Resolving Conflict in Family disputes... anything but Court?

Whatever forum may be chosen by couples who are experiencing the emotional trauma, pain and stress of separation and divorce, there can be no doubt that very few people relish the prospect of Court action with the anguish, delay and cost that can be involved.

Though the prospect of sorting out future arrangements about a couple’s relationships, their children, their home and their finances can be very daunting, the process can be considerably improved with the right assistance from professional help. What sort of help may be appropriate?

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Sometimes lawyers talk about Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). In the family context there are two main types of ‘alternative’ help that can be provided - Family Mediation and Collaborative Family Law. In both contexts the primary function of the Lawyer is to provide a safe haven where sensible discussion and negotiation can take place in a fair and balanced way.

Family Mediation

Mediators are trained to help people resolve disputes. They are impartial and do not take sides but will meet with the couple together and help them to reach agreement on issues that are problematic. Once the couple have agreed proposals that they both find acceptable, the Mediator will prepare a summary which may then be converted into a legally binding agreement. The process can work very well for some couples and is generally more cost effective than the traditional client/lawyer to client/lawyer approach.

Collaborative Family Law

The Collaborative Family law process is a relatively new way of dealing with family disputes. Each person appoints their own trained collaborative lawyer but instead of conducting negotiations by phone or letter, the couple and their collaborative lawyers meet together to work things out face to face. Each of the couple will have their own lawyers present throughout the process and the aim is to resolve disputes without going to Court. Indeed the lawyers and the couple must undertake not to issue Court proceedings throughout the process.

Choosing Help

Because a divorce or separation can raise very sensitive and personal issues it is important to choose a Solicitor who makes you feel comfortable, who is approachable and sympathetic and whose advice you understand.

Whatever your circumstances it is important to ask your Solicitor to explain the various choices of representation that are available to you to meet your individual needs and requirements.

Seeking further information and help

Two useful websites may help you:

Resolution First for Family Law is a national organisation of Family Lawyers committed to a non-confrontational approach to divorce, separation and other family matters. They are able to provide details of Accredited Family Mediators and Collaborative Family Solicitors.

The Law Society provides details of legal practitioners who have earned special recognition of their expertise in particular areas of the law. Look out for the tick sign next to the firm name listed in ‘Find a Solicitor’.