Managing the stresses and strains of everything in the lead up to Christmas can sadly be the last straw for some couples.
January tends to be one of the busier times of the year for people like me who work in family law, so much so it has become informally known as ‘divorce month,’ with both the number of Google searches on related topics and the number of divorce applications filed with the court rising above the average monthly level.
The extra pressure of the cost-of-living crisis is probably adding to some already difficult situations and may well be one factor in the 9.5 per cent rise in the number of divorces granted across England and Wales in 2021 compared to the previous year.
While any divorce is going to be a stressful experience for all involved, there are ways in which divorcing or separating couples can take a more positive approach towards reducing the challenges they and their families face.
The collaborative approach to divorce or separation enables legal professionals to work with clients to resolve issues in a constructive way with input sought from other experts as required.
The parties agree at the outset not to involve the court other than to obtain a final order setting out the terms of the agreement reached.
Couples work together at their own pace in a series of round table meetings to discuss matters constructively and resolve financial and other issues arising from the breakdown of their relationship together.
In this situation, couples each have their own legal advisors, but as an extension of the collaborative approach, we’re now beginning to see an increase in the number of divorces and separations in the region with both parties instructing the same solicitor.
Although this is a new approach, it is growing in popularity and we’re already beginning to see positive results for all concerned.
In order to judge the suitability of this approach, an initial screening process is carried out which examines the parties’ individual viewpoints and priorities, considers whether both parties are truly willing to work together and carefully assesses whether it’s appropriate they have one solicitor working with them together.
Separate discussions are held with each party initially, with a retainer signed at the outset which contains detailed information on how the process will work and what the parameters are.
A joint meeting then follows and an agreement is signed to confirm everything will be shared going forward, which means both parties hear all the advice and are fully aware of everything.
Outside expertise can be drawn upon at any stage from the likes of financial advisors, pensions experts and mediators in order to help reach an agreement, with the solicitor facilitating the overall process.
Similarly, we’re also able to access expertise from other colleagues within Hay & Kilner as needed.
In the right circumstances working collaboratively or utilising the single solicitor approach reduces stress, overcomes barriers more quickly and enables people to work together towards a common goal.
Sharing a solicitor or working collaboratively isn’t going to be appropriate for all divorcing or separating couples.
Our expert team will always recommend managing each individual situation in the most appropriate way, and full advice on the appropriate options for you and your family will be provided right at the outset.
If the parties involved have a genuine desire to reach an agreement and trust each other, working together, either collaboratively or with one solicitor, has the potential to make a very challenging and emotional situation easier to navigate and is definitely worth considering.
Fiona Ryans is a trained collaborative practitioner and a member of Resolution, a nationwide community of family law professionals who are committed to resolving matters without involving the court if possible.
She is also one of just a handful of family lawyers in the North East to have undertaken Resolution Together training, which enables her to advise both parties and enables clients to instruct her jointly to assist them both.
For further information on the single solicitor approach to divorce and separation, and all other aspects of divorce and family law, please get in touch with Fiona.
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