As the nation is gripped by the latest instalment of the BBC’s drama, The Split, have you wondered how close to reality it might just be? While there are real-life Family Solicitors behind the scenes during the scriptwriting process to ensure that the correct legal process and terminology are used, it has to be assumed that the gloss and glamour of a flagship TV drama will undoubtedly reign supreme over the rather more normal elements of divorcing couples. Pinch of salt, anyone?
So, just how closely does life imitate art?
Well, for the solicitors, there are no big offices with panoramic views for a start! And while some cases are heard in the High Court, your average BBC viewer is highly unlikely to find themselves galloping along the corridors of the Royal Courts of Justice to achieve a financial settlement any time soon. Instead, if you do happen to find yourself in any legal building at all throughout the process, then it’s more likely to be a chic 1970’s block, which is chronically understaffed, and housing a vending machine that hasn’t worked since 2003. Your barrister, if you have one, won’t be wearing a gown; the court room is more like a small classroom, only with desks pointing towards the judge instead of the teacher; and the chances of a stand-off between you and your spouse across a crowded room, flanked either side by a huge legal team are slim-to-none. It’s probably not going to make for great telly, to be honest.
But there is one thing that does resonate about The Split. Just as the main character, Hannah, has a reputation for being a deft negotiator and keeping cases out of court, there are countless real-life lawyers looking to do the same for their clients. Going to court is not inevitable and there are now so many alternatives available to explore.
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. Then add in the emotional turmoil that a couple has to go through to get to that point. 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 is 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 at a sensible rate. But for those cases that can be settled outside of court, then it’s usually a good idea to try.
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.
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. Everyone one of them can also help you navigate the court process should it be necessary; glamorous or otherwise.
If there is anything else to take from The Split, it’s that getting divorced is not a one-size-fits-all process, which is absolutely crucial to remember. The more options you have to try on, the easier it becomes to find a solution that works for you and your family.
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.