Family Issues - Separating together and the alternatives to Court

Most people who are going through the process of separation or divorce would prefer to avoid having to go to court if at all possible.

In a recent report by the Legal Ombudsman family law is the most commonly complained about area of law, specifically concerning the significant costs that can accrue in cases where the lawyers are seen to run away with a client’s apparent wish to have their day in court. Often the reality is that many clients do not wish to go to court but need to be given thoughtful, considered information and advice so that they can make informed choices and begin to plan for their futures apart and get to the point where life does feel better again.

It is not always an easy journey. It can be made better with the right support, help, advice and guidance. It can also be made worse if a confrontational stance is taken and then compounded by the clients’ representatives.

The court process is stressful, time consuming and costly - emotionally and financially - and with government cut backs taking hold in challenging economic times, the process can be slow.

Many Resolution trained lawyers will strive to do everything possible to help clients reach a fair outcome as quickly and cost effectively as possible and should be able to give clients full information at the outset about the likely costs of representation and the alternatives to going to court, including:

Family Mediation

Accredited Family Mediators, especially those who are also practicing lawyers, are very well placed to provide clients with information about the law and the court process as well as helping couples separate together in a safe, civilized and fair way. There are many benefits to be gained from the process (not least the cost saving) but it is not right process for everyone.

Collaborative Law

Clients instruct their own lawyers and sign an agreement not to go to court. All issues are addressed in face to face meetings working together to find resolution. Clients have their collaborative lawyers by their sides throughout the process and receive support and legal advice as they go.


The clients’ lawyers instruct an Arbitrator or clients may appoint an Arbitrator direct. The Arbitrator makes the decision for the clients which can then be recorded in a court order.

Cost will always be an important consideration for most clients.

For some ‘access to justice’ will be a worry. There is now very little public funding (legal aid) available for family cases but it is still available for Family Mediation for those that qualify. For those that do (and if Mediation is considered suitable) then the cost will be free.

For details of how to find a Family Mediation Service able to offer public funding contact the Legal Aid Agency.

For those clients who can find a way to ‘separate together’ with the right professional help and support, lives can get back on track to a place where life does feel better again.

Nigel Clarke is a Resolution Accredited Specialist Solicitor, Collaborative Lawyer & Accredited Family Mediator in practice with Johnson Clarke Solicitors and Kent & Surrey Family Resolution.