Each year around 100,000 children under 16 see their parents’ divorce. Almost half of all break-ups (48%) occur when there is at least one child in the relationship, and with 230,000 people in England and Wales going through a divorce each year (and many more separating), this is an issue that affects hundreds of thousands of families in Britain every year.
Therefore it is crucial that couples do everything possible to resolve disagreements in an amicable way that minimises stress on all family members – particularly any children they may have.
Separation: what options are available for separating couples?
- Mediation helps couples work things out together. It is not a form of relationship counselling, or a way to help a couple get back together. Instead it helps couples who are separating decide how to end their relationship. During mediation the couple, helped by a trained mediator, talk through the issues (such as money, children or any other consequences of the separation) that they need to solve, and work out what is best for them and their children.
- The collaborative process helps people work through the issues they need to resolve, with each partner having a specially trained lawyer by their side at each meeting and often a family therapist and financial advisor also. This process is a private way to solve problems without having to go to court, and offers each party support and legal advice as they go.
- Family arbitration is a way of reaching a decision about finances or property for separating couples. Instead of going to court, both parties agree on the appointment of a family arbitrator to rule on specific issues of dispute. At the start of the process the couple agree to be bound by the arbitrator’s decision.
- Solicitor negotiation - if mediation, arbitration or the collaborative process are not right, each party’s solicitors can negotiate an agreement, without the need for a lengthy court process. Issues between separating couples are often successfully resolved with the support and expertise of a Resolution member – in fact it is one of the most common ways of reaching agreement.
- Negotiating your own agreement isn’t suitable for everybody, but it can work if the couple have mutually agreed to separate, remain on good terms and generally agree on issues relating to their property and any children they have. It is still important to take legal advice to ensure the implications of the agreement are fully understood, and to ensure it is legally binding.
- Going to court will be the right option for some people, because agreement can’t be reached or there is a particularly difficult or unique aspect to the case. There is usually a legal requirement for couples to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before the court process begins, to see whether mediation or another process is right for them. Even if one or both parties decides to go to court, an agreement can be reached before a Final Hearing, and Resolution members will try to ensure this happens, and keep the stress and conflict to a minimum. If the couple cannot reach a final agreement, the judge will make a binding decision on what he or she thinks is fair.
To find out more information about any of these means of separation, please contact a member of our Family Team.
Clifton Ingram's family team includes members of Resolution, an organisation of 6,500 family lawyers and other professionals who believe in a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters.
Resolution have produced a powerful video aimed at those going through a separation, or those who know someone that is, that illustrates the range of people that separation can affect – particularly children. To view the video please click below