTE SOLUTIONS
When a marriage breaks down there is inevitably concern about what the future will hold, so it is particularly useful to understand the various options to consider, says Isobel Robson.
This relatively new development in family law practice sees each party instruct an experienced and trained collaborative lawyer – so each has the support of their own independent legal advisor. Each lawyer commits to helping both parties achieve an amicable settlement without taking contested proceedings through the courts. It is worth noting that this process requires a special kind of lawyer, with technical skills, experience and compassion.
This commitment - not to take the case to court - means that both parties are in control of the case but without the threat of court proceedings hanging over them, as the two parties and their lawyers sign an agreement not to "fight it out". They meet and work towards reaching an acceptable settlement, enabling them to work at their own pace with everyone involved committed to being open and honest about their financial positions and discussing openly the issues which really matter. Virtually all cases are successful and the outcomes from these negotiations, which are far from being weak compromises, are most often well within the likely range of outcomes which would apply if the court had dealt with the matter. Importantly, too, the key decisions about the future will be made by the parties - not a stranger in a courtroom. And should children be involved, they often benefit from seeing their parents working together to sort things out.
Collaborative law is changing the way people think about family law. For those individuals genuinely seeking a fair solution and a means of minimising the pain of family breakdown it may offer the best way ahead.
Another option to consider is mediation, which, like collaborative law, avoids a courtroom scenario. Instead, a trained mediator works with both parties as an impartial third party to achieve a mutually acceptable solution to their difficulties. Each party may choose to take their own lawyer’s advice outside the mediation sessions to assist in their discussions. The couple set their own agenda and move at their own pace. The clear and direct communication mediation encourages, without the use of lawyers, is often beneficial to those seeking to move forward.
Many couples who adopt the collaborative or mediation approaches usually build a successful understanding with each other which - certainly at the beginning of the process - they might otherwise have thought impossible.
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