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Dont regret what you ate!
When looking back upon your divorce don’t regret what you ate. I am not talking about regretting the exceptionally hot Vindaloo nor the burger bought after that wild night out from the slightly dodgy van on the side of the road; more so regretting the choice of process used to resolve the difficulties that existed following the separation.
It is always important to make wise choices and given the far reaching ramifications of divorce and separation which impact upon where you will live, how you can afford to put food on the table, clothe yourself and any children and who the children will live with, the choices made at this stage are perhaps the most important. Very often people assume that the only way to resolve a dispute is to litigate. What those people fail to appreciate is the diverse menu of other dispute resolution processes which are available to them in the alternative; They could Mediate, Negotiate, Collaborate or Arbitrate.
Litigation is expensive and the financial cost can run into tens of thousands of pounds. Legal aid has been subject to dramatic cuts which leave all but a handful of clients eligible for legal aid regardless of their ability to afford to pay a solicitor or barrister privately. This has lead to a vast increase in the number of people representing themselves at court as well as increasing the actual numbers of applications made as people continue to fail to appreciate the other options open to them. However, it is not just the financial cost that needs to be taken into account, you also need to consider the time involved both in respect of the time that may need to be taken from work in order to attend numerous hearings and also the time taken to reach a resolution. The increase in applications and increase in people representing themselves has meant that the courts are heavily oversubscribed and the waiting time for hearings to be listed can be months.
Finally, it is also important to consider the emotional cost of litigation. All relationships break down for a reason. This may be as a result of one persons behaviour, adultery or even as a result of discovering that you no longer have anything in common. However, more often than not it is one person doing the leaving and one person being left. People faced with the breakdown of a relationship suffer loss. They grieve the loss of the relationship and failed dreams much in the same way as you may grieve after the death of a loved one. There are recognised stages of grief which include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. The process is unique to the individual and is not linear so people may waiver in and out of the various stages before finally coming to terms with what has happened. This process can be helped or hindered by external factors. It is often tempting when you have been hurt by a partner or spouse so seek to lash out and hurt them too. However, this is never likely to be in a persons best interest and certainly not likely to be in the best interests of any child who is caught up in the midst of this adult conflict and is already upset, confused and most likely wondering if they are to blame. One of the biggest difficulties with litigation is that the process can seem to force people into the roles of combatants in the arena of the court each fighting to persuade the judge to make an order in terms more favourable to them and each pointing out the flaws in the others persons arguments or parenting and mudslinging is sadly commonplace. Where there are children involved this can be especially damaging. Consider yourselves 10 to 15 years from now when your children excitedly tell your of their engagement and explain that they would like both you and your ex partner to come to the wedding. These factors must also be combined with the fact that the judge does not know you nor your children which means that you are entrusting possibly some of the most important decisions of your life and which will impact on your future, with a stranger.
Now with the mere thought of ligation causing an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach, are there tastier alternatives?
Mediation allows yourself and your partner to attend a number of meetings with a trained mediator who is independent and impartial and can facilitate the discussions and help you both explore numerous options for settlement with the aim of helping you both reach a mutual agreement which you can then where appropriate set out in a consent order and submit to the court for approval. There are numerous benefits of mediation; it is quicker than making applications to the court, it is cheaper than making applications to the court as Legal Aid is still available subject only to an assessment of your means and the costs when paying privately are still likely to be in the region of £600 + vat per person. (Based upon an average of 4 sessions). An additional benefit is that as you and your partner retain the autonomy in reaching a decision you retain control over your own futures and are more likely to be happy with the overall outcomes. Should you require it you can obtain legal advice alongside the mediation process.
Negotiation is a process which you could use either informally between yourselves or with the assistance of a solicitor to reach an agreement. When one or both of you instruct solicitors these negotiations will either take place in correspondence or where appropriate during round table meetings with your lawyer present. You will have access to specialised legal advice throughout the process in order to ensure the best outcome for you and your children.
Collaborative Law is the process adopted by specifically trained family law solicitors as an alternative to the traditional route of litigation when dealing with the breakdown of a relationship. This process involves the couple engaging in a series of open civilised discussions about the unique terms of their separation. Both parties will have their own collaborative family lawyer present and at their side during such discussions to aid the process of negotiation which both parties participate in and remain fully involved until a solution is achieved. The process is different to the traditional route in that all parties at the outset sign an agreement called the participation agreement which provides that no party can threaten or make use of the Court process in an adversarial way and neither collaborative lawyer can ever represent either party in any litigation against the other, encouraging the parties to the process to be fully committed to achieving a resolution together. The couple set the pace at which they are comfortable in relation to discussing the issues involved and endeavour to agree matters together rather than feeling that they have been dragged helplessly through a process by solicitors and sometimes the Courts.
In Family Arbitration, you and your ex-partner or spouse appoint a family Arbitrator who will make a decision that will be final and binding between you, on any financial and property disputes arising from the breakdown of your family relationship. The Arbitrator will deal with all stages of your case from start to finish and will make a decision after hearing from both of you or your representatives. The timetable is set by you both so there is flexibility as to the time and place of the hearings. The process and the decision of the Arbitrator is private and therefore no details will be available to the public.
Family Arbitration has been developed to allow parties to resolve their financial dispute in a forum that is confidential, at a pace set by them and by an Arbitrator who is chosen by the parties. You can have the confidence that the person dealing with your matter is experienced in family law and specifically in the subject matter you require their assistance with. All Arbitrators have to meet the exceptional criteria for being accepted by IFLA having proven their experience and expertise in order to qualify as an Arbitrator. The costs of Arbitration are often offset against the saving that can be made by avoiding the need to proceed through the Court process to obtain a decision where parties are unable to agree.
At Breeze and Wyles Solicitors LTD we are committed to assisting clients in choosing the best process to meet their needs and as such we are able to provide all of the above options. This when considered together with our clear and competitive pricing structure and range of fixed fees makes Breeze & Wyles Solicitors LTD a clear choice.
To make an appointment or for more information call 01992 558411.
Karen Johnson – (Associate Solicitor and Family Mediator) – A Graduate of the University of East Anglia who then completed her Legal Practice Course at the College of Law in London and then Qualified as a Solicitor in 2002 working in a local High Street Firm before Joining Breeze & Wyles Solicitors in 2009 and becoming an Associate with the firm in 2011.
Karen is a highly skilled and experienced Family Solicitor with in excess of 10 years experience of working in Family Law. She is a Resolution Accredited Specialist in the fields of Domestic Violence and Financial Matters. Karen is additionally a Family Mediator trained by and a member of the Family Mediators Association (The FMA) an association with over 20 years experience of Family Mediation.
Olive McCarthy – (Director of Private Client Department) – Olive joined the firm in 2000 and was appointed as a Partner and Head of the Family Law Department in the old firm in 2004. Olive is an accredited Specialist Family Lawyer with Resolution in advanced finances on divorce and cohabitation disputes. Olive has had panel accreditation with the Law Society as a Family Law Specialist since 2003 and has been a Collaborative Lawyer since early 2009. Olive is also a Family Law Arbitrator.
Olive specialises in dealing with complex finance cases, particularly high net worth cases. Olive has been a Trustee for the East Herts & Broxbourne Domestic Violence Forum since 2003 and is the honorary legal representative for the Citizens’ Advice Bureau in Broxbourne, Hertford and Ware.