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As part of the on-going look at the change in family law one thing that is apparent is the different ways in which people are wanting to deal with the breakdown of the family.
Traditionally when a marriage or relationship breaks down one, or both, of the parties will seek advice and assistance from a family solicitor.
Depending on what their needs and wants are will then determine how matters are to proceed and it is this that has changed over recent years.
Usually the involvement of a solicitor at these times is to issue divorce proceedings and deal with the financial consequences of the relationship breakdown, which may also mean issuing an application at Court. Then there are matters which relate to the children such as where they will live and when they will see the non-resident parent.
One of the biggest challenges family lawyers have when dealing with these matters is that emotions are usually running very high and this can, sometimes, cloud things for the client. This is completely understandable and we have to mindful of this. It means that we are constantly keeping your instructions under review but it also means that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to dealing with relationship breakdown is not appropriate and that different options should and must be considered.
For some people there is no way that matters can be resolved in any way other than the issuing of court proceedings to financial matters and/or children matters but for us this has to be the very last resort. There has to be other ways of dealing with it all and there is, there is the process of mediation and collaborative law.
One of the things that can happen when you instruct a solicitor in these situations is that things can be taken out of your hands. Matters can sometimes snowball beyond your control and, at worst, a Judge has to decide how things should resolved when actually you probably could have done it yourselves if you had had the opportunity to and this is what collaborative law is about and, to an extent, what mediation is about.
As members of Resolution our team of family law specialist solicitors always try to resolve things as fairly, amicably and as non-confrontational as possible. An acrimonious settlement and relationship breakdown will not help either parties in the long term particularly if you have children. In an ideal world you do not want your children to be exposed to any animosity between their parents and these two ways of resolving matters can really help in keeping relations cordial and civil.
Mediation is a buzz word at the moment and is something that you have probably already heard of. Indeed, from April 2014 mediation is going to be compulsory to all parties who seek to make an application to Court, whether that be for financial matters or children matters. There has been a real push from the Government to promote mediation as much as possible.
Here at Ramsdens Solicitors we have a specially trained, Resolution accredited, mediator Helen Thewlis. Helen is one of only a handful of such mediators in the Huddersfield area. Helen is an experienced solicitor, and is a partner at Ramsdens, and she is in the special position of being able to understand the law as well as being properly trained in mediation skills.
Mediation is the process by which you and your former partner get together, with the mediator, to try and help you reach your own decisions about how to move forward. The mediator is not there to take sides or to give specific advice but helps both parties to consider matters and reach an agreement you are happy with and which seems fair. You continue to instruct your own solicitor and if an agreement is reached then this is drafted into an formal document which your solicitor can give you advice on.
As with mediation the advantage of collaborative law is that you have a say as to how issues, whether that be finances or children, are to be resolved but this process is slightly different to mediation in that both parties instruct solicitors and you all sit down together, in the same room, and talk face-to-face to reach a solution.
The idea with the collaborative process is that you work with your solicitor and this can benefit you by having their support and legal guidance, you set the agenda and talk about the issues which you want to resolve and it is set at the right pace for you. There is no threat of court proceedings hanging over you. Your solicitor is there throughout the process and other professionals can be brought in to assist, such as financial advisers or accountants, if needed.
This helps to keep things as amicable as possible and it helps to focus minds and gives you some real involvement and say in the overall long term agreements that are reached. Furthermore, the solicitors involved in this process sign an agreement, with you, which means they could not represent you in court if the whole collaborative process breaks down. This means that both solicitors involved are committed to helping you reach a conclusion that is right for you and this is done through compromise and agreement rather than through arguments and hostility.
We have two specialist trained Resolution collaborative solicitors at Ramsdens; Helen Thewlis, Joanne Coen and Jane Auty.
The advantage of both mediation and collaborative law is that they reduce the level of conflict, give some control back to you and help to save time and money which is so important.
This article is not written as mediation and collaborative law being the be all and end all and the answer to everything and they do not fit every single case. Sometimes going to Court is the only realistic way of resolving matters but these two options are something to bear in mind and procedures which really could benefit you in the long term.
Our specially trained solicitors can meet with you at any of our offices and we have good links with other local firms who also use the collaborative law process. If you are interested in learning more about this or you want to meet with Helen, Joanne or Jane to explore these processes then please contact us on 01484 821500. You can also learn lots more about this on the Resolution website http://www.resolution.org.uk.