When a relationship ends there is often acrimony between spouses which can make sorting out finances and arrangements for children difficult.
Couples often struggle to talk directly about these issues without it turning into a heated argument. Traditionally each spouse appoints a Divorce Lawyer and negotiations regarding children and money are conducted through the two Solicitors. Whilst this is still a valid and popular way for divorce disputes to be dealt with, it is not the only way.
Family Mediation is another way to deal with these issues and can be very successful if both spouses are open minded about the process and keen to make it work. Many people getting a divorce are keen to deal with matters amicably, but struggle to have meaningful discussions directly with their spouse due to the emotion they feel as a result of the end of the marriage.
Mediators can help facilitate these discussions. Mediators are Family Lawyers specially trained in mediation techniques. Their skills enable them to facilitate discussions regarding difficult issues, giving both spouses the opportunity to have their say and voice any concerns that they have. Mediators do not provide legal advice, but will advise the spouses when they should each get independent legal advice.
When dealing with issues regarding arrangements for children, mediation is often very successful. The Court recognises this and when a parent asks the Court to deal with a dispute with the other parent, if they have not already tried mediation the Judge will usually tell them that they must mediate before the Court will intervene any further. However, if there are child welfare or domestic violence issues the Court will not consider mediation appropriate.
With regard to financial matters mediation can often help a couple agree a financial settlement, especially where the assets and legal issues are not complex. Again the Court recognises this and if a spouse applies to Court asking for the Court to assist with finances, the Court will want to know why the couple have not tried to mediate, if they have not. Some financial cases, such as those where there are businesses, complex investment structures and family trusts may not be suitable for mediation.
Mediation can and does help many people who are getting divorced to resolve issues without the need for Court intervention. Whilst mediation will not work for all individuals and for all scenarios, it should be considered as an option by anyone getting a divorce if they are struggling to resolve issues with their spouse.
By Fiona Wood, a Family & Divorce Solicitor at Slater and Gordon.
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