The probable perception of a divorce lawyer is a fat cat lawyer who profits from people’s distress. However, there are many family lawyers who are committed to trying to help couples end their relationships with a minimum of bitterness and acrimony as well as promoting agreements for the future (particularly between parents as research has shown that conflict between parents can be emotionally harmful to children).
At Harney & Wells we very much believe that going to court is a last resort. It is far more effective (in every way possible) for family disputes to be resolved by agreement. However, it is often too much to expect people to negotiate between themselves (‘kitchen table negotiations’), during the emotionally charged time of a separation, without help from skilled professionals.
If you want to do the best you can for your children and to be able to look back positively about how you handled this part of your life then dispute resolution will probably work for you.
There are several methods for dispute resolution without going to court (other than kitchen table negotiations).
- Mediation using a qualified mediator to facilitate negotiations as to how a couple are to separate. Mediation is both voluntary and confidential. The mediator has to remain impartial. Therefore, a mediator cannot give legal advice but a lot of information can be given to assist a couple (and our solicitor mediators, Carol, Jane and Sarah are able to provide a lot of legal information).
- Collaborative Law (sometimes called mediation with legal advice) is more expensive than mediation as two solicitors are involved in a series of four way meetings with their clients to try to reach an agreement. There is a strong motivation for the lawyers to reach an agreement via collaborative law as if the collaborative process breaks down and cannot be restarted then the collaborative lawyers cannot act further for their clients who have to seek fresh legal advice. Jane and Sarah are collaboratively trained lawyers.
- Traditional Negotiations between solicitors involving an exchange of financial information and then negotiation either in correspondence or in a round table meeting to try and broker an agreement. Family Arbitration is where a family lawyer (trained in family arbitration) decides issues which a couple cannot agree on.
- Family arbitration has been developed because of the time and cost involved in going to court. Family arbitration is seen as being quicker and cheaper than going to court but the couple using family arbitration have to accept that the decision of the arbitrator is binding.