In recent months, the family law landscape has changed dramatically with the long awaited, reform to divorce law (“no-fault”) and much needed focus on resolving disputes away from the family court system.
The Resolution Good Divorce Week is taking place between 28 November and 2 December 2022 with the main focus of highlighting the vital resources available to family lawyers for resolving conflict outside of the court system and to reduce the pressure on the courts.
Family courts up and down the country are facing a difficult time of overstretched resources and backlogs for both listing hearings and processing paperwork. This has resulted in families being frequently left with long waiting times to sort out finances and child arrangements.
It is hoped that more lawyers, clients and families will engage in alternative methods to resolving disputes following a separation in order to reduce conflict, save time and money, and ultimately to give the family court the relief it needs to deal with cases that can only be resolved by the court.
There are many misconceptions relating to how family lawyers can help families resolve disputes following a separation. The main misconception is that parties must engage in contested court applications to resolve disputes in order to get ‘justice’.
The reality is that while court proceedings are necessary in some cases, the majority of disputes can be resolved without this adversarial step in the hope that we can reduce the conflict, and stress on the families involved.
One of the main focuses of Resolution is that court proceedings are the last resort and families should have tried to resolve matters using all other options available before we reach this final stage.
There are several options for families to consider when trying to navigate a separation and the arrangements which arise as a result. These options are as follows:
- The kitchen table agreement
- Family mediation, including child inclusive mediation, as well as mediation with solicitors present
- Solicitor negotiation through correspondence
- Roundtable meetings (usually involving solicitors and barristers)
- Private court hearings with a jointly instructed ‘Judge’ who is usually a part-time District Judge and/or practising Barrister
- Arbitration with a binding decision on the parties
All of these options are designed to support families to move away from the ‘justice’ based response to separation and conflicts that arise relating to either financial matters or child arrangements.