Separating couples are being encouraged to have a less acrimonious attitude to divorce after the latest Legal Aid cuts, report Coles Miller Solicitors ahead of Family Dispute Resolution Week.
Large numbers of divorcing couples previously eligible for Legal Aid now have to pay their own costs - making them less likely to go to court.
“People’s attitudes to divorce are now very different compared with Family Dispute Resolution Week last year,” said Coles Miller Partner Emma Hamilton Cole.
“The legal landscape is significantly different this year following the changes that we have had to Legal Aid,” added Ms Hamilton Cole, a mediator and collaborative lawyer who leads Coles Miller’s Family Law team.
Family Dispute Resolution Week runs from November 25 to 29. It is organised by Resolution, an association of 6,500 specialist family lawyers in England and Wales.
Resolution’s aim is to promote more amicable ways of dealing with family disputes - such as using mediators or the collaborative process.
Mediation was once seen as an “alternative” means of dispute resolution. Now it is not only mainstream but is likely to be the most popular option following the Legal Aid cuts.
Opting for mediation is now the first course of action in around 20 per cent of divorce cases handled by Coles Miller’s solicitors in Bournemouth and Poole.
And of the one third of divorces which go to court, most will be redirected towards mediation or other similar conciliatory processes. Only five per cent will result in court-imposed judgments.
“Mediation is the cheapest option but it’s more about the value of the process - it puts the client in control and is also better for the children,” said Ms Hamilton Cole.
Using a neutral mediator to facilitate the separation and the division of assets helps to take the acrimony out of getting divorced.
“It’s about getting the couple to step back and take accountability for their own situation. Previously they would have left everything to a judge and hoped for the best,” said Ms Hamilton Cole.
Highly complex or difficult cases may require more than one mediator but this is still preferable to a court battle as it seeks a resolution acceptable to both parties.
Mediation is not the only means of resolving family disputes and keeping them out of court. There are other alternatives:
- Collaborative law - a four-way co-operative process involving two lawyers and the two clients, both of whom undertake in writing not to go to court.
- Round the table negotiation - similar to collaborative law but without the written undertaking required by collaborative law.
This accounts for solutions in around 10 per cent of cases handled by Coles Miller.
The remainder of cases that do not go to a final court hearing are concluded in the traditional way with letters and faxes between the parties’ solicitors.
Dorset law firm Coles Miller has five offices in Bournemouth, Poole, Broadstone, Charminster and Wimborne.
Its solicitors act for private and business clients - mainly in Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset but throughout England and Wales for cases involving clinical negligence, personal injury and interest rate swap mis-selling.
For further information about family law, please contact divorce solicitor and mediator Emma Hamilton Cole, 01202 694891.