The start of the New Year is often a time of self-reflection and for many, that will be a time to take stock of relationships and for some will lead to separation and divorce.
The breakdown of a relationship can be a difficult and deeply emotional experience for any couple and their children. Add to that the practical and legal aspects of divorce and separation and the whole situation can be completely overwhelming. You may be worried about how your divorce or separation may affect your children and your relationships with mutual friends and family and how you will cope financially. This is to be expected so, it is important to make sure that you get the right emotional support to help you cope.
You may have worrying images of court proceedings and anxiety about how expensive the procedure might be. The court system is widely criticised for increasing the level of hostility between separating couples and for being prohibitively expensive and drawn out. Once involved in court proceedings many people wish that there was an alternative. Thankfully there are several alternatives to court proceedings and each can be tailored to your unique circumstances.
These approaches are collectively known as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and prioritise practical, workable solutions that aim to resolve separation issues in a respectful and dignified way. They are voluntary, and unlike court proceedings you and your ex will be in full control of the process. In most cases they are also quicker and less costly.
Two of the most widely adopted ADR approaches are mediation and the collaborative process.
Mediation works by helping you both to decide outcomes such as arrangements for your children, issues relating to divorce and financial matters in a neutral, safe and supportive environment. Your communication with your ex may be difficult or non-existent. Mediation can help by providing somewhere for you to talk calmly and privately in the knowledge that you are not being judged and that whatever is said in the mediation is entirely confidential. With the mediator’s help you will be encouraged to communicate and to explore options for reaching an outcome that works for you and for your children.
Unlike the court process you will stay in control of the mediation, making decisions about the issues that are important to you and your family. The mediator will always make sure that the needs and feelings of your children are the focus of the mediation.
The Collaborative process enables you both to address the issues between you with each of you having a specialist, trained collaborative lawyer at your side during the meetings. You, your ex and the lawyers all sign an agreement committing to resolve the issues and reach an agreement outside of court. If an agreement cannot be reached then your lawyers will not be allowed to continue to act for you in court. This ensures that everyone involved is committed to working constructively towards a mutually agreed solution.
Both mediation and the collaborative process are likely to be quicker, less expensive and far less stressful than going to court. They are tailored to your unique circumstances so are more flexible and will put you and your partner in control of all aspects of your separation. In either case, other experts can be involved in the process such as a family therapist, pension specialist or independent financial adviser to help you.
At Slater Heelis we are focused on achieving the best outcome for you—and our experience and level of commitment is second-to-none. Our family lawyers include qualified mediators and collaborative lawyers and we are also one of the few family law teams in the Manchester and Cheshire area to benefit from having both a male and a female mediator.
A number of our family solicitors are also ranked as leading individuals and recommended lawyers in the authoritative UK legal directories (Legal 500 and Chambers) and all of our family solicitors adhere to the Resolution Code of Practice, which means that they will work with you to resolve your case in a constructive and non-confrontational way.