10 tips for keeping your divorce out of court

From mediation to collaborative divorce

Going through a divorce is a daunting prospect for most people. Quite aside from the emotional upset which is a natural part of a family splitting up, there is the uncertainty about the future and not really knowing how the divorce process works.

keeping divorce out of court

Most people still believe that divorce equals court, when the reality is very different. Court should be seen as a last resort if a couple can’t sort out certain things for themselves, like finances or arrangements for the children, which go alongside the divorce process but do not form an integral part of it.

Despite this, a recent survey by Resolution showed that only just over half of people (51%) would consider a non-courts option when trying to settle a divorce, clearly illustrating the lack of understanding out there. The reality is that staying away from the court is by far the best single thing you can do to keep down the cost, heartache and time it takes to go through marriage break-up – and you are more likely to reach an agreement you can live with. Though certain documents have to be filed with the court, in most cases you do not need to go yourself.

If a couple cannot reach agreement on how to settle certain issues, that is when an application may need to be made to the court for a judge to listen to both sides and decide for them on how the assets are divided, where the children will live and arrangements for contact with the absent parent. There is still a lot you can do to lessen your chances of ending up there. Here are our top 10 tips:

 Try mediation. This is where both parties will meet with a trained mediator who will listen to the differences of opinion and suggest ways these can be resolved. Once an agreement has been reached, an experienced family solicitor can draw up the necessary legal documents to be ratified by the court so they are legally recorded. You can find a mediator through Resolution. 

• Collaborative divorce. This involves both parties signing up to a non-confrontational approach, each engaging collaboratively trained lawyers and then there being a series of four-way meetings (each party accompanied by their solicitor) to go through the details and reach agreement by negotiation.

• Put the kids first throughout the process. This is what the courts will do if you ultimately end up there. What is best for the children trumps all else and if you can both try and put aside your own feelings of hurt or anger and focus on what’s best for your children you are bound to come up with the right solution for the long term.

 Don’t fight over the little things. Arguing over which specific day of the week and at what time you want the ex to see the kids is less important, surely, than the fact it is right they should play a part in their lives? Likewise spending thousands of pounds in a disagreement about who keeps the family china might not be money well spent.

• Be realistic in your expectations. A 50/50 split may often be the starting point but will be affected by many things. Your lawyer can help give an idea of what you might reasonably expect from a settlement.

• Be prepared to compromise. You will not get everything you want so do not dig your heels in on everything. Give and take!

 Use a good family law specialist. They can help advise on the best route for you, should encourage a conciliatory approach and should do everything possible to keep you out of court.

• Understand all your options. People wrongly think court is the only answer – you can reach agreements between yourselves at any time. If you come to an agreement about the care of your children you might choose to prepare a parenting plan for example. If you want to make sure that any financial agreement is final, you’ll need a clean break order. It’s really important that you are clear on what you are trying to achieve and look at the various ways you can do that.

• Stop and think: who would you rather decide? A judge who doesn’t know you at all or you and your ex together with advisors, be they mediators or lawyers.

• Be flexible – it’s entrenched positions that tend to end up in court. This is especially true when it comes to the arrangements for looking after your children. 

Going through a divorce means that the relationship has come to an end because you and your spouse cannot get on. Ironically, in a divorce, the best way to stay out of court and get the best result, is to get on as best as you can with your soon-to-be ex. If it helps, console yourself with the fact that it could be the last time you will ever have to do so.

Blog by Andrew Woolley. Andrew is managing partner of Woolley & Co, Solicitors. The firm has branches throughout England and Wales staffed by well qualified and very friendly divorce and family lawyers – call on 0800 321 3832 for a free telephone chat about any family law issues you have.






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