One of the impacts of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act which came into force in April 2022 was that for the first time, divorcing couples were able to make joint divorce applications together.
This change built on the existing direction of travel within family law with the realisation that the traditional route of litigation was expensive, time-consuming and exacerbated acrimony between the parties, something which often was counter-productive to what the parties wanted to achieve. Litigation often caused unnecessary upset, especially when there were children involved.
In response to this, collaborative practice has developed, a process that allows couples to instruct lawyers to represent them ‘collaboratively’ rather than adversarially. Collaborative practice allows parties to work collegiately with one another to find solutions, with legal advisers similarly working together with both parties to achieve a mutually agreeable solution.
Alongside collaborative practice, the Government continues to back family mediation. It is now a requirement in most family cases for the applicant to have considered mediation prior to making their application. The Government has also relaxed legal requirements for those seeking publicly funded family mediation and they also offer a voucher scheme of up to £500 towards family mediation where the care of children is one of the issues to discuss.
The most recent example of family law seeking to take the sting out of separation is the one lawyer two clients model, a way of working labelled 'resolution together’ by Resolution, the membership organisation for family solicitors in England and Wales. Resolution has liaised with the SRA to ensure the model operates within current regulations.
Within this method of working, a specially trained lawyer can advise both parties, acting as a facilitator for their discussions and where appropriate instructing other professionals on their behalf such as property or business valuers or pension experts.
Where parties are unable to reach an agreement, the lawyer can also refer the matter to services that can assist the parties, such as early neutral evaluators, mediators, or in financial cases private court hearings. The lawyer can also assist the parties in achieving a binding legal decision if an agreement cannot be achieved directly by referring the matter to family arbitration.
Importantly, using this way of working, the lawyer can also draft documents for the parties reflecting the agreements that have been reached. This can either be for the parties themselves or if the parties wish, to thereafter file with the Family Court, achieving a binding legal solution.
Chris Lloyd-Smith, a partner at Anthony Collins Solicitors, is trying to work with both parties in this way. If you would like more information about Anthony Collins Solicitors family mediation services please contact Chris or call us on 0121 200 3243.