Separating: choosing the right process for you and your family 

January 5, 2018

Busy lifestyles and unrealistic expectations for the festive season can take their toll on relationships at this time of year. As a result, the award-winning family team at David Gray expects a surge in demand for those seeking separation advice this month

The ONS recorded more than 106,950 divorces in England and Wales in 2016 – an increase of 5.8 per cent on the previous year – and the options available to separating couples are also increasing.

Often separating couples feel overwhelmed and fearful for the future. Most will also be ‘out of sync’ emotionally as one decides that the relationship was over some time before the other. It is therefore important at the outset to get expert advice about the different ways to sort things out, rather than fall into a process blind.

A full meeting about what is most concerning you and what it is that you need to sort out is vital. Your lawyer can then help you select the best way to move forward. David Gray’s family team offers all of the services described below.

Collaborative practice: each person appoints their own collaboratively-trained lawyer and you, your partner and your lawyers meet together in face-to-face meetings to work things out. You have your lawyer with their support and legal advice by your side throughout the process. Non-lawyer support (financial, pensions, children) is also provided and crucially, you and your partner agree not to go to court and to resolve things in these meetings.

Mediation: mediators help you and your partner to resolve the different elements of the separation by meeting you together and helping you establish what must be sorted out and what information is needed.

Your mediator will then help you find what a ‘fair solution’ might look like for you and your family. Mediation often works best if you also have a lawyer to support you and provide you with legal advice as you go.

Arbitration: in family arbitration, you and your partner appoint an arbitrator (a private judge), who will make a decision that will be final and binding between you on financial and property or children issues. The arbitrator’s decision is then recorded in a court order.

This process can be quicker, cheaper and more convenient and reliable than the court system and it is completely private.

Court: an application is sent to the court and the court sets a timetable for the disclosure of financial information, together with a first court appointment. At this first appointment, the court decides how to manage your case. The court then lists your case for a second hearing where you and your partner negotiate through your lawyers at court to try to reach an agreement.

If an agreement can’t be reached, then the court will list your case for a final hearing at which you and your partner will give evidence. The judge makes a final decision, which is recorded in a court order.

Lawyer negotiation: you appoint a family lawyer who negotiates with your partner’s lawyer. Your lawyer will provide you with advice based upon what she or he would expect the result of any eventual court hearing to be. If an agreement is reached a draft order is prepared by the lawyers and sent to the court to be made official.

Choosing the right process at the beginning can save you time, money and emotional energy in the longer term and it is possible to choose a combination of two or more of the above processes if that is appropriate for you and your family.

David Gray 
For more information on options when separating, contact the family team: 0191 232 9547

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