Don’t draw the battle lines – mediation and the collaborative approach can be a positive step when separating or divorcing
With Christmas festivities passed and New Year well and truly here, January is often a time to reflect on how happy or indeed unhappy our personal relationships or marriages may be.
Sometimes January is referred to as the divorce month, suggesting that spending time with our loved ones over Christmas is enough to bring out the desire to separate. Often, it is more indicative that couples put on hold plans to separate until after Christmas to avoid conflict at such time and to start afresh in the New Year. Perhaps divorces in the New Year therefore should be seen more positively if that is at all possible.
Most divorces are not seen from a positive perspective as many will give you tales of woe about their experience. Not only is there the emotional trauma of a marriage broken down but also the financial interests to consider with money, inheritance, pensions, gifts and possible family business succession fallouts in the melting pot. Soon battle lines can be drawn and the Battle of Hastings begins to pale into insignificance. Families are left to carry off their mortally wounded relatives haemorrhaging money, often indeed to lawyers. Does it have to be this way? Of course not.
Increasingly separating couples are turning to alternate forms of dispute resolution, most successfully in my experience using mediation or the collaborative law process. The principles of family mediation are far more widely known. Mediation is a process where you sort out family disputes with the support of another person, a mediator, to assist you in talking about your family and what is best for them. The mediator is there to support the couple to discuss issues, look at options and help them make decisions. The mediator does not give legal advice nor do they take sides. Mediation allows you to reach decisions that are made for your family and fit for your personal circumstances rather than leaving the Court to make decisions for you. Many of the issues that will be important to the couple and their family may not carry the same weight or even be considered at all by the Court often leaving couples very dissatisfied with Court decisions rarely with clear winners but often with clear losers. Mediation is therefore perfect to consider such issues.
The collaborative process has many similarities to mediation. Instead of meeting with an impartial mediator both parties agree to a series of round table meetings with their former partner and their respective solicitors. The solicitors and the parties actively discourage the expense, uncertainty and gamble of Court proceedings and instead try to work together for the benefit of the family to find a solution. The collaborative process is increasingly finding favour as a way to finding solutions for families rather than pitching them into an all out battle. The parties can separate with dignity, integrity and knowing that they had genuine participation in reaching a solution with their former spouse. Surely that has to be a positive step?
Chris Myles is a collaborative solicitor, family mediator and Head of the Family Law team at Crombie Wilkinson Solicitors and can be contacted at York on 01904 624185.