Happy Valentine's Day? – How to separate amicably


Usually the law only gets involved in relationships after the flowers and chocolates have stopped being purchased. Law is usually about resolving conflicts and the legal system in England and Wales is adversarial, which requires the parties to make allegations against the other and find fault rather than to work together to try and find solutions to the issues arising out of their relationship breakdown.

Divorce Valentines Day

However, it doesn’t have to be that way, and whilst sometimes a robust approach is necessary, or it is necessary to make an application to the Court to protect a vulnerable person, choosing a Solicitor who is able to offer a range of ways to resolve family disputes can mean that it is possible to preserve, for example, parenting relationships for the future.

What should I look out for?

  • Choose a firm of Solicitors who are a member of Resolution. Resolution’s 6,500 members are Family Lawyers and other professionals committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes. Members of Resolution follow a code of practice that promotes a non-confrontational approach to family problems and encourage solutions that consider the needs of the whole family, and in particular the best interests of children. Resolution Code of Practice - http://www.resolution.org.uk/editorial.asp?page_id=26.
  • Choose a firm of Solicitors that offer mediation services – you and your former partner can self-refer to a Resolution-trained Lawyer Mediator, or more usually you will both receive separate advice from your respective Solicitors, and the Solicitors will make a referral to a Mediator. The Mediator’s role is to be neutral and not to take sides, and they will not give advice to either of you. Mediators are trained to help resolve disputes, either in respective of all issues faced by separating couples or specific issues such as particular arrangements for children. You would both attend separate Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings to assess suitability for mediation, and then, if your case is suitable, a number of joint sessions with the Mediator.
  • Choose a firm of Solicitors who are able to offer Collaborative Law – Collaborative Lawyers work with you, your partner and your partner’s Lawyer, in a series of face-to-face negotiations to help you resolve your family disputes. The Lawyers involved have to be collaboratively-trained, and you and your Lawyers sign an agreement that commits you all to resolving the issues without going to Court, and prevents the Solicitors from representing you in Court if the collaborative process breaks down. This means that all are absolutely committed to finding the best solutions by agreement, rather than through Court proceedings – Alternatives to Court - http://www.resolution.org.uk/alternatives_to_court/.
  • Consider entering into an agreement at the outset of your relationship that sets out what would happen in the event of separation such as a Cohabitation Contract or a Pre Nuptial Agreement.

If you are considering separating from your partner and you consider you may be eligible for Legal Aid, you should be aware that as of the April 2013 Legal Aid for divorce, related finances, and cases concerning the arrangements for the children to spend time with both parents, is being withdrawn unless the Applicant for Legal Aid has been the victim of domestic abuse.

Solicitors within the Family Law Team at Simpson Millar are members of Resolution, Trained Mediators and are also Collaborative lawyers.

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