Tips for Family Law
Here are some thoughts:
- Getting legal advice is normally a good place to start – clients can be anxious about not understanding “what my rights are”. However unless urgent protective steps are required – attach a degree of caution to any advice which tells you what you will get in a financial settlement. It is very difficult for anyone to give a clear idea – financial disclosure needs to take place first. The initial meeting with a solicitor is in most respects therapeutic.
- Unless there are significant safety issues then mediation is normally the best format for negotiation. It is unwise not to get legal advice before making final decisions within mediation. Mediation can be very difficult to set up and often it will only happen after solicitors letter has been sent to the other party – after which they are more likely to appreciate the need to negotiate a sensible agreement.
- Collaborative Family Law can be a good alternative to mediation – albeit one that is more expensive. It works for slightly more complicated scenarios where one or both will struggle with negotiation without having their solicitor with them.
- The law is about achieving fairness.It is about ensuring that the needs of both parties are met – with the needs of their minor children being the first consideration. It is not winner takes all. To achieve a negotiated solution will require an ability to understand the other person’s needs as well as your own. It will also require an ability to be able to compromise in appropriate situations. A negotiated solution can be the same as that achieved after a contested court process – but without the cost and stress. This is because cases settle in court through parties making small compromises from entrenched positions. When a judge decides – they will often come up with a solution somewhere between the positions put forward by each party. There is no solution that can be obtained through court process that cannot be reached through negotiation.
- Divorce and separation can bring out the worst in people. Sometimes sensible negotiation can become impossible and going to court is the only option. However do not give up on the possibility of settlement to quickly.
- Be wary about instructing a solicitor in connection with the divorce who is not a member of Resolution
- Arbitration is a fairly new form of dispute resolution in the context of family law. It can be used in support of mediation or to try to resolve some or all issues separately – and quickly. It is always worth bearing in mind.
- Divorce and Separation are a journey. At the outset it is always sensible to have a good idea of where you would like to end up – where you will be living – how you will be maximising your earning capacity – what the arrangements for your children are going to be. Think also about where the other party would like to end up. It is easier to get where you are going if you know where that is.
- Divorce and separation can be a very emotional time. People can and do behave very badly toward each other. It can be easy to think that you want to get your own back on the other for their bad behaviour. Resist that temptation. Focus on achieving the best fair outcome for you and your children in terms of your and their future needs (a misbehaving spouse is unlikely to evaporate and it is usually in your children’s interests to be able to maintain a good relationship with both parents).
- Before embarking on a course of action which will involve spending thousands of pounds in legal fees – think – how will you justify that cost to yourself and your children in 10 years time?
- Whatever professional you go and see will tell you all about the benefits of their particular discipline over the alternatives. For a genuine overview of the options – it is best to see someone who can practice all the options.
- Some clients will see several solicitors before deciding who to instruct. Be careful. Giving definitive advice as to outcome is difficult until full financial information (particularly pension valuations) is available. The law is the same. Be wary about optimistic promises about what you might achieve. Also be wary about optimistic estimates about costs. When comparing charges – looked the underlying hourly charging rates – and who will actually be undertaking the work.
- Finally – if separation and divorce is difficult for parents, it is more difficult for children. At least parents are able to make some decisions about how the divorce will progress – both in terms of timing and process. They can choose to be difficult or less difficult with each other. Children have little that they can say and do. They are stuck in the middle. At the end of the day children want to be happy. They want to be able to (safely) enjoy both their parents and to have as many adults around them and in their lives who love them. They don’t want to listen to arguing. They need to have certainty.