The week of 28th November – 4th December marks Good Divorce Week 2022. Whilst the emotional impact of the breakdown of any relationship can often be far from good, this week attempts to focus on the legal aspects of divorce and what lawmakers and legal professionals can do to make the impact of divorce as small as possible for each family it affects.
What is Good Divorce Week?
Good Divorce Week is organised by Resolution, a community of 6,500 family professionals who work together to resolve family disputes amicably and for the benefit of the whole family.
Resolution members commit to a Code of Practice that promotes a constructive approach to family separation that benefits the whole family.
Its aim this year is to put pressure on the government to urgently deal with the crisis currently blighting the family court – which desperately needs attention – whilst also raising awareness of the many other options available to couples to resolve legal matters arising from divorce or separation.
Disputes when getting divorced
Many couples will be able to divorce without ever stepping foot inside a court building. For others, disputes about children, property and finances may make this more difficult. And whilst the legal cogs are whirring, of course, the emotional toll will inevitably compound the situation for those who are going through it. The key thing for Family Law professionals, then, is to make sure that the legal approach taken in each case is tailored to meet the individual needs of each family.
This is all very well intended, but when the family courts are facing a crisis of their own, it can only lead to further frustrations and trauma where the traditional assistance of a judge is required. Overstretched family courts are facing unprecedented backlogs and families are frequently left waiting long periods to sort out finances and children’s arrangements after divorce.
How the Family Court Crisis impacts upon Families
The court system is under significant strain at the moment. The court process itself is longwinded, expensive and is subject to horrendous budget cuts that can’t be fixed by clever lawyers, loopholes or legal trickery. Delays, last-minute cancellations of hearings and a lack of court space and judiciary are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the issues facing the Court system at the moment.
There may be a risk that your hearing won’t go ahead at all due to staff shortages and pulled from the Judge’s list at the last minute. Your barrister, if you have one, will have already done a huge amount of work in preparation and redeemed their fee, with no guarantee that they will be available for the new date. Urgent paperwork can go unchecked, documents that were intended for the Judges lost, and Orders and directions intended for parties not sent out in the post for weeks after they were created. It’s not an ideal setup.
Of course, sometimes there is no alternative but to make an application to court. The issues that a couple are facing may be very complex or grave; perhaps they just can’t agree, or there needs to be a timetable to work towards to make sure that everyone complies with the directions of the court. In which case, it’s inevitable that a judge needs to be involved. Your solicitor should be able to tell you early on if this is the case, so that you can plan and prepare and move things on a sensible rate. But for those cases that can be settled outside of court, then it’s usually a good idea to try.
Options to reach an agreement
There are so many options available to help couples to reach agreements over their divorce, finances and arrangements for their children and these can be implemented and used at varying stages of the separation process. Round table negotiations, mediation, the collaborative process, arbitration and private court hearings all exist to allow couples to move at a pace that suits them and retain some control of the process.
Getting divorced is not a one-size-fits-all process, which is absolutely crucial to remember. The more options you have to try, the easier it becomes to find a solution that works for you and your family. At Warners, we have a team made up of Mediators, Collaborative Lawyers, Magistrates, and solicitors with a wealth of experience in negotiation, arbitration and private hearings. Every one of them can also help you navigate the court process should it be necessary. We are also members of Resolution.
Resolution members work daily to help families resolve disputes – an ethos set out in our Code of Practice. If the government funded early legal advice, more cases could be resolved without having to go to court (where it is safe and appropriate to do so). It would ensure that those cases that need to be resolved by Court can be dealt with in a timely manner.
The purpose of this year’s Good Divorce Week is to put pressure on the government to improve the system whilst highlighting other methods of resolving family disputes for people going through separation and divorce.
For further information on divorce or advice on any other family law matter, please contact Rebecca Massam on 01735 747900 or [email protected]. Warners Solicitors has offices in Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, Kent.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.