Ian Walker - What are the options when you split up?Is reconciliation possible?

Firstly; you need to decide whether to make another go of the relationship. This is not necessarily an easy choice. However as an option it should not be dismissed lightly.

Divorce/Separation inevitably leads to lots of changes.

This can mean moving home, or a reduced standard of living. It can mean losing friends and support networks. It could mean disruption for your children. If you move they may have to change school. They may feel caught in the middle between their parents. Their relationships with parents/grandparents may be damaged, sometimes beyond repair.

Abuse should not be tolerated

On the other hand if there is abuse within a family, then this should not be tolerated.

Making hard decisions

Deciding to try to save the relationship does not mean accepting the status quo.

There are tough choices. We would always recommend that care should be taken to ensure that you are making the right choice for you and your family.

There is often more support available than you might think. One example is through Relate.

Mediation can also help. A couple may want to discuss how they will continue together in a non-counselee sort of way. Counselling tends to be a backward looking process, which examines where things went wrong in order to work out where to go next. Mediation is essentially a forward looking process. Different things work for different families.

You should also remember that there is nothing to prevent a couple from getting back together any time they both want to. Divorces can be stopped.

Ways to get things sorted out

If things the relationship is over then the options are essentially;

  •  Agreeing everything together without professional assistance;this can seem like a good idea, but can lead to bad agreements which work out to be unfair. Things might be amicable, but in reality big arguments might simply be put off until later. We would at least recommend mediation. The mediator is able to inform a couple if what they are proposing is outside what would be considered to be the range of reasonable solutions. The mediator can also help the couple to look at how they will keep things amicable in the future.
  • Sorting everything out through a court process; this is sometimes the only option but is expensive and stressful. See our chart on the costs of the different options.
  •  Arm’s length negotiation through Solicitors; can work, but can also lead to future problems. There is often an element of “Chinese whispers”. Generally it is better to talk.
  • Collaborative Law; The couple sign an agreement not to go to court. They and their Solicitors then take part in a series of four way meetings until all issues are resolved. This can work very well. For more information visit our collaborative law page.
  • Family Mediation; the couple sit down with the mediator in voluntary and confidential discussions. The process is supported by the couple being able to access legal advice, normally between meetings. This is often the best and cheapest option. Mediation is an adaptable process.

Comparison between the different processes; the financial and emotional cost

This cost comparison is very rough. All cases are different and the actual cost will reflect the particular complexities of a case. What we are trying to illustrate is the difference in cost between processes in a given situation. It is easy to forget the emotional cost. With the Court process, this tends to build as the case progresses. Generally mediation gets easier.




The idea of this chart is to give a simple visual comparison of the costs to each of the separating couple of the different processes. Fees will vary from case to case, but the important thing is the relative costs of each process. When you ask for a price comparison, remember to factor in the emotional cost!

Family Mediation

There are likely to be legal fees in support of mediation and in making the proposals from mediation into a formal and binding Court Order.

There are a series of meetings between the mediator and the participants, who generally access legal advice between mediation meetings.

Mediation meetings can be stressful, particularly at the first meeting, but meetings often get easier as the process progresses.

Legal Aid is available for this model.

Mediation Hybrid Model

In this process the mediator is trained as both a family and civil/commercial mediator. The Mediator will manage a process, which culminates in a meeting involving both participants and their Solicitors who will work together to resolve all issues in a single day. There is greater Solicitor involvement, but the process is quicker and less stressful and ideally suited to financial cases.

We actively work with both Solicitors, who attend the full session and who draw up the agreements at the end.

 Collaborative Law

Collaborative Law is not a cheap solution. The meetings require more preparation and it is a lengthier process than mediation.

Stress levels are kept manageable through the involvement of both Solicitors and by them working together.

Court Process

Court is more expensive. Court is much more stressful. After decisions are made the Solicitors walk away and the couple have to pick up the pieces. The final bill is both financial and emotional. If the case does not settle along the way, the couple give evidence under oath and the Judge decides what the outcome should be. There is uncertainty all the way along. Nobody is ever able to say exactly how any given case will end or what the final costs will be. More often than not, it was more than predicted!

You may have questions such as: What is my partner entitled to if we split up? How to split up when you own a house together? Legal rights for unmarried couples? What are the legal issues when an unmarried couple breaks up? We have created an FAQ’s page that can help answer those questions.